The iPhone — much to the chagrin of a lot of folks — isn’t like any other phone. You can blame it on Apple’s hyperactive hype machine or a genuine cult that has been created but that’s the reality. Be it, reviewers, buyers, even competition —everyone looks forward to the iPhone more than any other phone. With four iPhones in its tow, Apple has assembled a ‘Dream Team’ — much like the USA basketball team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
You’ve four iPhones that are aimed at different sorts of buyers looking to get the best out of their phones. For us, the iPhone 12 is the most important player in this team for Apple. If recent past is anything to go by, this is the iPhone that may become the buyers’ favourite. We used the iPhone 12 for a while to see if it has got what it takes to be is the star of the show:
Apple iPhone 12 review: Design and display
Apple has never been in the specs race but it’s always been ahead in the design race. So after a gap of three years, there’s a design change. A phone is something that most of us depend on for almost everything, so one needs a phone that’s comfortable to hold. The iPhone 12 is a really comfortable phone to hold. The matte-finished edges give it an elegant look but the glass back can be a fingerprint magnet. Apple brings back the design aesthetic that was first introduced with the iPhone 4 back in 2010. Apple took to the curves with the iPhone 6 in 2014 but with iPhone 12 you get a flat screen and flat sides. This itself gives the iPhone a ‘new’ look and feel compared to the previous few generations of iPhones
The side rails on the iPhone 12 have a matte finish and a glossy back. The matte finish side rails we loved but the glossy back gets attracted to fingerprints quite easily. However, since most people will use the iPhone 12 with a back cover, it shouldn’t be a problem. The review unit we got was White and it’s not your typical boring white. There’s a hint of gold and silver at the side rails which give it a classy and elegant look.
The design might have been altered but the rest remains the same in terms of button placement. The iPhone 12 comes with an IP68 rating which gives it protection against dust and water.
The iPhone 12 is surprisingly light and certainly lighter than the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 11. The iPhone 12 weighs around 162 grams whereas the iPhone 11 weighs about 194 grams.
For the last two years, people buying the ‘lesser’ iPhones — XR and 11 — might have been shortchanged because of the LCD display. But Apple has solved that complaint by putting an OLED screen in all 2020 iPhone models. The 6.1-inch screen is quite gorgeous to look at. But before we delve into that, let’s talk about ‘spec-based’ elephant in the room. No, Apple hasn’t put a 120Hz refresh rate in iPhone 12 or for that matter in any iPhone this year. Considering almost every ‘premium’ Android phone and the lesser ones also offer a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, it does feel like a miss. On paper, at least. A 120Hz refresh rate makes scrolling a breeze and animations come across smoother.
Does it feel like the iPhone 12 missed out on something big by not giving a 120Hz refresh rate? Not really and a lot of it is down to iOS. iOS has always been smoother and faster compared to Android, so scrolling is really a breeze on the iPhone. Also, don’t forget that the iPhone 12 isn’t the marquee iPhone from Apple this year, so it would’ve been a bit of a surprise to see a 120Hz refresh rate. Plus, this is Apple we are talking about. Even if they were to put a 120Hz refresh rate, it would’ve been called something else, right? Just to give it an Apple ‘touch’. Like is the case with the 6.1-inch OLED display or as Apple calls it Super XDR display.
The display of iPhone 12 gets really bright (up to 625 nits of brightness) and even under direct sunlight, you won’t have to squint. HDR content looks lovely on the iPhone 12 and compare it to the display of iPhone 11 and you’ll see how much better the display on iPhone 12 is. Apple says the iPhone 12 Pro has “28% brighter” than the iPhone 12 but to the naked eye, it seems like one of those “facts” as it’s hard to tell the difference between the two new iPhones. Colour reproduction and contrast levels are spot on in the iPhone 12.
The other big talking point of the display is the Ceramic Shield the iPhone 12 comes with. It is supposed to protect the iPhone 12 from drops. Yes, protect the screen and yes, Apple has put ceramic crystals within the glass to make the protect screen. It doesn’t make the iPhone 12 “unbreakable” and certainly not scratch-proof. On a couple of days of regular usage, our screen of iPhone 12 got a scratch and here there.
iPhone 12 review: Camera
Two brands that have abstained from the megapixel race are Apple and Google. So it comes as no surprise to see Apple continuing with mere 12MP cameras. Why, you may ask? We have two words for you: computational photography. In terms of specs, the iPhone 12 has a similar camera setup to the one we saw on iPhone 11. Like the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 has a dual-camera setup at the back featuring 12MP ultra-wide lens and wide lens. The only difference being the iPhone 11’s wide lens came with f/1.8 aperture whereas the iPhone 12 offers f/1.6 aperture. That’s it.
Yet, the images clicked with the iPhone 12 are rather different from last year’s iPhone. The new A14 Bionic processor takes a lot of credit for making the iPhone 12 camera better. Last year, Apple introduced Deep Fusion tech with iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max and now it comes to the iPhone 12 as well. Most of the images we clicked with the iPhone 12 came out really impressive. Apple has added the night mode to every mode — including portrait — to the iPhone 12. The result? Really detailed images in low light and much better than we have seen on the iPhone 11. Apple continues to have an edge when it comes to night mode simply because the iPhone automatically detects when you are in low light. In almost every Android phone you have to manually turn it on.
There’s Smart HDR 3 that combines multiple frames into a single image to give the best click. What the A14 Bionic does is that it is much better at optimising images of faces or plants.
The ultra-wide lens on the iPhone 12 also does a fine job in almost every condition. The colour reproduction, the clarity and sharpness is absolutely top-notch on the iPhone. One-click and you realise why Apple hasn’t really bothered about the megapixel race.
As good as the cameras on the iPhone 12 are, we can’t really recommend anyone to upgrade from iPhone 11 just because of it. There are other features that might compel you but the camera isn’t. It’s a really good camera and almost everyone will be impressed by it except those using the iPhone 11 series.
iPhone 12 review: Performance, battery
When it comes to specifications, Apple hasn’t been in this arms race either. You will never hear about the RAM capacity of the iPhone when others offer 12GB of it. Truth be told, not many people genuinely care about what’s under the hood of the smartphone. They want a phone that does everything you want a phone to do consistently well — something the iPhone is very well known for. Apple has put the A14 Bionic processor in the iPhone 12 and it is remarkably fast. Playing games on the iPhone 12 is a delight because of the OLED display and it handles graphic-intensive games with relative ease. Apps open without any stutters, browsing is a breeze and overall it’s as smooth a phone as you will come across. Apple has been ahead in the performance game for a while now and the iPhone 12 is no exception.
Is it faster than the iPhone 11? Not by that much but there is a slight difference in the time taken to open apps and rendering webpages. The highlight of the iPhones this year is 5G but alas that’s something we can’t really test here in India.
In terms of battery performance, iPhone 12 easily lasts a day with enough battery to spare. We spent one full day running the iPhone 12 on Wi-Fi, watching videos, checking social media, running Safari and listening to music and were glad to see close to 30% battery remaining. Like all iPhones this year, iPhone 12 also supports MagSafe — a curious new accessory. The MagSafe charger attaches magnetically to the back of the iPhone. You will have to spend an extra Rs 4,500 to buy the MagSafe charger. You will have to connect the MagSafe charger to a 20W adapter to get 15W of speed. The MagSafe doesn’t charge the iPhone fast as in just under an hour it managed to get up to 45%.
This is another race Apple has refused to be part of when its Android rivals are quite ahead of it. Forget a fast charger, Apple — as you very well know by now — isn’t giving a charging adapter with the iPhone. Whatever may be the reason — Apple says it’s for the environment — but there are going to be a lot people peeved at not finding a charger inside the box. Those who are upgrading from iPhones would perhaps be relatively fine but first-time buyers, get ready to shell out extra to buy a charger adapter.
iPhone 12 review: Verdict
The iPhone 12 starts at Rs 79,990 (64GB variant) and for most people an expensive buy. It’s the iPhone that we expect most people to buy not just because the iPhone 12 Pro costs a good Rs 40,000 more because most might not see the benefit of spending that extra cash. The iPhone 12 is a phone that does everything consistently well. It has a lovely display, good cameras, blazing-fast performance and a battery life that won’t disappoint anyone. It has everything that Apple does really well: design, performance and overall experience of using a smartphone.
If you are looking to upgrade from an iPhone older than XR — or even XR — then this is a no-brainer as you will feel a world of a difference. Those with iPhone 11 can perhaps give this a miss as except the display and the new design there isn’t a compelling reason to switch just after 12 months. The iPhone 12 will easily last you for the next three years of any glitches, that is keeping in mind Apple’s track record of software updates and iPhone processors lasting longer than the competition. It’s not a flawless iPhone but it’s very close to being the perfect iPhone for most people in the world. And that is why it is an iPhone we expect to outsell not just every other iPhone but most smartphones in the world.