Written by Nick Heer.

iPhone 12 Pro First Impressions

Unlike Stephen Hackett, linked here, I do not plan on writing a full iPhone 12 Pro review. But, as I am upgrading from an iPhone X, you’ll forgive me for sharing a few first impressions since there are many new things.

Like Hackett, I also chose the “silver” model. A few people have suggested that its white back and bright metal frame look somewhat “cheap” compared to other colour options. I get where that idea comes from, but I disagree: the satin back glass looks and, more importantly, feels premium, while the pure stainless edges make it look like a wristwatch. Also, outside of the U.S., there isn’t a plastic mmWave window interrupting the metal.

That said, I bet the metal band would look fantastic if it were bead-blasted, somewhat like the iPhone 4. I hope someone with money to burn will give that a shot.

The size and weight differences are minor on paper compared to the iPhone X, but they are noticeable in the hand. I vastly prefer the flat metal sides in principle but, combined with the wider and taller body, I find one-handed use even harder than the already-difficult X. Perhaps it is just muscle memory but I know that I would prefer the size of the Mini model hands down. I am, unfortunately, a sucker for many lens options.

According to my kitchen scale, the 12 Pro is only fourteen grams heavier, but it is weightier in the hand. All of these factors make me grip this phone just a little tighter than the X. Again, perhaps it is unfamiliarity combined with New Product Dropophobia, but I feel more secure with smaller and lighter devices.

This was the first time I was able to use the device-to-device upgrade method and it seemed to fine, though both phones became very warm for the two-plus hours it took to move my packrat gigabytes. But I am not entirely sure what it migrated. Apple’s documentation offers few clues other than “all your data”, but that didn’t appear to be the case. Not all of my music was moved over and some of my playlist artwork was replaced by the cover artwork of Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman”. My photo thumbnails appeared to be intact, but I see that my phone is currently one percent of the way towards reconciling iCloud Photos. Most app settings seem to have migrated, but the apps themselves needed to be downloaded — and, because I use several apps through TestFlight, the latter app needed to be installed first before any of those, so my home screen layout wasn’t exactly true to form. Best I can tell, it copied (most) app settings, all system settings, and my wallpaper. I’m not sure why that took over two hours, but it did not seem much faster than last time I restored from an iCloud backup.

I have not had an opportunity to test much of the new stuff. Coming from an iPhone X, the camera stuff is obviously the biggest leap: Night Mode, the ultra-wide camera, SF Camera typesetting, and better quality all around. I can already tell that the ultra-wide camera is going to be an oft-used addition to my creative palette. However, I was a bit saddened that RAW capture still is not enabled for the ultra-wide camera. When Apple previewed ProRAW, it said that the format would be available on all cameras, so I had baselessly hoped that plain RAW capture might be opened up to the ultra-wide. That does not appear to be the case. I am looking forward to ProRAW, as most of my creative iPhone photography workflow is RAW based.

The iPhone 12 Pro has double the RAM of my iPhone X, so a pleasing new feature is that using the Camera app — or even Halide in RAW capture mode — no longer kicks every other app out of memory.

I tried a couple of augmented reality things that take advantage of the LiDAR sensor. They seemed to track far better and with more accuracy than the pan-and-scan image mapping method. The phone still gets very warm to the touch, so I am sure this is the reason LiDAR is not used for focusing or Portrait mode in anything except low light conditions.

My provider does not offer 5G.1 I did not buy a case yet, nor any of the MagSafe accessories, because I already have a Lightning cable on my nightstand and it is fine. I know which way the winds are blowing but I am not looking forward to the day where MagSafe is a must but not included in the box and I have to sync a hundred-odd gigabytes of music from iTunes over WiFi. I am an edge case but, like many edge cases, it is important to me that I continue to do things in this outdated way.

It is a good phone. I am glad I upgraded, especially since my partner’s 6S expired recently without reasonable possibility of repair. But if I could create my dream iPhone, it would be the size and weight of the Mini with the camera system and RAM of the Pro — or, probably, the Pro Max. The battery life would probably be crap. This is one reason why I am not in charge of such matters.

  1. Over LTE, in the most densely-populated area of Calgary — a little greater population density than the Castro in San Francisco, or the sixteenth arrondissement of Paris — my iPhone X peaked at 88 Mbps, while my iPhone 12 Pro peaked at 156 Mbps. ↩︎