The embargo lifted today on reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and the consensus seems pretty clear: the hype over 5G is unwarranted so far, the industrial design is pretty much the best, the modestly improved cameras are great, the slightly bigger screen sizes are offset by smaller bezels and a thinner chassis, and the “regular” iPhone 12 has so much in common with its same-size Pro sibling that many people will not find the upgrade worth the extra money.
That last point is worth emphasizing. Like the release of the iPhone 8 and X, and the XR and XS, the new iPhone lineup has two different availability dates. The Mini and the Max will be released in a couple of weeks; the iPhones available this Friday are the middle models of identical size and, therefore, are the most easily muddled. If you want a smaller screen, you buy the Mini. If you want the biggest screen and, on paper at least, the best camera, you buy the Max. But it is harder, I think, to choose between the identically-sized and similarly-specced middle models. So it is notable that Apple seeded reviewers with both of them and, in many cases, that leant itself to direct head-to-head comparisons.
I read only a few reviews today but I figured something out about myself: the telephoto camera alone makes the cost of the Pro worth it for me, but that also kind of makes me a sucker. The non-Pro iPhone 12 seems to be just as capable, just as fast, and comes in bolder colours.
Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal:
Most people won’t be on superfast 5G, and will find the battery life on these phones to be solid. They lasted a full day of fairly heavy use—though fell a bit shorter than the iPhone 11, which consistently leaves me with at least 15% before bed time.
This complaint about slightly shorter battery life for both models seems to be consistent among the reviews as well. It reminded me of comments that “‘Daring Fireball’ blog creator” John Gruber made on CNBC before Apple’s announcement event:
I think one of the biggest problems people have [with their existing phones] is battery life. I think it always has been and will be for the foreseeable future. […] I think, if you said “this phone gets faster cellular networking and this other phone gets twice the battery life” everyone would jump on the one with battery life.
And then, I think, another factor is photographic quality. Everybody wants their pictures and videos to look better. Those are, to me, the two simple and obvious things.
I am not arguing that none of the improvements in this iPhone lineup are worth it, and I understand there are limitations of battery chemistry and physical space. Compromises will be made. But, yeah, if this year’s new iPhones could eke out a couple of hours more battery life instead of adding 5G, I would be happy to make that trade-off.
Update: The Tom’s Guide battery life test found that the iPhone 12 Pro got longer battery life over 4G than the 11 Pro, but the 12 got shorter battery life than the 11. The latter makes sense, as it is a smaller-bodied phone that, presumably, has a smaller battery. The former is not matching with the results of many other testers but it is encouraging.