iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro review roundup: impressive design and cameras offer more bang for your buck than 5G

Does the iPhone 12 lineup offer 5G support? Yes. Apple (and Verizon) made sure to make it a major selling point for the newest iPhone lineup. However, it’s the company’s more standard upgrades to the formula that make potentially buying in worth it.

Buying a new iPhone is an obviously personal decision, and while reviews can help shift the needle a bit, it ultimately comes down to what a person wants. 5G may absolutely be something a customer is looking for, whether they have access to the faster mmWave network or not. The good news is while many reviews out there in the wild say the hardware upgrades to the iPhone 12 overshadow 5G connectivity, the phones still offer 5G support.

Apple could have waited on implementing this technology, just as it has in the past. But the company decided to go the other way and offer 5G almost right out of the gate, which means there is going to be some growing pains. Because support is one thing, but carriers have to make 5G available to the customers buying these devices.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s a roundup of some of the reviews out there for Apple’s new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro (the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max both launch in early November, so those reviews will arrive then). If you plan on upgrading, it sounds like you’ll be very happy with the results.

Here we go.

Review roundup for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

The Verge

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 is a noteworthy handset in that it reduces the gap between the “standard” iPhone and a “pro” model. In this case, the adoption of an OLED display, and bumping up to a proper 1080p panel, is all good news.

One of the reasons Apple was able to reduce the size of the iPhone 12 is that it has switched over to an OLED screen. That helps reduce the bezels and also keeps them perfect even all the way around the phone, while at the same time keeping the actual viewable screen the same 6.1 inches as the iPhone 11. I prefer the look of OLED to LCD because of its blacker blacks, so I’ve been waiting for this change.

Along with the switch to OLED, Apple has also increased the pixel count to 1170 x 2532. If you haven’t been immersed in smartphone tech discussions, you have blessedly avoided the complaining that previous iPhones didn’t even technically hit 1080p. Now they have, and those complaints can finally cease.

One of the weaker elements, as mentioned above, is 5G connectivity. However, while 5g is still basically in its infancy, the iPhone 12 handles itself pretty well:

As far as the iPhone itself goes, it performs as well or better than 5G Android phones. It can certainly handle the speed, and it appears to pick up signal without issue. It does get hot on mmWave, and it does impact battery life significantly if you overdo it. Apple is, however, doing a lot of work under the hood in iOS to tweak the 5G experience.

And for the camera systems, the iPhone 12 shines:

In general, the iPhone 12 does a better job on fine detail in regular lighting conditions. Apple says this might be because it is applying its Deep Fusion algorithms in more situations this year. I still like the Pixel’s signature, contrast-y look, but Apple seems to be moving in its direction just a little. The iPhone 12’s photos seem to finally be stepping back from over-brightening shadows on faces. But it’s a minor tweak, the bigger changes come in more extreme conditions.

iPhone 12 Pro

With the distinction between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro much thinner than in previous model generations between the standard and pro models, this review primarily focuses on the cameras. Is it worth the extra money compared to the iPhone 12, which doesn’t offer a telephoto lens?

The main camera has a very slightly brighter lens than last year, which helps it in low light, and Apple’s new Smart HDR 3 processing seems to be, well, a little smarter. The noise reduction is improved and looks better than the iPhone 11: photos look less grainy, and there’s a little more detail. The photos are also slightly more contrasty; every year, Apple seems to be more willing to let highlights be highlights and shadows be shadows, which is a look I’m personally fond of.

All four cameras on the phone can do night mode now, which is very nice to have, but it’s most useful on the front camera for night mode selfies. Using the tele or the ultrawide for night mode shots works, but I’d stick with the main camera. It’s the best camera on the phone, and it takes the best images.

But, what about buying the iPhone 12 Pro over the iPhone 12? If you prefer a shiny, more “premium” handset, then the pro variant is definitely the way to go. However, a caveat:

So that’s the iPhone 12 Pro. Is it worth $200 more than the standard carrier-subsidized iPhone 12?

Yes, because it is shiny.

That’s the best answer I have right now: it looks cooler than the regular iPhone 12, and some people value that, just like some people value a telephoto lens, the ability to take portrait photos in night mode, and LIDAR AR tricks.

But my instinct is to hold off on recommending this slightly more expensive iPhone until we’ve tested the even more expensive iPhone. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a much bigger display and what could be a huge jump in camera performance for another $100, which feels like a lot more value for the extra money. So we’ll see.


Once again, it’s all about the differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro — and are they worth the higher cost? Some folks are going to upgrade to the pro variant because of the subtle changes, from the aluminum sides, the extra camera on the back, and other changes. However, Engadget notes that the differences between the two handsets is minimal, and it might warrant even more consideration than years prior.

iPhone 12

This year’s iPhone 12 is a huge leap by almost every measure from the iPhone 11. And better still, the gap between the 12 and the Apple’s Pro iPhones has closed dramatically. The iPhone 12’s blend of design, performance and price make it as close to a no-brainer as possible, though people who loved the iPhone 11’s battery life will be a little disappointed. Even so, we have no doubt that for most people, the iPhone 12 is absolutely the right choice.

iPhone 12 Pro

Compared to the iPhone 12, the new iPhone 12 Pro is a considerably tougher sell. But it still might be worth it for some. It packs the same great performance and display as the standard 12, but with more storage at the base level, a much more flexible camera setup, and LiDAR for improved augmented reality experiences. It’s worth the step up if photography is your priority, but you still want a relatively compact phone. But if you simply want the best of the best, camera-wise, you should wait to see how things shake out with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.


CNET gets right to the point, noting that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are two of the highest-rated handsets from the publication of all time. And in the video review, which is just above, the publication says the handsets are “simply outstanding”. But again, the reviews note that the differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are minimal, and it may be worth saving some money when you upgrade, rather than automatically going for the pro variant.

The iPhone 12 has the exact same cameras as the iPhone 12 Pro, except for the telephoto camera and lidar. But these phones aren’t just dependent on hardware to take good photos and videos. Apple’s new A14 Bionic chip, along with software and machine learning, adds improvements to everything.

CNET says the two phones are amazing, but also cautions that we only have “half the picture” with two of the four new iPhones still missing, so it also may be worth waiting until November before you make a decision to upgrade:

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are amazing phones, but we only have half the picture right now. There’s also the iPhone 12 Mini (which I’m particularly excited about, given its size and price) and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which maxes out the size of the phone’s display and offers camera improvements that none of the other iPhones 12 have. But that’s just what we know based on the specs. We’ll have to wait until November to see how they work out in reality.

Tom’s Guide

Tom’s Guide digs even deeper into some of the technical specifications for both handsets, especially when it comes to the OLED displays. Interestingly, while the reviews do coalesce with the others in that the two handsets are relatively similar in key areas, Tom’s Guide praises the iPhone 12 Pro a bit more.

iPhone 12

I’m of two minds about the iPhone 12. There’s no question this is a great phone overall, and many of the changes Apple has made to its most popular iPhone are for the better. The new Super Retina XDR panel is a phenomenal improvement over the disappointing LCD panels in previous models at this price, even if it lacks a high refresh rate. And the fresh new design, MagSafe system and excellent dual-camera system all earn the iPhone 12 high marks.

iPhone 12 Pro

Tom’s Guide says the iPhone 12 Pro is a “big leap forward”, with an amazing camera system, “crazy fast” performance, and more. However, the review does note that battery life could be better in general, especially when it comes to using the handset while connected to a 5G network.

When it comes to the camera, the iPhone 12 Pro definitely stands out:

I took a bunch of photos compared to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and the iPhone 12 Pro won nearly every round. Take this shot of some mums and pumpkins on a bench, photographed at daytime in the shadows. The iPhone 12 Pro brings out more details in the pumpkins and especially in the flower petals, resulting in a sharper and brighter image.

I was blown away by the footage the iPhone 12 captured near the shore of the Manasquan river. Right from the opening frame, I could make out the gradations of color in the sky, and the green moss on the left side of the path and the leaves as I panned up looked more vibrant than with the Note 20 Ultra’s camera.

About that battery life:

The iPhone 12 Pro offers pretty good battery life, but 5G can take a serious toll. On the Tom’s Guide battery test, which involves surfing the web at 150 nits of screen brightness over cellular, the iPhone 12 Pro lasted 9 hours and 6 minutes on T-Mobile’s 5G network. The similarly priced Galaxy Note 20 lasted 9 hours and 38 minutes over AT&T’s 5G network.

And in the end, the iPhone 12 Pro is a true powerhouse:

The iPhone 12 Pro gives you double the storage in the regular iPhone 12, as well as its optical zoom and better auto-focus, and for me the $200 premium is well worth it. Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro beats every Android phone in its class in terms of performance and camera quality, even if it’s a step behind in battery life.

Input Mag

The praise for both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is high from Input Mag. The publication says the new phones are “as perfect as smartphones get”, praising the design, the cameras, MagSafe wireless charging, and even 5G connectivity.

Right from the jump:

My favorite thing about the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro is that there is no one feature that outshines any other. Apple may have talked up 5G like it’s the second most revolutionary thing to ever happen in the history of phones, but the truth is everything has been upgraded in the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. Everything.

The A14 Bionic processor is a beast, too:

I’m still in awe by the Pixel 5’s machine learning-based portrait photo processing. Its photo has good sharpness and contrast. But I have to dock it for processing speed. The Pixel 5 took significantly longer to process the image after it was taken due to its mid-range chipset. The iPhone was able to process it in real-time. This is yet another way the A14 Bionic’s power flexes all over Android.

Input Mag says Apple has “relentlessly leveled everything up”, and that’s just good news across the board for anyone who plans on upgrading to the iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 Pro.

There is no singular reason that makes the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro stand out because Apple has relentlessly leveled everything up. All of the fundamentals — the design, the display, the cameras, the performance, the cellular connectivity, the wireless charging, the water-resistance etc. — have been elevated to new heights that go above and beyond previous iPhones.

Video reviews

Here are some additional video reviews for the iPhone 12 and/or iPhone 12 Pro:


Rene Ritchie

Wall Street Journal (iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro)