iPhone 12 Australian Review: It Seems More Significant Than It Is

iPhone 12 Australian Review: It Seems More Significant Than It Is

If the iPhone 11 Pro saw Apple ‘learn’ or ‘adopt’ from the best of Android, this year’s iPhone 12 sees the company turn inwards for inspiration.

The new middle child in Apple’s smartphone line up could be considered a nifty throwback to the beloved aluminium edge design of the iPhone 4, or a natural evolution of the template set by the most recent rerun of the iPad Pro.

Either way, the new look does a lot of the heavy lifting here. Combined with a handful of trickle-down features inherited last year’s iPhone 11 Pro, it turns something that could easily be diminished as an incremental update into something that feels distinguished and more significant than it probably is.

Apple iPhone 12 Review

iPhone 12

WHAT IS IT?

The middle-of-the-range entry in Apple’s latest iPhone lineup.

PRICE

Starts at $1,349

LIKE

Super Retina XDR OLED display, snappy A14 processor,

DON'T LIKE

No USB Type-C port, 64GB of storage in the base model is a little stingy.

Strong and familiar foundations

The everyday experience of the iPhone 12 doesn’t deviate too far from your expectations. For the most part it feels familiar.

The device runs on Apple’s latest silicon chipset as well as iOS 14. It’s IP68-rated and supports wireless charging via Qi. There’s a notch on the front that houses the sensors necessary for FaceID and a Lightning Port at the bottom edge of the device, which stubbornly iterates on Apple’s prior refusal to embrace USB Type-C.

Details like this might sound a little nit-picky. But a transition by Apple towards the cable standard that most other tech brands are already using would probably go make Apple’s ‘environmentally-conscious’ decision to ditch charger bricks a little easier to swallow. Particularly when this year’s brand new charging cable is lightening to USB-C.

Still, despite these enduring grievances, the fundamentals here are strong enough that it’s hard not to be won over.

Even if I wish it was a little lighter, the smooth and rounded edges on the iPhone 12 give it a feel-factor that’s nothing short of a treat. It’s thinner, lighter and smaller than its immediate predecessor.

As for performance, I ran this thing through enough of the usual benchmarks to know Apple is still staying one step ahead of the Snapdragon-based competition with the A14 Bionic, even if it doesn’t feel like a massive improvement on the A13.

A bold new screen

Image: Caitlin McGarr

Arguably, the best upgrade Apple has made here is the simplest one.

The iPhone 11’s LCD-based Liquid Retina Display has been tagged out of the ring. Instead, Apple has kitted the iPhone 12 out with a Super Retina XDR screen.

Putting a pro-grade OLED display (akin to what was found in last year’s iPhone 11 Pro) into the baseline model is a smart but bold powerplay by Apple that reaps real rewards here.

While the display doesn’t have 90Hz or 120Hz capability (as has become the dominant trend for premium Android smartphones in 2020), the screen on the iPhone 12 still holds up as one of the brightest and sharpest on the market.

Considering how integral the screen is to basically every second you’re using your smartphone, the cranked-up display works to elevate every other part of the device.

What’s more, this feat doesn’t really come at too heavy a cost to the battery life. I’d average around six hours of screen time per charge, with a rundown of the battery via streaming video (over Wi-Fi) taking around fourteen and a half hours.

Smoke and mirrors

Like the prosumer-grade tablet the new look emulates, the new iPhone 12 touts a number of innovative-sounding inclusions. Each of these, to varying degrees and in a strictly-technological sense, are Cool™. However, they’re also saddled by a predictable caveat.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but I can’t see most people noticing the impact of some of these features, let alone using them on a regular enough basis that they could realistically tilt the pre-purchase equation in the iPhone 12’s favour.

After a week or so with this phone, I wouldn’t say I’m raving about the additional durability offered by the ‘Ceramic Shield’ display. It’s nice to have but a flimsy-at-best reason to rush out to your nearest retailer and drop the $1349.

Likewise, I wouldn’t say I was particularly FutureStruck by the 5G connectivity on the iPhone 12. It’s snappy where you can get it but held back by a cliched lack of killer apps.

It also relies on a network that, while better than it was twelve months ago, remains something of a work-in-progress. The AR-enabled 5G future the iPhone 12 is equipped to deliver simply isn’t here yet. High speed connectivity is a decent consolation prize in the meantime, though.

Camera

The iPhone 12 isn’t a content creation tool of the iPhone 12 Pro’s calibre. But that’s not to say it doesn’t deliver. The absence of a third telephoto lens does introduce a few hardware-based hurdles that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. But for everyday use, I was mostly happy with the moments-notice photography. It helps that any photos you take are going to look better when viewed on a screen this good.

Night mode can now be used with either of the iPhone 12’s 12-megapixel rear lenses and the front-facing camera — which is also 12MP. This might not sound like a huge change, but it goes a long way towards making low-light photography feel as natural and intuitive as its daylit counterpart. It’s one less limitation to worry about.

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

Photo: Fergus Halliday

If you’re looking to split hairs here, it should be noted that the iPhone 12 doesn’t really compete on optical zoom in the way this year’s Android smartphones have. The digital zoom also isn’t as sharp as the Super Res Zoom found in Google’s Pixel phones. And the difference is noticeable.

That being said, the iPhone 12 does support Dolby Vision video capture. There are some catches here (the iPhone 12 technically records in HLG and generates Dolby Vision metadata after the fact) but, within the broader context of HDR standards becoming the mainstream for content consumption, it feels like a net gain.

iPhone 12 Price

Price-wise, the iPhone 12 sits above the iPhone 12 Mini and below the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max at a starting RRP of $1349. I really wish  this baseline model had a few more gigabytes attached to it given the lack of expandable storage.

Instead, it sits dead centre between the cheaper and more expensive variants of the 2020 iPhone line up, which makes the price feel much more modest than it actually is.

Should you buy the iPhone 12?

iPhone 12 ios 14.2.1 bug fix

The iPhone 12 doesn’t have the cute form-factor that the iPhone 12 Mini has going for it, nor does it include the extra optical hardware found in the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. If neither of those things moves the dial for you, this is probably the iPhone to get in 2020. If you’re looking to save money, buy a Google Pixel 5.

The iPhone 12 might not be Apple’s best iPhone, but the upgraded display and a cleaned-up design mean it’s still probably going to be more than good enough for most people.