An iPhone here and an iPhone there, as Apple looks at the next frontier.
The iPhone 12 Pro is now shipping, alongside the iPhone 12. Whether or not you should buy one is something I will tell you in my full review that’s coming soon, but for now, one thing’s certain. Buying a new iPhone has never been this complicated. There are four iPhones to choose from this year. Aside from the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, there is also the iPhone 12 Mini and an iPhone 12 Pro Max — both of which will be available starting November 13 (you can pre-order them starting November 6).
Buying a new iPhone this year isn’t complicated because there are so many iPhones to choose from — I am not even counting the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR here which are still excellent value for money by the way, also there’s the pocket-rocket iPhone SE — but because how similar they are on so many levels. Yes, the iPhone 12 Mini is the gateway and the iPhone 12 Pro Max exudes the very latest and greatest that Apple can offer today, but you probably already knew that. The real question is, what is it that you will be losing out on, should you buy the iPhone 12 Mini, or what is it that you’re getting extra, when you pick the iPhone 12 Pro Max — the short answer is, not a whole lot.
The subject of this unboxing is the iPhone 12 Pro. On paper, it is the second most high-end iPhone that money can buy today. It starts at Rs 1,19,900 for the base model with 128GB storage. The 256GB and 512GB models of the iPhone 12 Pro cost Rs 1,29,900 and Rs 1,49,900 respectively. For some context, the iPhone 12 starts at Rs 79,900 for the base model with 64GB storage. The 128GB and 256GB models of the iPhone 12 costs Rs 84,900 and Rs 94,900 respectively. The iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at Rs 1,29,900 for the base model with 128GB storage. The 256GB and 512GB models of iPhone 12 Pro costs Rs 1,39,900 and Rs 1,59,900 respectively.
Clearly, the iPhone 12 Pro is one of the most complicated among all of Apple’s new iPhones. On the one end, there’s the more affordable iPhone 12, that’s practically the same phone with a few omissions. On the other, there’s the iPhone 12 Pro Max, that, as the name suggests, is an iPhone 12 Pro “Max.” Should you then save some money and buy the iPhone 12? Or, should you just go all out and get the iPhone 12 Pro Max? Confused, much? Well don’t be. That’s why I am here for, to help you make an informed decision.
Watch this space for our full review of the iPhone 12 Pro and all of Apple’s other new iPhones but just basis of early impressions, here’s what I think. You should get the iPhone 12 Pro only and only if you want more storage, which by extension means that you’re a “pro” user. For most users though, the iPhone 12 should suffice. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the most powerful camera hardware among the new iPhones which means ideally it is meant for creators.
iPhone 12 Pro unboxed — hands on and first impressions
The unboxing experience is similar across the board. The box is so small it would surprise you in case you’ve bought an iPhone before. This is because, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Mini, all ship without a charger and EarPods in the box. Why is Apple doing this? To reduce carbon emissions and avoid the mining and use of precious materials, which enables smaller and lighter packaging, and allows for 70 percent more boxes to be shipped on a pallet. Through such steps, Apple plans to have net zero climate impact across the entire business, which includes manufacturing supply chains and all product life cycles by 2030.
So, what’s in the box when you buy a new iPhone? There’s the iPhone of course and a USB-C to Lightning Cable, one Apple sticker and some customary documentation. “Please use your existing Apple power adapter and headphones or buy these accessories separately,” Apple mentions on a side note. There’s a high probability that you will have to buy a charger separately though because of the nature of the cable that Apple is bundling in the box — so, there goes all the reasoning out the window.
Regardless, now that Apple is doing it, others should likely follow suit despite them mocking the whole move right now — that’s right, I am looking at you Samsung.
Now that we’ve unboxed it, it’s first impressions time. The first thing you notice about the iPhone 12 Pro is its updated design. This is shared across all the new iPhones. All the new iPhones have an updated design scheme with squared-off edges reminiscent of the iPhone 4. The edges are sharp, mind you, but I have come to appreciate them after getting used to them eventually. The front and back remain largely the same, as last year, though Apple is using new materials. There are obviously new colours too.
The Pro models use matte frosted glass on the back which is smooth to the touch and feels very, very premium — it helps keep a check on smudge and fingerprints too. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini have a glossy glass panel on the back that feels premium too, but it’s more of a fingerprint magnet than the Pro iPhones. The outer frame is made of stainless steel in the Pro models. It’s very, very shiny and as a downside, picks up a lot of fingerprints the moment you unbox and start using it. It adds considerable heft to the Pro iPhones too. The 12 and iPhone 12 Mini conversely have a matte aluminum frame.
The screen in all the new iPhones is protected by what Apple is calling a ceramic shield that it has conjured in partnership with Corning. It is said to make the new iPhones 4x more resistant to drops. Drop protection and scratch resistance are usually inversely proportional to each other, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Speaking of which, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro have the same screen size, which is 6.1-inch. The iPhone 12 Mini is smaller at 5.4-inch while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the biggest iPhone that Apple makes today — it is 6.7-inch. The biggest takeaway though is that Apple is using its signature high-quality Super Retina XDR OLED display across its entire iPhone 12 portfolio. All the new iPhones also support Dolby Vision and HDR 10 — there is no 120Hz high refresh rate though in case you’re wondering. The other big highlight is the screen resolution. It is 1080p+ in all the new iPhones. It may not sound much against competing Android counterparts, but Apple already makes one of the best 720p LCDs, if anything, a higher resolution and OLED are simply icing on the cake. Aside from the slightly higher brightness levels in the Pro iPhones, this is the first time that Apple is offering a consistent experience across the board.
Under the hood, all the new iPhones pack Apple’s latest and greatest 5nm A14 Bionic chip — also seen inside the recently launched iPad Air refresh. Software is iOS 14 which brings much-needed flexibility to iPhones in general adding widgets, allowing for setting custom email and browser defaults, and more. Needless to say, the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max are fast phones with the new hardware giving them greater headroom for future since Apple usually supports its iPhones for upwards of four years at least, something that no other Android phone, including Google’s own Pixel, can guarantee. There’s also support for 5G, which adds another ounce of future-proofing to the package — for when 5G eventually arrives in India.
The real differences are coming in the camera department this year with the iPhone 12 Pro Max being a literal photography powerhouse. The iPhone 12 Pro has a slightly toned-down version of those cameras. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini tone down things ever so slightly further.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max come with three cameras which is a combination of 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and 12MP telephoto, and an iPad Pro-like LiDAR sensor. Apple is using a fast f/1.6 aperture lens to complement the main sensor alongside improved OIS. The LIDAR sensor should also help the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max ace low-light photography — Apple says it can boost autofocus by up to six times while also enabling Night Mode in portrait photography. Hallmark iPhone traits like Deep Fusion and Smart HDR are also being carried forward.
The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 have two cameras on the back, a 12MP main and another 12MP ultra-wide-angle, essentially the same deal as the Pro iPhones but stripped off some of their unique features. The biggest difference comes by way of OIS. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini come with what you can call “regular” OIS. The iPhone 12 Pro has dual OIS. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has sensor-shift OIS, a technology I am eagerly waiting to try out in person once the phone starts shipping. Long story short, all the new iPhones should be equally competent in day light. The Pro iPhones should be better at low-light. The iPhone 12 Pro that I have been using, and basis of the photos that I have been taking, has the best camera on any new phone in the market today — including the Pixel 4a (the Pixel 4 is not available in India but it has the same core camera hardware with faster post-processing smarts). It is unsurprisingly best-in-class at videos too. I am expecting the iPhone 12 to be not very far behind. More on that in my full review(s).
All the new iPhones can also record Dolby Vision HDR videos at up to 60 fps (30 fps in iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini) — a first for any smartphone.
Rounding off the package is IP68 water and dust resistance, stereo speakers and support for MagSafe accessories and wireless chargers (sold separately).
The iPhone 12 series is not necessarily a revolutionary update to last year’s iPhone 11 and yet it marks the beginning of a new era for the iPhone. And no, 5G has got nothing to do with it. Nor do those tempting cameras. Not the design. Not that OLED display either. It’s in the way that Apple is looking at the future and the iPhone. The iPhone was once Apple’s best-selling product, but over time, that has changed. iPhone sales missed Wall Street estimates last quarter and even though it might have been due to potential buyers possibly holding back to invest in the new iPhone 12 series which came in later than usual this year (among other factors, including slump in sales in China) due to coronavirus, things weren’t particularly rosy with the last few iPhones too. The silver lining was the iPhone 11, and the iPhone XR before it — technically, the budget iPhones. One reason, why we got the iPhone SE earlier this year. Probably one reason why, there’s an iPhone 12 Mini now.
The bigger picture is having a diverse line-up of new iPhones and making them available across different price points. Making them available in markets like India at around the same time as global markets. Having a direct retail presence there. Apple in 2020 is different. It wants more people to buy an iPhone, it wants more people in India to buy an iPhone, but it is also aware that it can’t do that on the back of brand value and brand recall alone anymore. It must give them reasons, options, and make the whole process as effortless as possible. That’s all happening now as Apple looks at the next frontier — India and its bustling potential.