First look: Is the iPhone 12 Pro the best smartphone out there?

Camera improvements and a powerful new chip make Apple’s new iPhone its best yet

 

You know the drill by now: every September, Apple releases an updated version of its iPhone with a few new features, a more powerful chip, and maybe a bit of a redesign.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed things, with Apple pushing the iPhone 12 launch to October. The twist was that instead of sticking to the Pro models and a regular iPhone, we got also got the mini thrown in, making it four iPhone 12 devices on offer.

The Pro Max and the Mini will come in November. But we have been using the iPhone 12 Pro Max for a few days to get a feel for what the upgrade will mean.

The look:

The thing that immediately grabs you is the design. Depending on your point of view, the iPhone 12 Pro looks either like an iPhone version of the iPad Pro, or has been heavily inspired by the iPhone 5.

Neither are wrong. The iPhone 12 Pro has a flat stainless steel band around the edges, and is all screen; on the back, it has the square camera array. In short, it looks like a cross between the iPhone 5 and last year’s 11 Pro.

It also comes in new colours, with the blue iPhone 12 Pro a particular favourite around these parts.

The first thing you usually do with a new iPhone is invest in a case. Although Gorilla Glass has improved over the years, no one really wants to risk shattering their brand new phone should it slip from your grasp.

It would be a shame to tuck it away in a case though. Apple has come up with a solution of sorts - a technology it calls Ceramic Shield. According to Apple, it makes it four times more resistant to drop damage. It’s not something we were keen to test too much, but anything that makes the iPhone more durable is a good move. Replacing the screen may be expensive though, if reports are anything to go by.

Speaking of displays, the iPhone 12 Pro has a 6.1 inch display and it is bright. Everything looks good on it.

The camera:

The biggest difference you’ll see here is in the camera. The iPhone 12 Pro has three 12 megapixels cameras: ultra wide, wide, and telephoto.

The main wide angle camera on all iPhone 12 models has been improved. It now comes with an f1.6 aperture and a larger sensor, allowing for more light in your photos.

That difference is obvious when looking at photos side by side from previous iPhone models. The new iPhone shots look better and more detailed.

Apple has added night mode to all cameras in the iPhone 12 Pro, so you can take selfies in low light and get much better results. Instead of a badly lit smudged shot in almost -darkness, you get a bit more detail and actual discernible features. It’s a welcome addition and one that will probably be appreciated.

The addition of the Lidar sensor to the 13 Pro’s camera is something the majority of users probably won’t notice. The technology is particularly useful for augmented reality, but it also has its uses in photography. The Lidar scanner in the iPhone 12 can help with focusing in low light situations, for example, where previously the camera may have struggled.

Video is also noticeably better. Lidar helps here too, with focus on night videos particularly good. It was also noticeably brighter than the iPhone 11 Pro.

The technology:

New iPhone means new chip and the iPhone 12 is powered by the A14 Bionic. That means another jump in speed for users, which is always welcome as apps become more powerful.

The new iPhone also has 5G. That won’t mean an awful lot right now, with the roll out of the next generation networks still in progress, but it future proofs the phone for six months to a year from now.

The charging:

One of the most useful features in the new iPhones is MagSafe charging. Apple’s idea was to put a ring of magnets inside the iPhone case that will snap the phone to the MagSafe charger. There’s no risk of bumping the phone off the wires charger and leaving you without power at a crucial moment.

It may not seem like much of a problem but on more than one occasion I’ve left a device charging only to find an hour or so later that it wasn’t quite on the charger’s sweet spot.

If you put a case on the phone, obviously, that will impact the MagSafe charger’s effect. It will still charge - it worked on an 11 Pro through a fairly robust case - but the magnets won’t hold the phone in place well. That’s solved by using a MagSafe compatible charger.

The early verdict:

The iPhone 12 Pro is impressive. Not only does it blow the 11 Pro out of the water, but it is arguably one of the best smartphones out there at the moment.