Editor’s note: The smartphone experts at our sister site Tom’s Guide have unveiled their in-depth, hands-on review of the new iPhone 12. The following is an excerpt from their review. To read the full review, click here to visit Tom’s Guide.
The iPhone 12 sports a gorgeous new design, full 5G support, great cameras and even better performance. However, the lack of a charger in box and limited base storage are drawbacks.
- Attractive new design with MagSafe
- Comprehensive 5G coverage
- Impressive dual cameras
- Incredible performance
- Solid battery life
- Only 64GB of base storage
- 60Hz display
- No charger or headphones in box
- Digital zoom could still use work
The iPhone 12 is the kind of product Apple only releases once in a while — the kind that looks different, is built on a fundamentally new technology, and will ultimately form the basis of future iPhones for years to come.
It’s fortunate, then, that the new iPhone that most people will probably buy is also mostly a success. The iPhone 12 has an attractive new design, a straightforward and complete approach to 5G, good cameras and even better performance.
But an iPhone of all trades is a master of none, and thus, the iPhone 12 isn’t perfect, either. A low amount of base storage and the lack of a charger included in box means this iPhone isn’t as inexpensive as it may initially seem. Additionally, some of the best features coming out of the Android realm, like super-sharp digital zoom and fast-refresh rate displays, are missing in action here.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t sweat the details. As our iPhone 12 review notes, Apple’s latest relatively-affordable premium handset is still fantastic all around, in spite of what bleeding-edge specs it may lack. Where it counts, it remains one of the best phones you can buy today.
iPhone 12 review: Price and availability
The iPhone 12 begins shipping Oct. 23, and you can preorder it from Apple right now. It starts at $829 for a device with 64GB of storage ($799 if you buy it on-contract from Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile), and costs $879 for 128GB or $979 for 256GB. The smaller and cheaper iPhone 12 mini will take a little longer to arrive, with preorders for that variant going live Nov. 6, a week before sale on Nov. 13.
In the U.K., the iPhone 12 will start at £799 for the 64GB model, but pay an extra £50 and you can get 128GB of storage for £849. The 256GB handset will cost £949. However, if you have an older iPhone to trade in, then you can get up to £230 off the iPhone 12, providing you have an eligible handset.
As you may have already heard, Apple isn’t shipping a charging adapter or headphones in box with the iPhone 12, and has even gone so far as to remove them from the iPhone 11, iPhone XR and iPhone SE going forward. For what it’s worth, though, you still get a Lightning-to-USB-C cable for your troubles.
iPhone 12 review: Design
Apple rarely alters the physical design of the iPhone from generation to generation, and thus any change — no matter how small — is typically received with enthusiasm. You can chalk up the iPhone 12’s new flat-edge aesthetic as one of those more modest revisions.
Sure, the flat edges look nice enough and offer a much appreciated change of pace from the last several consecutive years of rounded iPhones. What’s more, they improve the iPhone 12’s durability in tandem with Apple’s new Ceramic Shield material, as the rounded frames of previous iPhones actually made them more fragile.
All that said, I can’t say my hands have really taken to the sharper design. Few smartphones employ flat sides these days, and the iPhone 12 reminds me why. The edges dig into your palm, and make the entire device a bit harder to grip. For example, the iPhone 12 measures 0.29 inches thick — which is perceptibly identical to the 0.31-inch-thick Pixel 5. However, the Pixel 5 feels more slender in the hand, because it naturally fits the curvature of your palm.
Additionally — and I won’t blame you for dismissing this as a nitpick — as a longtime iPhone 11 Pro user, I can’t help but feel the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is a hair taller than it really needs to be. I find the 5.8-inch size the perfect compromise between display real estate and pocketability, but with the iPhone 12 series, Apple has left that form factor to die. Now, those who desire a more compact device will have no choice but to go for the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini. And though I commend Apple for making a small flagship phone in the year of our lord 2020, I can’t help but feel a 5.4-inch display might be a bit too tiny for modern users.
Nevertheless, I’m generally smitten by the iPhone 12’s design. I like that Apple’s shaved down the bezels considerably compared to the iPhone 11 and XR, though a slightly reduced notch would have been appreciated. And while I’m not a huge fan of the new blue color — I find this sort of navy a bit dull — I like the mint green on offer, and I especially like the elegant simplicity of this design. The iPhone 12 comes three other colors — black, white and red.
The iPhone 12 feels substantial and premium, and not necessarily any less luxurious than the iPhone 12 Pro. You even get the same caliber of IP68 water resistance here as in the Pro (20 feet for 30 minutes) which far exceeds other handsets on the market, as well as the aforementioned crystal-infused Ceramic Shield material protecting the display, which Apple estimates is four times less likely to shatter when dropped — a claim we look forward to testing ourselves soon.
iPhone 12 review: MagSafe
While the miracle of magnets continues to baffle the world’s top minds, Apple has made them a fundamental aspect of the iPhone 12’s design. A ring of magnets centrally placed on the back of the iPhone 12 enable Apple’s new MagSafe ecosystem of accessories, from wireless chargers to cases and wallet attachments that simply snap on and off.
There’s nothing inherently unique about Apple’s brand of wireless charging here. The company’s own $30 MagSafe charging puck uses the very same Qi standard as any other wireless charger for any other phone — it just incorporates magnets, too. Your iPhone 12 will still be compatible with whatever wireless chargers or Qi accessories you already have, though to get those peak 15-watt speeds, you’ll need a first- or third-party solution that incorporates MagSafe.
The bad news is that MagSafe is slower than Apple’s 20W wired charger. Much slower. In a third-party charging test, the iPhone 12 charges to 50% full in 28 minutes using the 20W fast charger. The 15W MagSafe charger took an hour.
Still, that’s not to discredit the philosophy behind MagSafe, which makes a lot of sense. The magnets help localize the iPhone 12 on chargers and makes accessory attachment more convenient. And it’s surely easier to top off your phone by setting it down a puck that instantly aligns itself perfectly, rather than fumbling around at your bedside to plug in a tiny Lightning connector.
I think it’s going to take more third-party involvement and experimentation before we really see MagSafe reach its full potential. Case in point, Apple’s leather wallet attachment. It’s a clever idea, and I have no doubt some iPhone owners will love it. But the magnets within the iPhone 12 aren’t quite strong enough to keep the wallet rigidly attached in all instances. In fact, the friction of pulling the iPhone 12 out of my jeans pocket was enough to knock the wallet off center on a few occasions, which to me doesn’t evoke very Apple-like design.
The full hands-on review covers even more aspects of the iPhone 12, including our expert’s review of the iPhone 12’s display, cameras, video, battery life and 5G performance. Click here to visit Tom’s Guide and continue reading the full review.