We already reviews Apple iPhone 12 mini. With the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, there are again two higher quality models in the portfolio this year. The iPhone 12 Pro tested by us has the same dimensions as the regular iPhone 12. As in the previous year, it comes with an additional telephoto lens. For the first time, a lidar sensor is also installed, which enables three-dimensional scanning of objects using a laser.
Premium from front to back
While the regular iPhone 12 already looks high-quality with its brushed aluminum frame, Apple goes one better with the Pro with its stainless steel housing and textured, matt glass back. Everything about this smartphone looks premium and feels that way thanks to the more angular, polished housing shape. In contrast to the cheaper iPhone, the back is also much less susceptible to fingerprints.
At 187 grams, the Pro model is 15 percent heavier than the iPhone 12 of the same size. This also contributes to the high-quality feel: In practice, however, the lighter iPhone 12 is probably more comfortable to hold in the long run. Compared to the Pro model from last year, the device has become a little flatter. Due to the narrower display bezels, the screen has grown from 5.8 inches to 6.1 inches at the same time.
Rumors that the ugly black notch is smaller in the current models have unfortunately not been confirmed. Since the iPhone 12 is now also supplied with an OLED screen, this unique selling point is no longer available for the Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro only has a lead of 175 nits in terms of typical brightness. But that was hardly noticeable in the test. The display impresses with strong but balanced colors. Apple does not use the smoother 120 Hz display in the Pro either.
Screen of the iPhone 12 Pro
- 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR screen
- 2532 x 1170 pixels (was: 2436 x 1125)
- Pixel density 460ppi
- Front protected by Ceramic Shield for better drop resistance
- Maximum brightness 1,200 nits for HDR video, 800 nits for normal use
This year, 6.1-inch is the standard format. I previously used the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max and got used to the somewhat more compact size of this device. The screen is large enough to read, while the device is still nice and handy. An excellent format.
I informed people who previously used the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro how they experienced it. It sometimes took some getting used to, but in the end the larger screen size is good. As long as Apple doesn’t make the device even bigger. Compared to the 6.1-inch iPhone 11 , the new iPhone 12 is slightly more compact. In that respect, Apple still has some expansion options, by making the bezels a bit narrower in subsequent generations.
The glass at the front is now completely flat, while on previous models it curved nicely to the back. Incidentally, this does not result in narrower screen edges: they are still clearly present at 3mm. The notch has become slightly smaller: it now measures approx. 34mm at its widest point, while it used to be approx. 36mm.
The fronts of all iPhone 12 models are now made of Ceramic Shield , a new type of glass reinforced with nano-ceramic crystals and developed in collaboration with Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning. The first scratch and fade experiments show that the glass is indeed damaged less quickly, but it is still not indestructible. Despite the grease-resistant coating, it is still sensitive to finger stains. However, I will still continue to use a case, simply because I drop my device from my hands once a week on average. Cases like Apple’s and Mujjo’s have saved me time and time again, and Apple’s marketing talk about Ceramic Shield hasn’t convinced me I can live without it now.
Three cameras with night mode
While the main camera and ultra-wide-angle camera are practically unchanged compared to last year and identical to the cheaper iPhone 12, the Pro once again attracts with a telephoto lens as a third lens. This allows sharp, close-up shots. But it also helps if you want to optically “zoom in” on distant objects without compromising on quality.
But even with the digital zoom you benefit from the Pro with a maximum factor of 10 instead of 5 with the iPhone 12 – although this maximum magnification hardly delivers any useful results in either case. What is new this year is that night mode can now be used with all three cameras and no longer only with the main camera. To take advantage of this, however, you need a very steady hand when taking pictures with a telephoto lens – or a tripod.
What is less great, however, is that the better optical image stabilization, a new, larger light sensor and better optical zoom options will be reserved for the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max. So if you want to buy the iPhone with the best possible camera system, you have to wait for the unwieldy and even more expensive Pro Max, which will hit the market in November. At least the new ProRAW image format will be available for both Pro models in the future. It wasn’t available when testing.
Lidar: exciting future feature
The integration of the so-called lidar sensor (light detection and ranging), which premiered in the iPad Pro, is the only innovation that the iPhone 12 Pro does not share with the previous year’s model or with the regular iPhone. There is a simple reason why Apple neglected this function during the presentation: There are still no corresponding applications.
The 3D scanner app shows what can be done with the laser-based scanner. With this, objects as well as entire rooms can be captured in three dimensions. To be able to create your own wood stove as a virtual 3D object in a few seconds or to be able to view the living room from all angles is definitely fascinating.
There is still room for improvement in the implementation and processing of such scans. For the topic of augmented reality and the Apple glasses, which are apparently being developed, lidar will still play an important role in the future. When testing it, I got a bit of the feeling that in view of the rare apps and applications in this area, one can only guess at many future possible uses.
Measure rooms and people
Even Apple has been keeping a low profile in this regard so far. You can benefit from the new sensor in the Apple “Tape Measure” app, for example, which you can use to measure a room, but recently you can also record the size of people. You could already do the former. In a direct comparison with the iPhone 12 without a lidar sensor, the Pro’s system is far more reliable.
In addition, the sensor should also contribute to better autofocus and generally better portrait images in poor lighting conditions. In a direct comparison with the iPhone 12, however, this effect was absolutely negligible.
5G: Not a killer feature yet
The Pro model does not differ from the iPhone 12 in terms of 5G support either. The fact that Apple supports a particularly large number of frequency bands is commendable and makes the device relatively future-proof. The achievable download and upload rates are impressive if you hit a hotspot. The maximum value that we could measure in the Magenta network was 256 Mbps on the downlink. Uploads worked consistently at just over 50 Mbps. With 5G hotspots, however, the LTE network also offered rates of 100 Mbps and more.
In practice, however, the network is not yet fully expanded. In addition, many users do not have a tariff that includes 5G use. There are currently also restrictions on the use of 5G with dual SIM. If you use the iPhone 12 Pro for business with a second SIM card, you can surf with a maximum of LTE on both lines. Apple is likely to get rid of this restriction by means of a software update – but a specific date has not yet been given.
A14 and battery
The built-in A14 chip is probably the most powerful smartphone chip in the world. Interestingly, the benchmark tests hardly show any differences between the Pro and the regular iPhone 12 model. If you use several resource-consuming apps in quick succession and switch back and forth between them, you could benefit from 6 GB of RAM with the Pro. The regular model only has 4 GB.
When it comes to the battery, the iPhone 12 Pro is a step backwards compared to the previous year’s model, according to official Apple information. Instead of 18 hours of video playback, Apple now only specifies 17 hours. Unfortunately, the test period was too short to seriously evaluate the battery consumption. After the first impression, however, it can be said that the new iPhone will certainly not get an award for the longest cell phone battery life in the world.
The device will certainly last a day – but it has to be recharged the next morning at the latest. Even with the more expensive Pro model, Apple does without the included accessories except for a Lightning USB-C cable. Neither the new magnetic charging cable is included, nor a power supply unit or wired headphones.
iPhone 12 Pro – Conclusion
No question about it: the iPhone 12 Pro is the highest quality and perhaps the most beautiful model that Apple has ever brought onto the market. At 1149 euros, it was at least not more expensive and benefits from a memory upgrade to 128 GB. The fact that you don’t get the best iPhone camera system – this is reserved for the iPhone Pro Max – is annoying.
Also, Apple is not making it easy for you this year to justify the additional costs of 250 euros for the Pro model. Because apart from the lidar sensor, the third camera and the even higher quality material, the iPhone 12 Pro is identical to the regular iPhone 12. If you take the 128 gigabyte model as a direct comparison, you still have to pay 200 euros more for the Pro.
With astronomical prices in the 1000 euro range, this may not play a major role for some. For many, the 1000 euros are still considered a psychological hurdle and 200 euros are not nothing. As an alternative to the iPhone 12, Apple users who do not want to do without the third camera can use an iPhone 11 Pro. Apple no longer has this officially in its portfolio, but it is still available in stores from 900 euros.
Positives of iPhone 12 Pro
- Luxurious appearance with steel edges
- Fast A14 Bionic processor
- 5G support
- Faster wireless charging with MagSafe
- All kinds of MagSafe accessories
- Greatly improved camera including Dolby Vision and 4K HDR
Negatives of iPhone 12 Pro
- Edges are prone to smudging
- Many features that you also find on the cheaper iPhone 12
- MagSafe accessories are expensive
- For faster charging, you need to purchase all accessories yourself
- Does not offer a solution for mouth caps, eg Touch ID in side button
- Relatively few Pro features to justify the purchase
- No 120Hz screen