iPhone 12 in Blue
Reviews

iPhone 12 Review – Design is key, 5G Tested, camera & performance dominate.

It could be said this is the most anticipated iPhone in years, but I guess it seems that way every year doesn’t it? Not this year – there’s a genuine buzz in the air about the iPhone 12, something very different, something fresh, and new features we’ve not seen before – on an iPhone. This is my iPhone 12 review.

Having spent a week with the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro I’ve got a very good sense for what’s good, what’s great, what’s a bit meh and why you’d choose the Pro over the standard iPhone 12 – or not.

I know there’s lots to cover here, but I want to start with the headline act, the tease from the event invitation – 5G.

iPhone 12 5G speed tests

Oh this was a very interesting exercise. Technically, for those interested, I have two devices for my iPhone 12 Review, the Blue iPhone 12 and Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro in Blue and Pacific Blue

On the iPhone 12 Pro I have transferred my personal mobile number which currently sits with Telstra so I can test 5G and I’ve done this on an eSIM.

I had a Vodafone SIM card ready and active, and Apple supplied an additional Telstra SIM card which I used at times in the iPhone 12 to check it performed the same way as the Pro (spoiler, it did).

For Optus, the company was unable to provide a test SIM, so I ordered an eSIM on their website. Problems activating that in the MyOptus app led me straight to an Optus Store where an awesome team member sorted me out with an eSIM QR code on the basic $39 plan which on the Optus Website is the cheapest with 5G Network Access.

Trevor Long standing in front of a building with 5G antennas on it.

First stop on our iPhone 12 review – Rosehill. Nope the ponys weren’t running, instead, I knew this to be Vodafone’s first, and probably still close to only 5G tower. According to coverage maps, both Telstra and Optus were also in this area. Bingo.

Vodafone 5G speeds on iPhone 12

Vodafone SIM in the iPhone 12, test after test, server after server, nothing much better than 160mpbs.

This is the same location on which I tested the Samsung Galaxy S20 earlier in the year (Doesn’t March sound like an age ago!). At that time, We had a peak in the 500’s and an average in the mid to high 300’s.

Vodafone speedtest on an iPhone 12

Nope, nothing on the iPhone. Switch the SIM into the iPhone 12 Pro, same thing, over and over.

But here’s where it gets interesting for Vodafone. Put the same SIM into a Google Pixel 5 at the same location on the same time and day, over 300 easily.

Vodafone 5G signal showing on iPhone 12

There’s something fishy about Vodafone’s network configuration that doesn’t yet quite gel with the iPhone 12. That said, Vodafone are only mentioning 5G in their ads because I think Apple would require that. Vodafone isn’t out promoting 5G yet. Their network roll out plans were hammered by the Federal Governments decision to ban Huawei.

Optus 5G speeds on iPhone 12

Optus, no 5G. Bummer. This iPhone 12 review is off to a sketchy start.

Telstra 5G speeds on iPhone 12

Telstra, 5G, full bars, a top of 890mbps, average in the mid 400’s and consistently getting 600’s. But also a bunch of 200’s as well.

An 891mbps SPeedtest on Telstra showing on an iPhone 12

We drove to Homebush, ANZ Stadium. Again, Optus and Telstra show coverage on their maps.

Telstra hits 600+ straight away, Optus, nothing.

Wait, we’ve got 5G on Optus

It’s at this point I get a bit suspicious. Optus has a solid 5G network coverage already, to their credit they have quietly achieved something very strong.

So I call the Optus Store, ask them to check if 5G is enabled on my account. They say they’ll check, and within 15 mins I should reboot.

5G signal notification on an iPhone 12

I do that, over and over, nothing.

We head to the Sydney CBD. Here I go into an Optus Store. Same thing, except I eyeball the staff and get an assurance 5G is ticked, I’m told when the activation is done in-store it needs to be enabled. Crazy, but a warning if switching to Optus to check they’ve turned on 5G for you.

No luck waiting over a bite to eat in the QVB, we head north, on our way back to the EFTM office.

At Pymble, we hit a jackpot, Optus 5G!

Optus 5G signal showing on iPhone 12

Pull over, find the tower, burn though gigabytes of data churning through speedtests.

Here’s the most impressive thing about Optus. Not their speed, their consistency. On or close to 400 time and time again. No big spikes, no big dips. Really impressive stuff.

Consistent Optus 5G Speedtest results

Driving around all day, I have to say I was impressed by how often I saw the Telstra 5G symbol appear.

Moral of this story is, Telstra has the most 5G and the fastest 5G network. Optus has a strong coverage map, and really consistent speeds.

Vodafone have a lot of ground to make up.

Dual Sim iPhone 12? No 5G for you!

There’s a catch. If you’re running dual SIM cards, one physical one eSIM, and both “lines” are enabled, you cannot access 5G. Go Figure.

Dual SIM setup on an iPhone 12

Took me a few minutes to work this out with trial and error, but no matter how you configure your data settings and primary SIM – neither will offer 5G unless you turn off the other line completely. Important discovery as part of this iPhone 12 review.

Update: EFTM has confirmed with Apple that enabling 5G while two SIMs are active will be addressed in a future software update.

The design of the iPhone 12

Any iPhone 12 Review is subjective. The authors personal preferences and bias of course comes into it. That’s why people should read many, and also follow closely the views of one on many phones.

But for me, the Design – not 5G – is the standout feature of the iPhone 12.

iPhone 12 compared to an iPhone 11

Those square edges are being called a throwback to the iPhone 4 and 5 models. Apple has lost its way in design.

Nope. Sure the edges are flat, but please, get up close, your iPhone 5 was a metal sleeve around a glass screen and backing. They looked like three seperate components.

The smooth edges and gapless design of the iPhone 12

iPhone 12 features a flat edge, flat screen, and no obvious place where the two separate. It’s a stunning smooth edge between “side” and “back” or “side” and “front”.

It’s the best looking iPhone ever, by far.

On the iPhone 12 (and iPhone 12 Mini) there are five colours, Black, White, Blue, Red and Green.

iPhone 12 in Blue

For iPhone 12 Pro (and Pro Max) users, there’s Gold, Silver, Graphite and Pacific Blue.

The Blue on that iPhone 12 Pro is washed out, almost like the Green in the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The stainless steel sides are beautiful, but the colour doesn’t really pop as you might hope.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro side by side

Frankly, the iPhone 12 itself in Blue – that’s a winner, that’s the best looking of them all – except if you’re going to brave a Pro model in Gold – that stainless steel edge is something to behold.

That Screen.

How is it possible to fit more pixels? Come on – seriously! My eyes can’t make out any pixel details, and it really is a jump forward.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro side by side

The screen is capable of handling your best photo and video work as intended, and really is a great viewing experience, as well as just day to day work screen.

Impressive beyond words.

Impressive iPhone 12 & iPhone 12 Pro cameras

While cameras are often the big leap forward, I have to say – the already impressive cameras on the iPhone 11 are just perfect. The iPhone 12 cameras are similar, in fact the same in almost every way.

The changes are incremental, but the iPhone 12 isn’t for iPhone 11 owners, those coming from iPhone 6, 7, 8 even X are going to be blown away.

Improved HDR processing is a win in the standard iPhone 12.

Trev's pick : the iPhone 12 in Blue

Night-time timelapse are available on iPhone 12.

Dolby Vision Video recording is new on iPhone 12 (at a higher frame rate on the Pro).

Around the front, again, same same with some HDR tweaks and Dolby Vision. But Night mode is now available on front camera selfies – that’s a decent improvement.

iPhone 12 Pro camera array

In reality, the iPhone 12 Pro gets the biggest bump up with the addition of a LiDAR sensor. This will improve autofocus no end, particularly at night or in dark settings.

I think the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the likely standout camera wise, because it has different lenses as well as other additions.

For now, don’t think of the camera as a reason to upgrade from an iPhone 11 – you’ll likely not notice much.

MagSafe charging? What’s missing?

The elephant in the room of any iPhone 12 review is what’s in the box – or what’s not.

Inside the box of an iPhone 12 Pro

Apple’s push toward a better future for our kids, a better environment for all sees them stop production of new power bricks and headphones.

This makes the box for your new iPhone very thin, almost, but not quite, half the size of last year’s iPhone 11. Saving the environment with less production, but also through less shipping.

Comparing box sizes of the iPhone 11 alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro

Honestly, I think iPhone buyers have a cord already, and a brick. And if you don’t – in the box is a USB-C to Lightning cable. Useless on your old power brick unless you got an iPhone 11 Pro Max, or any other device with a USB-C power brick.

You’ll need to buy one to make it work, but when it does, you get fast charging via USB-C.

The cable you get with an iPhone 12 model

If you’re keen on MagSafe, it’s a winner. The $65 MagSafe cable also plugs into USB-C and offers 15W fast charging. It snaps into place via a circle of magnets around the Qi wireless charging coil.

It’s a bit strange to have to kinda pickup your phone with two hands, one to drag the charger off the phone, the other picking up the phone. But I think when third party chargers hit that are more like charging stands, it will really take off.

But don’t fear, the lightning adaptor is still there, on the bottom. I do see a future where that disappears – MagSafe sets the path for that no question.

iPhone 12 showing the MagSafe screen when snapping on an Apple case

What’s REALLY cool about MagSafe is that there’s a separate NFC reader there too. MagSafe accessories can have an NFC chip in them so your phone knows what it’s attached to.

A green case for your iPhone 12 with MagSafe? The phone shows a green screen and a little animation.

Cool. Really cool. It will be really fun to see how this plays out with aftermarket gear.

iPhone 12 Battery life

Today’s my best example of this. 4am to 8pm, down to 25% and a solid day of usage too including two hours of phone only time.

Bottom line, it’s the same as the iPhone 11. There’s no radical leap forward here, nor is there a step back.

Colours, Pricing and Availability of the iPhone 12

iPhone 12 comes in Black, White, Red, Green and Blue. The Blue is a standout – really great clear colour, not bright but not too dark. Love it.

iPhone 12 Pro comes in Graphite, Silver, Gold and Pacific Blue. A subtle blue as I’ve mentioned.

There is still a lightning adaptor - relax

You can pre-order an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro today, shipping commences on Friday.

For those (like me) dead keen on the iPhone 12 Mini, that ships in Mid November, as does the iPhone 12 Pro Max which will be the standout of the bunch from a features and camera point of view.

iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro?

For me, this is simple. iPhone 12 every day of the week. Do I need 2x telephoto zoom? Not really. Do I need the LiDAR sensor? Not really.

If I was a massive user of Augmented Reality then the Pro is a no brainer, likewise is photography is your job or passion.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro side by side

Also, that Blue on the 12 – stunning. Every day of the week. Though lovers of Gold will be sold by the iPhone 12 Pro in Gold.

What’s the upshot?

Design and 5G are the key points of the iPhone 12 review – a fresh and really modern and for the times design review is long overdue.

It’s been six years since the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus introduced the curved edges which lasted through to the iPhone 11. We needed something new and it delivered.

Trev's pick a blue standard device

5G is a huge leap forward for the industry, and while Samsung and others would be unhappy with the highlight being on Apple, now is the time for 5G, not last year.

However, no telco, and not even Apple has made a compelling case for 5G. Once I’m done with my testing I’ll be popping back down to a non 5G plan because I have no need for it, other than to show off my nerdiness.

Compare the Devices for yourself

iPhone 12 Review – Design is key, 5G Tested, camera & performance dominate.
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