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Apple iPhone 12 review

The Apple iPhone 12 offers a compelling iPhone, but the Mini is likely to be hugely popular for anyone missing a smaller display.

Apple iPhone 12
(Image: © Apple)

Our Verdict

The cheapest way to get a 5G iPhone, both iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini offer flagship features at a lower price point than you’d expect from Apple.

For

  • Mini offers a new screen size
  • Gorgeous design
  • OLED displays

Against

  • Your mileage will vary with 5G
  • Still only 64GB of storage at the base level

Apple announced a whopping four mobile devices at its most recent event, including the Apple iPhone 12. With all these models, alongside the iPhone SE, it means there’s something to suit almost every budget from the tech giant as we approach the Holiday season. If you're looking for the more feature-packed version, we have an iPhone 12 Pro review.

While the headline feature of 5G may have taken a lot of the airtime of the Apple iPhone 12 and 12 Mini reveal, there’s no denying that both offer an incredible array of features. Each offers vastly improved cameras, great battery life, and OLED displays, and while we’d have liked to have seen the iPhone 12 stick closer to the iPhone 11’s price point of $699, having a 5G iPhone available for $699 seemed like a pipe dream only a few years ago – even if it is the Mini.

If you’re in an area with a 5G signal, Apple claims you’ll be able to download TV shows in seconds, or FaceTime much more clearly. Your mileage will vary, though, and many of the best cell phone providers will require an extra payment for those speeds. So, is the new iPhone one of the best smartphones you can buy? Or has Apple dropped the ball at all this year?

Apple iPhone 12 review: Design and styling

  • Available in White, Black, Blue, Green and Red 
  • Familiar design has been refined 
Apple iPhone 12 specs

Average price: $699 (iPhone 12 Mini), $799 (iPhone 12)
Operating system:
iOS 14
Screen size:
5.4-inch display/6.1-inch display
Storage:
64GB/128GB/256GB
5G ready?
Yes
Headphone jack?
No
Charging type:
Lightning
Also consider...
iPhone 11, Google Pixel 5, Google Pixel 4a, iPhone 12 Pro

With the exception of the budget iPhone SE, all the phones in Apple’s line-up feature an all-screen front. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini abide by that same rule, with multiple colors helping it stand out.

While at first glance it undoubtedly seems to be “just another iPhone”, Apple claims that it’s 11% thinner, 15% smaller, and 16% lighter than the iPhone 11, which was hardly a chunky handset. Offering “Aerospace-grade” aluminum edges, there’s more than a little of the iPhone 4’s design here, and that can only be a good thing.

Ceramic Shield offers 4x better drop performance, too, but more importantly, will hopefully avoid the smaller scratches that tend to plague Apple devices after a few months of solid use. Of course, you could put it in a case, and Apple’s new MagSafe technology ensures cases can magnetically attach, as can accessories such as card wallets.

Apple iPhone 12 review: Battery Life 

  • Fast charging offers 50% of battery life in 30 mins
  • No power adapter in the box 

Picking up where the iPhone 11 range left off, the 12 and 12 Mini both offer similar battery life. That means you get around 15 hours of video playback on the iPhone 12 Mini, while the 12 boosts that up to 17 hours. Whether you’re using the camera, making calls, playing games or simply scrolling through social media, the phone will keep going long into the night.

Wireless charging is boosted from the standard 7.5W to 15W when using a compatible MagSafe charger, and fast charging is back if you buy the adapter.

In Apple’s commitment to reducing waste (and, presumably, cost), the company no longer ships a power adapter with iPhones, meaning you’ll need to use one you already have. While the included USB-C to Lightning cable will be familiar to anyone with an iPhone 11, that means anyone expecting to plug it into an old USB-A charger will need to invest, or stick to wireless charging.

Apple iPhone 12

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple iPhone 12 review: Screen and audio 

  • No headphone jack 
  • No EarPods in the box 

Here’s where the iPhone 12 earns the extra $100 on top of the iPhone 11’s price last year, with both the 12 and 12 Mini offering Apple’s “Super Retina XDR” display technology. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s an OLED, so it’s brighter and more accurate than the base iPhone 11 last year.

The iPhone 12 offers a 2532 x 1170 pixel resolution for a 460 pixels-per-inch density, while the 12 Mini offers 2340 x 1080 at a more dense 476 pixels-per-inch. With rounded corners and deep blacks, it’s easy to feel immersed when watching content on Apple TV Plus, Netflix, or any other streaming service.

It’s also much better for viewing in direct sunlight, so if you’re out and about, you’ll notice the difference.

For audio, the iPhone 12 (and 12 Mini) are much the same as the 11, with no headphone jack but decent stereo speakers capable of spatial audio. Again, though, it’s worth noting that Apple has not included any EarPods in the box, so you’ll need to use some you already own or get some Bluetooth ones.

Apple iPhone 12 review: Camera 

  • Two 12MP lens on the back, one 12MP lens on the front 
  • Night Mode 

Apple iPhone 12 camera example

(Image credit: Apple)

Last year, Apple saved many of the best camera features for the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, but the iPhone 12 offers a big step up (as does the 12 Mini). Both get the 12 MP Ultra Wide and Wide cameras of last year’s models, but on the software side, both offer vastly improved night mode photography. That means low-light scenarios (a dark restaurant, photos outside at night) will now produce much better photos.

Deep Fusion, once described by Apple as “mad science”, is also here, “analyzing multiple exposures to maximize detail”. In plain English, you can expect to see far finer detail as the image is essentially made up of multiple others.

Smart HDR also helps capture more color than ever before, while you can now take 4K HDR video with Dolby Vision and edit them on the phone, which is undeniably impressive.

On the front, you can use many of those features for taking selfies. So you can use Deep Fusion, Smart HDR, Dolby Vision recording and even Night Mode to capture that perfect selfie with its 12MP sensor.

Apple iPhone 12 review: Software and assistant features 

  • Wealth of improvements to the home screen 
  • Siri still feels a little underpowered 

iOS 14 has arrived, and it offers a huge number of changes to the home screen. New widgets, the ability to hide whole screens of icons, and the new App Library have made the iPhone home screen more customizable than ever.

The A14 Bionic chip, the same as what’s in the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, means everything runs smoothly.

Siri’s utility still feels too reliant on shortcuts, however, requiring users to set up their own automation for the assistant. It still lags behind Google and Amazon’s offerings, but it is more secure at least.

Apple iPhone 12 - what's in the box

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple iPhone 12 review: Security 

  • FaceID remains accurate and secure 

iPhone 12 and 12 Mini use the front-facing camera to enable FaceID, which lets you unlock the device with a glance. It’s handy, and developers have access to use it to enable things like unlocking your banking app or Apple Pay.

Your FaceID data remains on your device, too, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting access to it. 

iOS 14 also makes it mandatory for apps to show what kind of data they track on the App Store, so you’ll get no more surprises. You’ll also be notified when apps are using the camera, and Safari keeps tabs of every tracker running on a site.

Should you buy the iPhone 12? 

With their excellent camera, OLED screens, and ability to run iOS with power to spare, it’s hard to fault either the iPhone 12 or 12 Mini as handsets. They're fantastic pieces of tech. iOS 14 is still market-leading too, and the new features only make life better for Apple users. It's the whole package that lets these phones down - the lack of charger and earbuds is mean, the 64GB storage capacity in the cheaper iPhone 12 model is weak, and Siri's limited functionality shows room for improvement.

5G may not benefit everyone at the moment, but it’s a rapidly growing technology that feels like a natural fit for iPhone. If you have an iPhone 11, you’re unlikely to find many compelling reasons to trade up, but if you're looking to upgrade an earlier iPhone and you don't need the power-user features of the Pro and Max, these are ideal.