The iPhone 12 Pro and Max are Apple's latest high-end versions of the iPhone. Alongside the regular iPhone 12 and 12 Mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max complete Apple’s 5G-capable suite of devices. Just as with last year, they form the high-end of the line-up, and while both offer a wealth of features, they also boast a price tag to match – even if it does match last year’s comparable devices.
While last year’s 'Pro' phones offered an OLED display not available on the standard iPhone 11, the differences are harder to spot this year. All phones feature Apple’s Pro Display XDR technology, and they also all come packing 5G.
That may mean very little to you if you’re not in a particularly well-connected area, but if you live or work in a major city you’ll find that downloads are much faster than the previous 4G standard. Most of the best cell phone providers now offer 5G, but it is far from standard across the US.
iPhone 12 Pro review: Design and styling
- Available in Silver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific
Average price: $999 (iPhone 12 Pro), $1099 (iPhone 12 Pro Max)
Operating system: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch display/6.7-inch display
5G ready? Yes
Headphone jack? No
Charging type: Lightning
Also consider... iPhone 12, Google Pixel 5, Google Pixel 4a, iPhone 11 Pro
Other than the iPhone SE, every mobile device in Apple’s line-up now offers an all-screen front, and the same applies here. That's why we see so many Apple devices among our best smartphones guide in 2020.
Despite having the same Pro and Pro Max monikers, both devices are slightly larger than last year’s models, allowing for larger displays on both phones – the iPhone 12 Pro offers a 6.1-inch display (up from 5.8-inches on the 11 Pro), while the Pro Max jumps to a whopping 6.7-inches up from last year’s 6.5-inch panel.
Offering 'Aerospace-grade' aluminium edges, both call to mind the iPhone 4 and 5 phones of old, but they do tend to pick up plenty of fingerprints.
Ceramic Shield is a technology that Apple claims protects the devices from drops far more effectively, while the rear is a matt glass finish with a textured design to hopefully stop users from dropping it, too.
On the back, Apple’s revival of the MagSafe name means you can connect a compatible wireless charging pad via magnets, as well as use it to secure a case or card wallet attachment – both sold separately, of course.
iPhone 12 Pro review: Battery Life
- No charger included in the box
- MagSafe allows for more powerful wireless charging
The days of disappointing iPhone battery life are long gone, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max continues to lead the line with power management.
Apple’s largest phone offers up to 20 hours of video playback from a full charge, while the Pro offers a similarly excellent 17 hours. Expect either to last a full day of use, regardless of what you’re doing with it.
Those handy MagSafe magnets will ensure a more secure charge when using a compatible charger, up to 15W (double the standard 7.5W supported by the usual Qi-standard chargers). You can fast-charge via the lightning port, too, but you’ll need to purchase a compatible fast charger.
Speaking of purchasing a charger, don’t expect to find one in the box – even when spending over $1000 on a device. Apple claims this is due to cutting out waste, and while that pursuit is admirable, the decision to ship a USB-C to Lightning cable is undoubtedly going to catch many out.
iPhone 12 Pro review: Screen and audio
- 6.1-inch or 6.8-inch displays
- No headphone jack means you’ll need to use Bluetooth earphones...
- … especially since there aren’t any EarPods in the box anymore
iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max offer OLED displays that Apple dubs 'Super Retina XDR', with 2532x1170 and 2778x1284 resolutions respectively. That means they’re bright, and very readable in direct sunlight. They also offer deeper blacks and fantastic color accuracy, as you’d expect from an iPhone.
Both phones offer curved displays, meaning you’ll feel particularly engrossed when watching your favourite video content on your streaming service of choice.
That’s backed up by the same high-quality stereo speakers at both ends of the phone, with support for spatial audio, too. Those speakers will be great for watching content, but if you’re planning to do so in a crowded place, you’ll need to pick up Bluetooth earphones or use an old pair of Lightning ones – you won’t find any EarPods in the box.
iPhone 12 Pro review: Camera
- Three lens 12MP setup on the back, one 12MP lens on the front
- Night Mode is improved from last year
This is where the devices start to diverge from one another in more aspects than display size, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max getting some nifty bonuses in the camera department.
Both offer the trio of Ultra Wide, Wide and Telephoto cameras we got last year, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers zoom of up to 12x (the iPhone 12 Pro maxes out at 10x).
The 12 Pro Max also offers sensor-shift optical image stabilisation for photos which counterbalances any swap of the phone while taking photos.
Night Mode returns, meaning you can grab great snaps in low-light situations, and Portrait Mode is also back, allowing you to blur out the background of a subject.
Deep Fusion continues to be Apple’s ace up the sleeve, stitching together multiple exposures of the same photo to enhance the details in one final photo.
For video, Apple continues to lead the pack. 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. Best of all, this applies to the front camera, too. That means you’ll be able to take great low-light selfies, full of detail. And yes, “slofies” are back.
Finally, there's a LiDAR sensor that helps with AR applications, but unless that’s an area you’re really invested in, you’re unlikely to find yourself using it.
iPhone 12 Pro review: Software and assistant features
- iOS 14 shakes up the home screen
iOS 14 offers the biggest shakeup of the iPhone home screen since it debuted on the first one, adding customisable widgets for glanceable information, a new App Library to hide applications you might not want to show, and the option to hide entire screens.
It doesn’t sound that revolutionary, especially if you’ve used an Android phone in the last decade, but it does feel more refined here.
The A14 Bionic chip is, as expected, a powerhouse, while also being power efficient enough to drive the excellent battery life we mentioned earlier.
It’s not all good news, however, and Siri continues to let the side down. Apple was first to the virtual assistant space, but while shortcuts allow users to customise actions and link apps together, asking Siri more standardised questions just feels more lacking than in the case of Amazon’s Echo or Google Assistant.
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max review: Security
- FaceID still feels simple and powerful
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max are unlockable through FaceID, and the technology still feels impressive even after its debut on the iPhone X. Unlocking the phone with a simple glance still feels much more natural than the older TouchID fingerprint sensor, and Apple claims it’s more secure, too.
FaceID data stays on your phone, too, so it’s not able to be accessed by anyone else – even Apple.
In terms of Privacy, Apple will now show users when the camera or microphone are in use, as well as all of the current trackers on a website. Finally, you’ll also be able to check what privacy permissions an app wants from you before downloading it by checking the App Store.
Should you buy the iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max?
If you’re looking for the best iPhone on the market, the 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max are the clear winners. They offer the kind of power and compatibility you only get in an iPhone, but they’re still tough to recommend for all but the most power-hungry users.
With a $200 (or more for the Pro Max) premium for a better camera and more storage, if you’re not a big shutterbug you may be better served by the standard iPhone 12.