Which iPhone to buy: iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro compared

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2021
With iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 Pro now available, many prospective buyers are wondering which model is best for them. We compare the two feature sets to help you make a decision.

iPhone 12 (left), iPhone 12 Pro (right)
iPhone 12 (left), iPhone 12 Pro (right)

Design and appearance

On the outside -- apart from the colors -- these two handsets look remarkably similar. They both sport 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR displays and have the same physical dimensions. Any protective case you pick up for the iPhone 12 will also fit the iPhone 12 Pro, and the inverse is true as well.






Last year, display type was a big differentiator with iPhone 11's traditional LED screen and iPhone 11 being an LED while the iPhone 11 Pro's OLED. Apple evened the playing field in 2020 and gave both iPhone 12 and 12 Pro OLED displays, though the unit in iPhone 12 Pro does have a higher average max brightness of 800 nits versus the iPhone 12's 625 nits.

The iPhone 12 Pro display is slightly brighter than the non-Pro
The iPhone 12 Pro display is slightly brighter than the non-Pro


Holding them in your hand, you will notice one of the most apparent differences -- chassis material. Apple is using aircraft-grade anodized aluminum for iPhone 12 while iPhone 12 Pro is made of surgical-grade stainless steel. The steel is a much more premium material, similar to what we saw on the iPhone 11 line, and has a bit more heft and high-end feel when compared with aluminum. Its finish is also glossy, not matte.

Side-on, the two iPhone models are almost identical.
Side-on, the two iPhone models are almost identical.


There are different colorways for each too. For iPhone 12 there is black, white, (PRODUCT)Red, blue, purple, and green, while iPhone 12 Pro comes in Pacific Blue, gold, graphite, and silver.

What's on the inside

Internally, they both support sub-6GHz 5G (and mmWave 5G in the U.S.) and rock the same A14 Bionic processor. Each supports Face ID, boasts similar battery life, are equally water-resistant, and integrate Lightning connectivity.

A14 Bionic processor is in both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro
A14 Bionic processor is in both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro


By choosing iPhone 12 Pro you get 6GB of RAM versus the usual 4GB in the iPhone 12, but most won't notice the difference day-to-day.

If storage is a big deal then the iPhone 12 Pro may be the best choice. Users can choose up to 512GB of internal storage on iPhone 12 Pro, whereas the iPhone 12 maxes out at 256GB. Additionally, iPhone 12 Pro starts off with 128GB, while the iPhone 12 is stuck at 64GB of starting memory.

The only difference that matters -- cameras

While the distinctions above -- steel versus aluminum, storage capacities, brighter display, different colors -- are relatively minor, what makes the biggest practical difference for users will be the cameras.

The tele lens on the iPhone 12 Pro is a big deal. So is LiDAR.
The tele lens on the iPhone 12 Pro is a big deal. So is LiDAR.


There are only two cameras on iPhone 12: a 12MP ultra-wide and a 12MP wide camera. There are three on iPhone 12 Pro: a 12MP ultra-wide, a 12MP wide, and a 12MP tele lens. The telephoto lens is a key addition, enabling higher optical zoom levels -- up to 10X digital zoom on your shots with iPhone 12 Pro.

A LiDAR scanner also sits on the back of iPhone 12 Pro which provides much faster autofocus in low light and even enables Night Mode portrait shots.

Skilled photographers will be familiar with RAW. On iPhone 12, when shooting in RAW you lose the advantages of Apple's computational photography features like Deep Fusion and Smart HDR. You have the choice of RAW with its additional details or Apple's computational features. On iPhone 12 Pro a new Apple ProRAW format combines the two. You have all the advantages of those smart computational photography features as well as the detail and control of RAW.

For video, iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro can film Dolby Vision HDR 4K video, but the former is capped at 30 frames per second and the latter can achieve 60 frames per second.

The choice is yours

In our opinion, after looking through all the differences, most users will be thrilled with iPhone 12. It is cheaper, colorful, and just as powerful as the pricier models.

At the same time, photographers in need of a powerful portable platform will immediately recognize the new camera capabilities of the 12 Pro.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,216member
    My iPhone 11 drains faster than it charges when I'm watching a camera or video on it while it's plugged in. Is the iPhone 12 better, or does it also drain faster than it charges? And the iPhone 11 is very hot when it's displaying video for an hour. How does the iPhone 12 compare in terms of its temperature?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Joe PiervincentiJoe Piervincenti Posts: 26unconfirmed, member
    My iPhone 11 drains faster than it charges when I'm watching a camera or video on it while it's plugged in. Is the iPhone 12 better, or does it also drain faster than it charges? And the iPhone 11 is very hot when it's displaying video for an hour. How does the iPhone 12 compare in terms of its temperature?
    No one has the phone yet, can't know that just yet :)
    baconstang
  • Reply 3 of 18
    If you go for 128GB. The cost difference is only $170 from 12 to 12 Pro. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    I will go w 128 gb capacity this time, since my 256 gb from last year, i have only used 46gb....save a little w the Pro, that’s just me.
    flyingdpwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    My iPhone 11 drains faster than it charges when I'm watching a camera or video on it while it's plugged in. Is the iPhone 12 better, or does it also drain faster than it charges? And the iPhone 11 is very hot when it's displaying video for an hour. How does the iPhone 12 compare in terms of its temperature?
    Looks who’s here...

    where are the iPhone 12M and iPhone12ML

    LOL
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Apple_Bar said:
    My iPhone 11 drains faster than it charges when I'm watching a camera or video on it while it's plugged in. Is the iPhone 12 better, or does it also drain faster than it charges? And the iPhone 11 is very hot when it's displaying video for an hour. How does the iPhone 12 compare in terms of its temperature?
    Looks who’s here...

    where are the iPhone 12M and iPhone12ML

    LOL
    I said I would buy you a steak if the phone was called the 12M, you must be very sad that I was wrong. Don't feel bad - you could be a nice person if you stopped attacking others.
    MplsPwilliamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 18
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,714member
    The only thing people are going to care about is the camera; the other differences disappear as soon as you’re not reading some tech review article. Similar to the  Xs and the Xr, they opted to only put the telephoto lens in the more expensive model. I’m sure that’s not an accident. 
    twokatmew
  • Reply 8 of 18
    “Photographers.”

    A bit grandiose.

    Or have we wasted our money on our Nikons and Canons, specialized lenses and filters?

    Should we sell them off on eBay?

    NO!

    Reminds me of my son's teacher calling first graders her "Little Mathematicians.” Give us a break. (Still, my kid became an architect.) 

    BTW
    10x Digital is not the same as 10x Optical.

    Get out of the Appleverse from time to time.  
    edited October 2020 flyingdpbaconstangtwokatmew
  • Reply 9 of 18
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,714member
    Caffiend said:
    “Photographers.”

    A bit grandiose.

    Or have we wasted our money on our Nikons and Canons, specialized lenses and filters?

    Should we sell them off on eBay?

    NO!

    Reminds me of my son's teacher calling first graders her "Little Mathematicians.” Give us a break. (Still, my kid became an architect.) 

    BTW
    10x Digital is not the same as 10x Optical.

    Get out of the Appleverse from time to time.  
    I have a friend who is an amateur photographer. He has a Nikon SLR with an assortment of lenses but will also regularly use his iPhone and has been increasingly impressed with the photos iPhones can take. They are not professional cameras, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used by photographers. As my friend said, “I always have my iPhone with me abs it fits in my pocket.”
    twokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,216member
    “Photographers.”
    A bit grandiose.
    Or have we wasted our money on our Nikons and Canons, specialized lenses and filters?
    Should we sell them off on eBay?
    NO!
    Reminds me of my son's teacher calling first graders her "Little Mathematicians.” Give us a break. (Still, my kid became an architect.) 
    Would it make any difference to you what famous photographers say about what kind of camera you use?

    ANSEL ADAMS:
    "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."

    WALKER EVANS:

    "People always ask me what camera I use. It's not the camera, it's - - - " and he tapped his temple with his index finger.

    ERNST HAAS: (on whether the Leica made the best camera)

    "Leica, schmeica.  The camera doesn't make a bit of difference.  All of them can record what you are seeing.  But, you have to SEE."

    ANDREAS FENINGER:

    "Photographers — idiots, of which there are so many — say, “Oh, if only I had a Nikon or a Leica, I could make great photographs.” That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. It’s nothing but a matter of seeing, thinking, and interest. That’s what makes a good photograph. And then rejecting anything that would be bad for the picture. The wrong light, the wrong background, time and so on. Just don’t do it, not matter how beautiful the subject is."

    In addition to photographers who say equipment doesn't matter, there are many musicians who play great music on cheap instruments.

    baconstangtwokatmew
  • Reply 11 of 18
    I'm getting the 12 mini.  Fits in my pocket, so I'll most likely have it.
    I usually carry a "real" camera in my backpack, with a real lens.  5x optical zoom is the minimal requirement.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,609member
    Caffiend said:
    10x Digital is not the same as 10x Optical.

    Get out of the Appleverse from time to time.  
    That's clearly a typo/editing error in the article. There's just a missing "and" between "higher optical zoom" and "up to 10x digital zoom."

    For the record, the iPhone 12 Pro has 4x optical zoom, while the Pro Max has 5x optical zoom. Not that you're actually interested.
    twokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,609member
    FWIW, my approach on iPhones is pretty much always "what will the extra money get me?"

    In my case, the $200 more I'd spend on an iPhone 12 Pro versus an iPhone 12 gets me double the storage, 50 percent more RAM, better chassis material, 4x optical zoom, more screen brightness, and colour options I prefer. For me, that more than justifies the price difference. YMMV.
    twokatmewwilliamlondonwatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 18
    chasm said:
    FWIW, my approach on iPhones is pretty much always "what will the extra money get me?"

    In my case, the $200 more I'd spend on an iPhone 12 Pro versus an iPhone 12 gets me double the storage, 50 percent more RAM, better chassis material, 4x optical zoom, more screen brightness, and colour options I prefer. For me, that more than justifies the price difference. YMMV.
    Good points!!! When I looked at the details of iPhone 12 lineup initially, my thought was - iPhone 12 Pro is redundant in this lineup. Not any more. iPhone 12 Pro can support 2 more years of iOS effectively due to more RAM. And the other points you made also make it a meaningful and an attractive option.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    rinosaur said:
    If you go for 128GB. The cost difference is only $170 from 12 to 12 Pro. 
    The 128 and 256 models of both the 12 and 12 Pro differ in price only by $120.  $879 v $999, and $979 v $1,099.  Leave out the carrier discount because that is not the real price of the phone, and not everyone uses those major carriers.

    The article should have pointed out the price differences between models because $120 is much less than last year's $300 price difference.  For $120 more, it was obvious to get the Pro instead of the 12.
  • Reply 16 of 18

    chasm said:
    FWIW, my approach on iPhones is pretty much always "what will the extra money get me?"

    In my case, the $200 more I'd spend on an iPhone 12 Pro versus an iPhone 12 gets me double the storage, 50 percent more RAM, better chassis material, 4x optical zoom, more screen brightness, and colour options I prefer. For me, that more than justifies the price difference. YMMV.
    The Pro is 2x optical telephoto zoom.  Both the 12 and 12 Pro have the same -2x optical zoom out for the ultra-wide feature.  The price difference is only $120 with the 128 and 256 GB models, making the Pro that much more attractive to buyers, compared to last year's $300 price difference.
  • Reply 17 of 18

    chasm said:
    Caffiend said:
    10x Digital is not the same as 10x Optical.

    Get out of the Appleverse from time to time.  
    That's clearly a typo/editing error in the article. There's just a missing "and" between "higher optical zoom" and "up to 10x digital zoom."

    For the record, the iPhone 12 Pro has 4x optical zoom, while the Pro Max has 5x optical zoom. Not that you're actually interested.
    Website error.  Posted same comment twice.  If you can edit a post, you should be able to delete a post.
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 18 of 18

    chasm said:
    Caffiend said:
    10x Digital is not the same as 10x Optical.

    Get out of the Appleverse from time to time.  
    That's clearly a typo/editing error in the article. There's just a missing "and" between "higher optical zoom" and "up to 10x digital zoom."

    For the record, the iPhone 12 Pro has 4x optical zoom, while the Pro Max has 5x optical zoom. Not that you're actually interested.
    For the record, where it matters most, the 12 Pro has 2x optical telephoto zoom and the Pro Max has 2.5x optical telephoto zoom.  Both models have the same 2x zoom out for ultra-wide, just like the iPhone 12.  When people refer to optical zoom, they typically mean telephoto zoom since you are most always zooming in on a subject.  So it is misleading of Apple to claim '4x optical zoom range' as people may misinterpret that and think it has 4x telephoto optical zoom.  Sad that Apple hasn't improved the optical zoom and it is still the same 2x as it was with the iPhone 7 Plus.
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