Why the iPhone 12 Pro is worth the upgrade cost

Posted:
in iPhone
Putting the iPhone 12 Pro through its paces in the real world really shows why it's worth the extra cost over an iPhone 12.

Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro and the graphite iPhone 12 Pro
Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro and the graphite iPhone 12 Pro

It's more than surface deep

The new iPhone 12 Pro of course offers more features than its predecessors, but before you even notice any of those, you immediately see -- and feel -- how it has all been physically redesigned. As with all the iPhone 12 range, it has the iPad Pro-style flat edges, and they make it remarkably appealing to hold.

Then with the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple retained the stainless steel frame but has four new colors. What's been less well reported, though, is that even the colors that we thought we'd seen before, such as silver and gold, have a subtly different -- and better -- look.

For instance, the silver version, which has the white glass back, is now lighter than before. The gold has a new finish to make the color more substantial around the edge, and this also makes it more resistant to fingerprints. Unfortunately, the darker colors remain fingerprint magnets.

Graphite iPhone 12 Pro and space gray iPhone 11 Pro
Graphite iPhone 12 Pro and space gray iPhone 11 Pro


Then we have graphite which is a variant of Apple's space gray. Again, it is slightly lighter around the frame, just as the Apple Watch Series 6 stainless steel that went from space black go graphite this year.






Whereas Pacific Blue is entirely new. It replaces last year's green and, at least anecdotally, appears to be a particularly popular option. There's a slight slate-color tint to the blue on the iPhone 12 Pro, and it's gorgeous enough that you will keep staring at it until you put the phone in a case.

To go with these brand new colors, and improved existing ones, are new exclusive wallpapers. Apple has created four new live wallpapers for the iPhone 12 Pro line that match the phone colors, and move. Hold your finger on the lock screen and these images animate as if they have lens flares.

Massive camera updates

You can point to the finer color and, actually, to the brighter screen, to say there are variations between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, but the real differences are in the new photo and video capabilities on the new iPhone 12 Pro.

Most of the best new features are relegated to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, though. That has yet to be released, but in the meantime, iPhone 12 Pro has some key new features of note.

Such as the addition of Dolby Vision recording at 60 frames per second, as opposed to the 30fps of the iPhone 12. The inclusion of Dolby Vision at all is a feat, and it means that these two smartphones are the first in the world on which you can shoot, edit, and share 4K Dolby Vision HDR.

However, if you are going to benefit from Dolby Vision, it feels wrong to hamper yourself with the 30fps version. The iPhone 12 Pro's 60fps is certainly better, and makes greater use of the potential of Dolby Vision recording.

What's more, in real-world use, it is as easy as you'd want and expect it to be.

Dolby Vision HDR Video
Dolby Vision HDR Video


When you come to play or edit it, you can immediately tell that footage was shot in Dolby Vision because it is marked with an HDR watermark in the top-left corner of the video app. Similarly, if you edit in the Photos app, you'll see the display get brighter as it starts to display this footage.

It all looks very good when played on an HDR-capable display, but can be toggled off if you don't wish to capture it and take up all the storage space it requires.

Night shoots

Another frankly amazing feature we explored was night mode portraits on the iPhone 12 Pro. This night mode feature came with the iPhone 11 line, and it already allowed you take long-exposure shots in very low light situations. With iPhone 12 Pro, though, that same functionality comes to portrait shots.

When you switch to portrait mode in the Camera app and go to take a pic in a very low-light environment, you will see the night mode icon in the lower-left corner where the 1X and 2X indicators are.

You can't zoom in and keep this portrait effect, you have to take the shot at 1X. Explain to your subject that you have to step closer. That's because for this type of shot it needs the new faster aperture of the wide-angle camera rather than that on the 2X tele lens.

For the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple increased the aperture from f/1.8 to f/1.6 which allows more light in and allows the shutter to fire faster. The new LiDAR scanner is also used because it allows the camera to focus in near pitch-black environments.

iPhone 11 Pro low-light portrait shot versus night mode portrait on iPhone 12 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro low-light portrait shot versus night mode portrait on iPhone 12 Pro


We will have a more comprehensive comparison soon, but we did take a quick set of example shots using portrait mode on our iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 11 Pro wasn't able to enable portrait mode at all so it just captured a normal image.

Naturally, that image came out very, very dark and completely unusable. On the other hand, iPhone 12 Pro captured a very impressive image in almost no light.

Ultra-wide lens correction on iPhone 12 Pro
Ultra-wide lens correction on iPhone 12 Pro


Aside from night mode coming to all cameras -- notably including the front-facing True Depth or selfie one -- Apple has improved the ultra-wide lens. There's also a new lens correction that's applied in order to deal with the quite excessive distortion that could be present before. Once more, see our sample shot took on iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro to see how much of a difference this has made.

As important and visibly improved as the new lens and camera systems are, it's this combination of corrections and software control that make the iPhone 12 Pro such a good buy for photographers. That's only going to become even truer, too, when the promised Apple ProRAW format comes out.

We'll know for sure when it's released and we can test it in the real world. However, Apple ProRAW is claimed to take all of the advantages of shooting RAW, of using uncompressed images, and applying Apple's computational photography algorithms to get the very finest results possible.

Internal upgrades

Powering all of these new features is Apple's latest A14 Bionic processor. Last year, the A13 Bionic processor on the iPhone 11 Pro scored 1334 and 3543 on the single-core and multi-core tests. This year, the iPhone 12 Pro pulled a 1598 and a 4180.

That represents about a 20 percent improvement on the single-core score and about 15 percent gain on the multi-core. These are the kinds of improvements that don't just sound good on paper, you can actually appreciate them in real use.

Geekbench scores for iPhone 12 Pro
Geekbench scores for iPhone 12 Pro


That's going to apply to everything you do on the phone as most tasks are single-core, so this iPhone 12 Pro feels more snappy in daily use. But it's particularly noticeable in video and photo editing, which is faster even when you're dealing with 4K 60FPS content.

Most of these internal differences are also in the iPhone 12, but Apple has given the iPhone 12 Pro an extra 2GB of RAM, bringing it to 6GB. This directly aids with specific tasks like loading apps from the background, many Safari tabs, and more. Storage was doubled too, going from 64Gb on the base model to 128GB at the same price point.

Of course, 5G is also an internal upgrade, supporting both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G here in the US, and sub-6GHz elsewhere.

MagSafe

Key to the new iPhone 12 range is MagSafe. AppleInsider has already taken a deep dive into what it is and what it does as well as going hands on with the charger and Apple's silicone cases.

MagSafe charger on iPhone 12 Pro
MagSafe charger on iPhone 12 Pro


In terms of what it means for the iPhone 12 Pro, though, MagSafe is poised to be a massive new feature. You're going to see a huge increase in the iPhone ecosystem between cases, chargers, mounts, wallets, cases, folios, PopSockets, and more, which are all on their way.

Right now, our real world tests with the iPhone 12 Pro have been using Apple's own cases, and its own MagSafe charger.

Even based on these, though, MagSafe is a hit. The convenience of the longer lead that means you can pick up the phone without disconnecting it from the charge is a boon.

And the magnets really do instantly center the iPhone 12 Pro on the right spot to make sure it gets charged properly.

Look to the future

That's the thing about an Apple device. You can review it as it's launched, and you can properly test it out in the real world, but then it changes.

We're going to see the addition of more MagSafe devices -- such as Apple's own forthcoming device that charges both the iPhone 12 Pro and the Apple Watch -- and we're going to see Apple ProRAW soon.

Right now, the iPhone 12 Pro is an exceptional phone. It's going to be interesting to see just how significant the extra camera improvements are in the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But regardless of that, this iPhone 12 Pro is a good buy that is going to keep on getting better.

At least until the "iPhone 13" comes out.
dewme
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,712member
    Nah, the iPhone Pro isn't even worth the upgrade over my iPhone X.
    Rangounchainedpulseimagesmobirdchemengin1AutigerMarkwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Agree! I returned after 24 hours as it was not a compelling upgrade over the XS Max. Cameras are only marginally better (except for night mode which is dramatically better). Loss of 3D touch makes the phone feel slower as haptic touch is garbage. The minor updates do not justify the expense. Here's hoping Apple brings back touch ID for the 13 as well as 120hz screen. 
    pulseimageskkqd1337chemengin1AutigerMarkNotoriousDEV80s_Apple_Guywilliamlondonrazorpitelijahg
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Agree! I returned after 24 hours as it was not a compelling upgrade over the XS Max. Cameras are only marginally better (except for night mode which is dramatically better). Loss of 3D touch makes the phone feel slower as haptic touch is garbage. The minor updates do not justify the expense. Here's hoping Apple brings back touch ID for the 13 as well as 120hz screen. 
    and you couldn’t figure out those things just by reading the web. Are you one of those “returners”. What a waste of a brand new device to end-up being returned.

    it’s time for people put the 120hz in the same box as the usb-c port in an iPhone. Not going to happen. If it compromise the battery life (and it will) it will never materialized. 


    jdb8167twokatmewwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    Nope. No one in my family is going to upgrade this year either, except for my brother. He uses it for a business, so for him it's a tax write off. iPhone 12 looks nice and everything, but it's absolutely not worth the upgrade and considering how bad the battery life is, there is no way I'm going to upgrade this year! My wife and I are going to stick with our iPhone XS Max. Maybe next year or the year after if Apple can give us a few solid reasons to upgrade. For instants, I want more than 12 MB for a photo. The photos look nice and everything, but I can't believe Apple still has not upgraded that yet. I also want 2 days of battery life. Oh, and they are to get rid of the notch at some point. I just know it, so I see no reason on upgrading until then.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 31
    This is the most homogenous bunch of iPhones ever

    i will upgrade for the max just because I’m on the upgrade programme. But I’ve never been less bothered by the ‘upgrade’. 

    No doubt the whole 12 range is excellent. But it’s very meh for me. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 31
    Funny how people value different things… I've been waiting all year for the Mini, and this magnetic stuff (I've been a stick-on-wallet guy for a decade) was the icing on the cake. I know another guy who's been bitching about the round edges on the older models since the 6. And the advances in "Night Mode" since the XS had me kicking myself for not waiting one more year… IMO this is the biggest deal since the iPhone 4, absolutely can't wait.

    I mean, LIDAR for crying out loud… what constitutes a major upgrade to you guys? Not a new design, not a faster CPU, not new visual capabilities, not a better camera, not an entirely new accessory system… it still has the notch, is that it?
    thtlibertyandfreejdb8167bageljoeytwokatmewtmaychasmwilliamlondonrazorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    No pro motion = no sale for me (XS owner)
    williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 31
    I have a XS and am happily upgrading.

    Firstly because my battery is down to 82% capacity (it mysteriously dropped 8% in the first 3 months after getting it even though I only ever charged it overnight on a slow charger, and I doubted Apple would do anything about it). I could get a new battery, but I could trade in my XS for $300 and get an additional $150 from T-Mobile.

    Secondly, the camera upgrades are a big deal. Perhaps others don’t realise how poor the tiny lens cameras are on their phones, so to me any upgrade is a good thing—and better night photos are a huge deal, in addition to better computational photography.

    I don’t care about 5G, but the LTE performance will be better on the 12 Pro than my XS and that does matter somewhat to me.
    drdavidjdb8167twokatmewchasmwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 31
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,244member
    I’m another happy Xs owner. This article’s arguments can be summed up as:
    - better camera
    - faster processor 
    - MagSafe 
    - nice colors make it look cool. 

    Colors - seriously? I’m far beyond getting a phone because it comes in a cool color. My Xs is still plenty fast enough, so a faster processor isn’t worth much. MagSafe and the better camera are nice, but certainly not worth $1000 for a new phone. On top of that, the 5G modem is expected to be significantly better next year so when/if 5G actually becomes relevant you get better performance. 

    If you need to upgrade or are in to photography the 12 is a fine phone. Otherwise shelling out a grand for a new phone is a difficult ask. 
    AutigerMarktwokatmewmuthuk_vanalingambulk001williamlondonrazorpit
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Nope. ... For instants, I want more than 12 MB for a photo. The photos look nice and everything, but I can't believe Apple still has not upgraded that yet. 
    And I would much, much, MUCH rather have larger pixels with better low-light/indoor performance. Having 40MP means nothing if in fact you still only have 12MP worth or of actual image detail with the rest gone to noise and diffraction.
    jdb8167bageljoeygeorgie01twokatmewtmaymuthuk_vanalingambulk001watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 31

    MplsP said:
    Otherwise shelling out a grand for a new phone is a difficult ask. 
    So... what? You don't sell the old one? With upgrade program, trade-ind's, resale, etc,. I don't know of anyone who'd actually be out a grand.
    tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 31
    MplsP said:
    I’m another happy Xs owner. This article’s arguments can be summed up as:
    - better camera
    - faster processor 
    - MagSafe 
    - nice colors make it look cool. 

    Colors - seriously? I’m far beyond getting a phone because it comes in a cool color. My Xs is still plenty fast enough, so a faster processor isn’t worth much. MagSafe and the better camera are nice, but certainly not worth $1000 for a new phone. On top of that, the 5G modem is expected to be significantly better next year so when/if 5G actually becomes relevant you get better performance. 

    If you need to upgrade or are in to photography the 12 is a fine phone. Otherwise shelling out a grand for a new phone is a difficult ask. 
    My upgrade is costing me $200 on AT&T not $999.  A new iPhone 12 pro for $200 now that’s a great deal.  

    BTW anyone saying the 12 is not a major upgrade is nuts.  The 12 has new physical design, larger screen sizes, LiDAR and 5G.   Every year we get better cameras and faster CPU but come on guys this is a big upgrade.    
    jdb8167georgie01chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 31
    thttht Posts: 4,029member
    MplsP said:
    I’m another happy Xs owner. This article’s arguments can be summed up as:
    - better camera
    - faster processor 
    - MagSafe 
    - nice colors make it look cool. 

    Colors - seriously? I’m far beyond getting a phone because it comes in a cool color. My Xs is still plenty fast enough, so a faster processor isn’t worth much. MagSafe and the better camera are nice, but certainly not worth $1000 for a new phone. On top of that, the 5G modem is expected to be significantly better next year so when/if 5G actually becomes relevant you get better performance. 

    If you need to upgrade or are in to photography the 12 is a fine phone. Otherwise shelling out a grand for a new phone is a difficult ask. 
    New industrial design too.

    To me, the biggest features are:
    1. Ceramic shield. This is the last big feature for most people, imo. It looks like it is indeed more robust (both cracking and scratching) than glass of the past, and if it does indeed reduce the amount of cracked screens in users hands, it's a huge feature. I would hope it is used for the back glass and on all Apple products that use glass, especially if subsequent versions are even more robust.

    2. The SoC and 6 GB RAM in the Pro models means it will be more pleasant to use 3, 4, 5 years down the road. It is the single biggest feature for longevity.

    3. Improved photography and video performance. Slow and steady improvements every year.

    4. The rest are your typical niche features, like the ProRAW, LiDAR, stainless steel, that provide overall value, but aren't must haves for the bulk of the market. These features are basically upsell features for people who have particular use cases or desire for them.

    Year-to-year, these are the type of new features every major OEM offers. In a mature market segment, you don't get new features that would drive you to update from 1 or 2 year old phones. 10 to 12 years ago, year to year differences were huge. Today, not so much.  If you have an 11 or a XS model, there really aren't big reasons to change, and not only do most users know that, Apple does too. People with 3 year old phones are older though, they are impactful new features.
    jdb8167twokatmewmuthuk_vanalingamchasmwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 31
    I LOVE the look of this phone. The square edges were always my favourite - I always felt all iPhones since were a backwards design step. 

    Colours, however - who cares? They only matter for the 3 minutes until you put it into a protective case. 

    I’m on a X - so the camera would be a really big upgrade, and almost worth it. €1160 ($1370) is a lot for a camera though! 

    Outside of the U.S. not being given the full 5G capabilities is a big no for me. (I’m in Ireland.)
    twokatmewwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 31
    MplsP said:
    I’m another happy Xs owner. This article’s arguments can be summed up as:
    - better camera
    - faster processor 
    - MagSafe 
    - nice colors make it look cool. 
    - New case with squared edges (much easier and more comfortable to hold)
    - Pro has 6 GB RAM
    - Faster LTE (more important right now than 5G)
    - Better WiFi 6 (according to tests it is more sensitive)
    - Records Dolby Vision (Deserves to be called out separately from just better camera)
    - Pro has LiDAR for AR and faster low-light focus
    - Ceramic Shield for much tougher screen
    - Higher resolution screen (more pixels) over iPhone 11 & iPhone 11 Pro
    - More water resistant 6m vs 4m
    - ProRAW coming soon

    I probably forgot a couple.

    georgie01twokatmewchasmWgkruegerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 31
    This article adds a lot of fluff. The only improvement is the cameras and extra 2GB of RAM. 

    The trade-offs are heavier stainless steel which is really shiny and shows off finger greasy because of the flat sides. The frosted back is less grippy. 

    Both phones have the same processors. It just comes down to those cameras. I upgraded from 7 Plus to 12. I’m pleased with the design but I miss the telephoto lens and I dislike the reach of always accessing the control center and Face ID...wish they had put Touch ID in the side power button. 
    Pascalxxmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 31
    Huh.

    Bought my daughter a 12 128 GB, and I'm going for the 12 Pro Max (gold I think). My wife's getting my 11 Pro Max.

    They've both been limping along with a 7 Plus and a 7, and I want some carrier agility so I can switch from AT&T whose plans are pretty expensive. Maybe I'll use the 7 Plus for a Mavic Air 2 (which I've been eyeing), though the display is pretty dim in bright sunlight. Maybe turn off notifications on the 12 Pro Max?

    Magsafe: meh. I slow charge up to 80% (if I'm paying attention) and recharge well before hitting bottom. My battery health is 99%, and don't want fast inductive charging since that's a recipe for a battery-destroying double heat whammy.

    5G: good for future proofing, I guess. Probably never experience mm wave, and sub 6 is not terribly better than LTE (but I guess may be better for carriers). Now that Apple's using new Qualcomm modems, LTE advanced goes up to a potential 2 gbps - not that I ever expect to get that.

    All OLED Pro XDR panels: cool.

    Cameras:

    That's why I'm coming to the party.

    12 Pro Max looks awesome, with night mode, Deep Fusion, Dolby Vision HDR, and improved stabilization on all cameras (well, no stabilization on the ultra wide). That's where the real power of the A14 shows up here.

    HDR 3 looks better, and the big wide sensor should increase ISO and reduce noise. LiDAR should aid low light focus and prevent hunting, and sensor shift should improve stabilization even more. Sucker's going to look like it's on a gimbal.

    Anyone who thinks that hasn't been much change since the X or Xs Max is munching on soup grapes - or they really don't use their cameras in challenging circumstances. You tend to resign yourself to their limitations, and don't even pull the phone out because decent image capture at this light level is impossible. I owned both and was frustrated by their limitations, but inspired by their new capabilities.

    They way I see it is the images we capture (as long as we back up responsibly) will last a lifetime, and as I scroll chronologically through my camera roll I can see the images getting better and better. I see a iPhone 4 image and wonder why I kept it ... then realize that's what an iPhone 4 image looked like. I see an iPhone 11 Pro Max image and wonder if I shot that on a DSLR. A video shot on the Max's wide lens looks better than my Sony FDR-AX53 4K camcorder shot at 100 mbps (though, of course, the camcorder's gets much better optically zoomed shots). I expect the 12 Pro Max to leave 11 Pro Max video and low light photos in the dust.

    So ... no doubt they're expensive - though surprisingly no more so than the X or Xs or 11 Pro Max. It all just depends on what their capabilities are worth to you, and what kind of quality you want in your photos/videos, and what light conditions you want to capture in.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 31
    I think the iPhone 12 Pro is going to be a phenomenal upgrade. While I was disappointed by the removal of force touch, I got used to (the lack of) it pretty soon on the 11 Pro Max. 
    The iPhone 12 has new technology (5G), new hardware (new cameras, LiDAR scanner), new software (Dolby Vision, Apple ProRAW), a new look (the flat edges, ceramic coating) and new colours. 

    It pretty much checks every major category of the definition of "new" stuff and has folded the "S" and "non-S" iterations into one major release.

    edited October 2020 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 31
    With respect to Apple ProRAW, with all it's supposed advantages, isn't it just another proprietary format?

    Can it easily fit into a workflow that is setup for RAW editing? Can photos shot in that format be directly edited in any RAW-editor?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 31
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    The two dog photographs' staggering differences in low light remind me of what I saw changing from Canon gear after 20 years to Sony Alpha full-frame gear. 
    razorpitelijahgwatto_cobra
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