Apple iPhone 12 review: Rock solid premium mobile

Apple iPhone 12 review: Rock solid premium mobile

Apple's standard iPhone 12 has everything a high-end handset should have and you won't miss much compared to the iPhone 12 Pro.

The new iPhone 12 succeeds Apple's 2019-series standard iPhone 11 model, which happens to be the company's best selling phone since launch. Even in the first half of 2020 (Jan-June), Apple was able to sell more than 37.9 million units around the world including India.

On paper, it has a better display, new design language and importantly a powerful A14 Bionic chipset over the prolific predecessor iPhone 11. I have been using the former for a little over a week and here are my thoughts on the latest iPhone 12.

Design, build quality and display:
Apple's iPhone 12 like the other three variants-- iPhone 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, flaunts a flat edge design and can stand on its own on a smooth surface. It is similar to the iPhone 4 ( 4s, 5 and 5S), but more refined in terms of visual aesthetics. You can see the mashed up photo below, the display and the glass cover on the back fit flush with the frame. Except for the small protrusion of the camera module on the back, everything is flat.

It has a power button on the right side, and in the opposite, we can see silent/ring mode switch, just below, there are up and down volume rockers and further down, Apple has incorporated SIM tray slot.

Apple iPhone 12 side shots. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On top, there is nothing but one antenna line to the right. Below at the base, there are two speakers one on each side with a lightning port in the middle. Also, Apple has hidden four mics and tuned to listen to receive commands for Siri and also for good stereo sound recording while taking videos.

Also, unlike the Pro, which has a glossy smooth stainless frame, the standard iPhone 12 has aerospace-grade aluminium and matte finish. I actually like the latter, as it repels fingerprint smudges on the rails and beautifully blends with antenna bands and shell on the back.

Our review unit is light mint green in colour and looks lovely. The iPhone 12 also comes in four shades-- blue, black, white, and 

Apple says, it has used the Apple-Corning's custom glass shield on the back, same as we see in the iPhone 11, which by the way, still happens to be the strongest compared to any rival phones in the market.

One of the big upgrades in this model is that Apple and Corning, in their bid to increase the durability of the iPhone 12 series, have taken their game to the next level of innovation and come up with a tougher screen cover dubbed as the Ceramic Shield.

Apple iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Apple says that the sturdy glass shield has undergone high-temperature crystallisation step that grows nano-ceramic crystals within the glass matrix, increases drop performance by four times compared to the iPhone 11 series.

Also, it comes with IP68 ratings, meaning the iPhone 12 can survive for up to 30 minutes underwater up to six metres (around 19 feet) depth.

So far, I have managed to keep the iPhone 12 scratch-free and also haven't dropped it. Having used the iPhone 11 Pro for several months, I trust what Apple tells us to believe about the iPhone 12's durability. 

Since it is an expensive mobile, I still recommend prospective iPhone 12 customers to buy a shell cover along with the screen guard, preferably a tempered glass for extra protection. We never know, god forbid, when an unfortunate small slip of hand while putting it in the pocket can end up dropping iPhone 12 on stairs and suffer heavy fall on the rough concrete floor.

MagSafe compatible Apple shell cover with the iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Apple offers silicone covers with opaque and transparent variants. Also, they happen to be MagSafe compatible. For the uninitiated, the company has incorporated an array of magnets around the wireless charging coil on the back of the iPhone 12 and is optimised for alignment and efficiency (more on that later). 

Screen size-wise, it retains predecessor's 6.1-inch form factor, but the functional display is better. It has OLED-based super Retina XDR screen same as the one we find in the iPhone  12 Pro. It has 2532x1170p resolution and supports True Tone display, Haptic Touch and offer peak brightness of 1200 nits whenever an HDR video is played on the device.

Netflix Our Planet played on Apple iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As you can see in the photo above, there is a rich colour, good brightness and also show true black of the space around the earth and also night-side of the planet with some landmass having lights lit up. It is undeniably one of the best display for a phone in the market.

The iPhone 12 houses Apple's proprietary A14 Bionic (six-core CPU+ four-core GPU), which is touted to be the most powerful chipset and also promises 50% faster performance and 50% faster graphics processing than any other smartphone.

Asphalt 9: Legends played on Apple iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, it comes paired with Neural Engine with 16 cores, which promises to deliver up to 80% faster performance on machine learning models. It is also capable of 11 trillion operations per second. Machine Learning Accelerators on the CPU run matrix math up to 70% faster than A13 seen inside the iPhone 11 and SE (2020) series models.

On the AnTuTu performance benchmarking app, the iPhone 12 scored a magnificent 5,37, 349 points. 

In our testing, it worked smoothly in every task we did on the phone be it playing graphics-rich games such as Asphalt 9: Legends or use any Augment Reality (AR) app like the [AR]T Museum (Cuseum). Never in the period of week's usage, it showed not an even slightest sign of lag-ness. Have to say, rival Android phones after such work, struggle to continue within a few minutes.

[AR]T Museum (Cuseum) app on Apple iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

However, I did notice iPhone 12 getting warm during  4K video recording for long. But, it never went go beyond my comfort level. Truth be told, all phones with glass and metal build exhibit similar behaviour while doing heavy-duty tasks.

With the introduction of widgets in the new iOS 14, the user interface is better than ever. Yes, Android phones had this for several years, but have to say, Apple, though late, does a fine job in making home screen colourful and aesthetically pleasing.

Apple iPhone 12 comes with the iOS 14  out-of-the-box. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Must read | Apple iOS 14: Key features you should know

Also, the iPhone 12 under normal usage, it was able to last full day with ease. Everyday (16 hours of active hours), it used to have at least 15-20% battery life left before I retire for the night.

As mentioned above, the iPhone 12 supports Apple's MagSafe technology. The MagSafe wireless charger maxes out at 15W and it will take longer than the wired charging (20W max). 

Speaking of the charging cable, Apple is no longer offering power adaptor and also the earphones with the retail package. The decision was taken to cut down on the impact of mining on natural resources. But, there will be a Type-C USB-to-Lightning cable.

If you already own an iPhone, don't return the charger while trading in for the new iPhone 12. But, if you are a first-time consumer of iPhone, you will have to shell out additional Rs 1,900 bucks for the Apple's original power plug.

Apple iPhone 12 with MagSafe charger. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It is not a deal-breaker for me, as I usually leave the iPhone on the charging pad before I go to sleep. With optimised charging feature activated, the iPhone 12, based on my active time pattern slowly charges up to 80% and wait until a few minutes before I usually take off the phone from the charger in the morning that usually happens to be 7:00 am.

To get a proper perspective, I have written all the key technical details of the iPhone 12's photography hardware and features below.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It comes with dual 12MP camera module-- one Ultra Wide(ƒ/2.4 aperture) and one Wide(ƒ/1.6 aperture lens. They support 2x optical zoom out, digital zoom up to 5x, Night Mode, Deep Fusion, Optical image stabilisation, Brighter True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono) and Smart HDR 3 for photos.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, with the ƒ/1.6 aperture Wide camera promises to deliver 27% improved low-light performance in photos and videos. It also features a new 7-element lens for sharper detail from edge to edge. The optical image stabilization (OIS) system on the Wide camera makes 5000 micro-adjustments per second for awesome Night mode shots and steady video, the company claims.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As far as the video recording is concerned, they support 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps, HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 30 fps, Extended dynamic range for video up to 60 fps, Optical image stabilisation for video, 2x optical zoom out, Digital zoom up to 3x, Audio zoom, QuickTake video, Slow-motion video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps, Night mode Time-lapse, Time-lapse video with stabilisation, and Stereo recording.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the front, it boasts improved 12MP TrueDepth camera, ƒ/2.2 aperture, support FaceID, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 3 for photos, Retina Flash, Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High-Key Mono), Extended dynamic range for video at 30 fps, Cinematic video stabilisation (4K, 1080p and 720p), Slow-motion video support for 1080p at 120 fps, Cinematic video stabilisation (4K, 1080p and 720p), Night mode, QuickTake video, Animoji and Memoji and more.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Now, let's talk about the performance of the iPhone 12. Straight to the point-- I'd rate it as an impressive camera phone. It takes fantastic images and I have particularly noted there is a marked improvement in terms of night mode. The images are sharper and less noise in the background compared to the iPhone 11 and also keeps darkness, the essence of the night and never blows out the images even with street lights on. It can definitely give any rival brands in its class a run for their money. 

Wide-angle shot on Appel iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The wide and ultra-wide angle shots are really good too and the latter, as expected delivers in capturing more details of the landscape in front of the camera.

Ultra-wide-angle shot on Appel iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, I noted that the iPhone 12 was able to capture beautiful images with Bokeh effects without the Portrait mode on. It did a terrific job of edge detection and differentiate the foreground and the background and never show up as artificial.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, the computational photography technology Deep Fusion and Smart HDR 3.0 make sure the resulting image has more details even under low light conditions. Most importantly, the colours of the subject and the scene in the pictures look warmer and near-natural as they are to the human eyes. 

Computational photography software at work on Apple iPhone 12. This sample is taken under a tree shade in the evening. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, video recording capability continues to be the gold standard in the industry. No other comes close to achieving stability while shooting videos. Now, iPhone 12 can also record 10-bit high dynamic range Dolby Vision 4K video which ensures the scene is bright and captures finer details in deep shadows.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample with Night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As far as the front 12MP camera is concerned, it takes decent selfies and takes pictures in Night mode, a first for an iPhone to date. Have to say, the photos do have grains and yet, they are much better than any premium Android phones I have tested this year.

Apple iPhone 12 camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

And, the FaceID unlock feature is just top-notch. Year after year, since its debut with iPhone X in 2017, Apple stands in a league of its own with no rival being able to give a small fight in offering a better facial-based biometric security system.

Apple iPhone 12 photo sample with Night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Final thoughts:
Apple's standard iPhone 12 model is a rock-solid premium phone. It has everything a high-end handset should have-- a top-notch camera that takes spectacular pictures in all light conditions, offers a day-long battery life, and in terms of performance, it is a workhorse of mobile and thanks to highly durable Ceramic Shield on display and sturdy metallic frame, the iPhone 12 will surely serve you long.

Like I had previously said in the iPhone 11 review with respect to its Pro sibling, now I'd like to reiterate the same for the iPhone 12. It is a well-rounded flagship and you wouldn't miss much when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro. 

Must read | Apple iPhone 11 review

If you have never owned an iPhone before, this might be a worthy investment as the iPhone 12 also houses a 5G cellular modem.  Since it is certain to get at least four to five years of iOS update support, you won't have to buy a new mobile when the super-fast internet connectivity gets operationalised in India, which according to reports, should happen in a couple of years. 

Apple iPhone 12. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Apple iPhone 12 comes in three storages---64GB, 128GB and 256GB-- for Rs 79,900, Rs 84,900 and Rs 94,900, respectively. 

Excellent build quality
Unbeatable A14 Bionic chipset
Top-notch camera hardware
Day-long battery life

No power adaptor and earphones with the retail package. But, as said before, it is for a noble cause to protect our environment (P.S. Thanks for the guilt trip Apple)

Must read | Apple iPhone 12 Pro review: Back to the future

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