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Apple iPhone 12 first take: Perfect size, 5G coverage, and lovely design are compelling


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In a very Samsung-esque style this year we saw Apple announce four new models of the iPhone 12 at one time. Only two are available for purchase now, with two more coming in November. I don’t know why I always Tweet it out, but after purchasing the very expensive Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 I wrote that I was passing on the iPhone 12 lineup. Regular readers and followers know that is just not possible with my desire to cover all devices here on ZDNet so my blue iPhone 12 arrived yesterday.

ZDNet’s Jascon Cipriani is putting the Apple iPhone 12 Pro through its paces and I highly recommend reading both of our takes as these two phones are nearly the same, except for the additional telephoto camera and some advanced camera features found on the Pro model, yet each of us has different needs for our phones.

To help justify the purchase of this 128GB iPhone 12, I sold my iPhone SE (2020) on Swappa for about $320, which was $110 more than Apple was willing to give to me as a trade-in. I highly recommend you test out the third party seller market before trading in your phone. Then again, Samsung usually offers more for its trade-ins than you can sell it for so the type of phone you are trading in dictates its resale value.

Also: Apple iPhone SE (2020) review: An affordable, capable business phone fit for uncertain times

Specifications

  • Processor: Apple A14 Bionic chip, next-generation neural engine
  • Display: 6.1-inch 2532 x 1170 pixels resolution OLED (460 ppi)
  • Operating system: Apple iOS 14
  • Storage: 64, 128, and 256 GB internal options
  • Cameras: Dual 12MP f/1.6 (wide) and f/2.4 (ultrawide) aperture rear cameras. 12MP front-facing TrueDepth camera with f/2.2 aperture.
  • Wireless technology: 5G, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi-6, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS
  • Dust and water resistance: IP68
  • Battery: Rated for up to 65 hours of audio playback and 17 hours of video. MagSafe wireless charging and fast charging with 20W adapter (sold separately).
  • Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm and 164 grams
  • Colors: Black, White, PRODUCT(Red), Green, Blue

It was just $50 to double the internal storage from 64GB to 128GB and with the improved camera and 5G I went for it and bought the 128GB model. 128GB is the lowest capacity for the two new Pro models so make sure to take that into consideration when you are trying to decide between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

Hardware

While I regularly purchase one of the new iPhone models each year, they often end up being returned or sold off before the next yearly update. I purchased the 2nd generation Apple iPhone SE to stay current with Apple software, apps, and services, but that 4.7-inch display was just too small for me to get work done.

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I may have gone a bit extreme with my 7.6-inch Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but that phone also is not going out running with me in the rain. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have the same 6.1-inch display so I figured this might be the right size for productivity and pocketability. The display is OLED, unlike the LCD one on last year’s iPhone 11 and it is gorgeous.

Also: iPhone 11 Pro review: Apple scores near perfect 10, thanks to battery life, cameras and phenomenal performance

Another reason I pulled the trigger on an iPhone 12 is the return to the iPhone 4 flat edge design that we also see on the new iPad Pro models and also the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus. I love this design and am pleased with what Apple did here. 

Regular readers know I am a fan of colorful phones so I went with the blue model. I’m not a fan of the glossy back finish, but love the color. The camera area has a matte finish and the edges have a cool matte finish in a slightly different shade of blue. It would have been great if Apple incorporated the matte finish of the Pro line on the iPhone 12, but I’ll probably slap a case on it anyway so it may not matter in the end.

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There are two cameras on the back, wide and ultrawide, while the Pro models have a third telephoto lens. I rarely use the telephoto lens on my phones and these have limited optical zoom on the Pro models so I didn’t think it was worth the extra price for that third camera.

The iPhone 12 feels light in the hand so I look forward to seeing how the battery holds up over time. I understand and buy into the idea not to include an A/C adapter in the box, but am not a fan of the move to USB-C for the end opposite the Lightning connector. Thankfully, I have a USB-C adapter I can use since I review so many mobile devices, but most people still have USB-A adapters from older iPhones so be aware you may have to use wireless charging (which may be the future of the iPhone) or go out and buy an A/C adapter.

Software

The iPhone 12 runs the iOS 14.1 and in typical fashion you can expect to get regular updates from Apple for years. There is no carrier bloatware, extra apps, or any other software installed that cannot be removed by the user.

Apple Arcade games play perfectly on the iPhone 12 and I was pleased to see a free three-month subscription to play games and see if I want to continue paying $4.99 per month.

All the great features of the latest version of iOS are present. This includes a completely refreshed way to customize your home screen and all of us Android users welcome iPhone users to widgets and an easily organized app library. I can’t wait to explore stacks and widgets that update and adapt depending on the time of the day.

The pop-up phone dialer, picture-in-picture, and Siri improvements look familiar and useful. There are a ton of functions and features for me to test out in iOS 14 so I’ll be diving in for the next couple of weeks.

Initial thoughts after 24 hours

As soon as the iPhone 12 arrived I synced it to my iPad and was setup and ready to roll within just a few minutes. The family went out to dinner so I took along the iPhone 12 and ran some 5G speed and coverage tests on T-Mobile. Download speeds were at least double what I experienced on the iPhone SE and I had coverage in areas where my iPhones have dropped out in the past. I plan to test the iPhone 12 side-by-side with Samsung and OnePlus phones (that always excel in reception strength) over the next couple of weeks. If you have 5G coverage in your area, finally getting it on an iPhone is a major improvement and one thing that set Android phones above the iPhone for the past year.

A few camera samples showed great potential with the iPhone 12 and I look forward to taking many more photos and videos. I captured my Thai food dish in low light and one of my beautiful kittens in the hallway.

I forgot how great Face ID is and it continues to convince me under-display fingerprint scanners are terrible. The iPhone 12 unlocks without me even realizing it while even the best fingerprint scanner fails for me at least a few times a day.

Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter if there is anything specific you want me to test. I also plan to read Jason’s thoughts on the iPhone 12 Pro to help me decide if I stick with the 12 or make a lateral move to the 12 Pro for the additional camera.



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