Apple iPhone 12 series: Which should you buy?
Apple announced the iPhone 12 series: iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max at an event on 13 October 2020, succeeding the iPhone 11 series: iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max from 2019, though the iPhone 11 is still available alongside the new models.
How do the four latest models differ? We've run up the specs for the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max to help you work out which is right for you.
What's the same on the iPhone 12 models?
- Similar squarer design
- OLED displays
- Front camera
- A14 chip
- iOS 14 software
There are many similarities between the iPhone 12 models. They all feature a similar flat edge design - even though there is some variation between the models in terms of finishes and camera lenses on the rear. The Pro models are more premium in appearance, but the standard models still have a great finish. They all run on the same A14 chip with next generation Neural Engine though, they all run on iOS 14 software and they are all 5G compatible.
They also all have stunning punchy OLED display panels with True Tone and Haptic Touch - though their resolutions differ - and they all come with the same front-facing camera, whilst also all being IP68 water and dust resistant.
All four models have Face ID, differentiating them from the iPhone SE model, which uses Touch ID. You can read more about the iPhone SE in our review.
What's different on the iPhone 12 models?
Whilst the four new iPhones have some similarities, there are of course a number of differences.
- 12 mini: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4mm, 135g
- 12: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm, 164g
- 12 Pro: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm, 189g
- 12 Pro Max: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm, 228g
The four new iPhones all vary in physical dimensions. The iPhone 12 mini is the smallest and lightest (it's absolutely lovely), while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest and heaviest (it's pretty heavy but great if you want a big device).
The standard iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro have identical measurements, but the Pro is a little heavier. They are middle of the range in terms of size. All four devices have the same thickness.
- 12 mini: 5.4-inches
- 12: 6.1-inches
- 12 Pro: 6.1-inches
- 12 Pro Max: 6.7-inches
The iPhone 12 mini has the smallest display at 5.4-inches, but it's not too small at all. It features a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels, 476ppi, which makes it the sharpest display of the four models.
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are both 6.1-inches with resolutions of 2532 x 1170 pixels, 460ppi, and the iPhone 12 Max is the largest at 6.7-inches with a resolution of 2778 x 1284 pixels, 458ppi. Although the resolutions are different, the same display tech is used and the pixel densities are all pretty similar, so the difference here is really only about size.
- iPhone 12 mini/iPhone 12: Dual rear camera
- iPhone 12 Pro: Triple rear camera
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: Triple rear camera, larger main sensor with sensor-shift stabilisation.
As you might expect, the rear camera setup is one of the main differentiating features between the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 and the Pro models.
The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 have a dual rear camera, comprised of a 12-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera and they offer the same performance. We missed the telephoto lens, but they both deliver great results in good conditions and low light conditions.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have a triple rear camera. Both have a 12-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera.
To make things even more complicated though, the iPhone 12 Pro Max's main camera sensor and telephoto lens differ from the iPhone 12 Pro.
The 12 Pro has a telephoto lens with a 4x optical zoom and an aperture of f/2.0, while the 12 Pro Max's telephoto lens is new, offering 5x optical zoom and an aperture of f/2.2. The Max's main sensor is also larger with 1.7µm pixels, though it has the same f/1.6 aperture and resolution as the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also uses sensor-shift stabilisation on this new lens, which makes it a slightly better camera for low light photography.
The Pro models also have a LIDAR sensor for augmented reality and enhanced understanding of the scene in front of the camera. In a nutshell, both the Pro models offer great results, and while the Pro Max is marginally better than the standard Pro, if you don't want the huge screen, you won't miss much buying the 12 Pro instead.
- 12 mini/12: 64GB to 256GB
- 12 Pro/12 Pro Max: 128GB to 512GB
The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 come in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB storage options.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options.
- 12 mini/12: Six colours
- 12 Pro/12 Pro Max: Four colours
The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 come in Black, Blue, White, Green, Purple and Product(Red) colour options.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max come in Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite and Silver options.
As you would expect, the four iPhone 12 models all differ in price, with the Pro models sitting at the higher end and the iPhone 12 mini at the cheaper end.
The iPhone 12 mini starts at $699/£699.
The standard iPhone 12 starts at $799/£799.
The iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999/£999.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1099/£1099.
The only differences between the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 is physical size, display size and cost. Otherwise, the colours, storage options, camera and hardware is identical between the two models, as well as the design. The 12 mini is a genuinely fantastic little device if you prefer smaller handsets though.
The iPhone 12 is the same size as the iPhone 12 Pro model, but the Pro model has a more advanced rear camera setup (though the 12 is still great), as well as a more premium finish and different colour options. It also has different storage options, the additional LiDAR sensor and it's pricier.
The difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is physical size, display size, cost, but also the newer telephoto lens and main sensor with larger pixels.
The iPhone 12 model that's right for you will depend on what size device you want and how much certain features mean to you. If you're all about the camera, then the Pro models are the better choice. If you want camera and a big display, then the 12 Pro Max is the one for you, but if you're just about the camera, then the 12 Pro is great.
That said, we've experienced great performance from the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 despite them not offering everything the Pro models do in terms of camera setup, so they are a great option for those who don't have the higher budget and the 12 mini is an absolute powerhouse and a steal for those who fancy a change from a big device.