iPhone 12 vs Mini vs Pro vs Pro Max – A Comparison of All Models (Buyer’s Guide)
What's the difference between Apple's new iPhone 12 lineup?
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2020 has been a really unusual year. And that’s putting it lightly. To add to the weirdness, Apple’s iPhone event, which usually takes place in September, was instead in October. It seems like Apple decided to continue this theme of being unusual by releasing 4 new iPhones to choose from instead of their usual 3.The company updated their iPhone lineup with the new iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Max. However this year, they also decided to release a fourth phone called the iPhone 12 Mini.
As if choosing between three new iPhone’s alone wasn’t hard enough, now you have four which makes it even more difficult.
So after doing some research, I wanted to put all the information I could find together in one place and am going to treat this post as a buyer’s guide to help you decide if you should upgrade to the newest line of phones.
I’ll be going over the major differences between these phones as well as explaining who would benefit the most from each model.
Before we get into the differences of these phones, we need to cover the similarities you’ll get with all four iPhones.
iPhone 12 vs Mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: Similar Features
Apple is advertising quite a bit with these phones. Some we’ve seen before, but some we haven’t (you’ll see what I mean in a second). Here are the main similarities between these iPhones according to Apple.
Oled Display – Previous iPhones used LCD displays which worked overall but sometimes weren’t as good as some of the competitors who had already started implementing OLED displays into their phones. Now, this year’s lineup all have Super Retina XDR OLED 1080p displays which means more pixels which also means sharper images and text.
Face ID – Each model will come with the Face ID unlock feature
5G Connection – The iphone 12 series are Apple’s first set of 5G capable phones. With 5G you’re supposed to get faster connection speeds. However, with faster connection speeds, the phone’s battery takes a hit. Currently, 5G isn’t fully ready for full adoption but having this capability future proofs you for when it is made available.
Similar Design – Apple ditched the rounded edged design and has updated the overall look that’s reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 designs. They have hard edges instead of curved edges which should make the phones less slippery in the hands.
A14 Bionic Chip – This is Apple’s latest chipset which is an improvement on the previous chips in the iPhone 11, which means that it’s going to make the phone more snappy, as well as a graphic improvement for mobile games and better performance for the updated cameras and new software features coming with them.
Smart HDR 3 – Smart HDR is a technology that takes multiple underexposed photos of an image and pulls them together to give you better shadows, avoid blown out highlights, and overall a better exposed image.
Water Resistance – ip68 rating. Up to 6 meters (roughly 20 feet) for 30 minutes.
Front Facing Cameras – The front facing cameras were left unchanged this year so all the models have the same specs.
Updated Cameras – All of the phones have received upgrades in some form to the camera system and lenses. I’ll get into more specifics later on in the post
Image Stabilization – Each phone in the iPhone 12 lineup has image stabilization features for reduced shaky images and video. Methods differ in how it’s implemented which I’ll also discuss later in this post.
Apple is introducing a new material in their displays called Ceramic Shield. According to Apple, this is a new material that has tiny ceramic crystals that are grown on top of the glass for added protection.
This technology is supposed to be stronger than previous glass materials used on the previous generation iPhones and are supposed to have better durability with up to four times better drop performance.
There are some concerns regarding scratch resistance with this new material. and I’ve included a video below for more information.
Wireless charging has been a feature on iPhones for a while now. This year, Apple is improving wireless charging with MagSafe.
MagSafe charging is an updated system of wireless charging for iPhones. Apple has added magnets inside that allows Apple’s new charging pad to securely snap to the back of the iPhone and charge the smartphone wirelessly.
Besides wireless charging, this also creates a new way of using a range of accessories and opens up the potential of creating new accessories.
I do have to mention that while the iPhone 12 has this new feature, you’ll have to buy the MagSafe charger separately (in typical Apple fashion).
While we’re on the topic, it’s also worth noting that Apple’s decided not to include a charging brick with the iPhone 12 series, which follows their decision not to include the charging brick with the Apple Watch packaging earlier this year.
They do include the charging cable in the packaging however, it’s a USB-C to lightning cable. Apple’s reasoning is to reduce waste and the company assumes that users upgrading to these phones will have a charging block already.
This would make sense if it was the typical USB power adapter, but they’re referencing the USB-C power adapters that came with the iPhone 11’s or iPad Pros.
If you’re the (un)lucky person that doesn’t have a USB-C charging block, you’ll have to buy one or get a USB-C power bank that has enough Watts to enable fast charging for the iPhone.
We’ve covered the similarities between all iPhones in the lineup, now, let’s get into what sets these phones apart from each other.
This is the base model of the iPhone lineup and direct upgrade to last year’s iPhone 11. Lets see what upgrades it has this year as well as what makes it different from the other models in this year’s lineup.
The display on the iPhone 12 now comes with a 6.1 inch OLED display. While all the iPhone 12’s are now equipped with OLED displays, the thing to note is the max brightness is different between the base iPhone 12/12 Mini model and the Pro lineup. The iPhone 12 only gets up to 625 nits.
All this means is that the brightness will be bright, however, the brightness on the pro models will be slightly brighter. This will play a part in daylight situations or how bright the display gets when viewing regular content.
However, all iPhone models can get up to a Max brightness of 1200 nits when watching HDR video. For example, watching HDR video content on Netflix.
New Wide Angle Camera Lens
Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini are equipped with a dual camera system. Within this camera system you’ll find an ultra wide-angle lens and a wide-angle lens. The wide-angle lens has been updated for the iPhone 12 now sporting a 12 megapixel camera lens with a 1.6 aperture.
This spec bump is important because this aperture will allow more light in when taking photos. It’s also important because it makes for better low-light photography.
If that wasn’t good enough, you can now achieve the blurry background effect like the kind you see in professional photography without the use of portrait mode.
Build Quality and Colors
To further separate the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini from the pro line, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are made with an aluminum frame and a glass back. This gives them a more fun quality and look, overall, compared to the Pro Models.
With this new design you can find the phones in an assortment of colors.
These colors are…
All models of the iPhone line come with three storage capacities. The IPhone 12 and 12 Mini Storage starts at 64GB and maxes out at 256GB. The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, storage starts at 128GB and maxes out at 512 gigabytes.
Unless you’re able to deal with 64GB you’re going to find yourself upgrading to the 128GB for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini which means you’ll have to spend more money to get more storage.
The iPhone 12 Mini is the newest addition to the iPhone lineup and is essentially a more compact version of the iPhone 12. But knowing that, why would you get the iPhone 12 Mini over the other models?
If you’re someone that hates big phones or has small hands, this can be one of the biggest reasons to consider this model. The main information mentioned in the iPhone 12 section applies to the iPhone 12 Mini.
The difference here however, is the iPhone 12 Mini’s display is about 5.4 inches which is smaller than the size of the iPhone SE but has a bigger screen.
The price of the iPhone 12 mini can also be another deciding factor between the different models. The iPhone 12 Mini is the cheapest out of the bunch coming in at an MSRP of $699.99.
This is impressive getting so much phone in such a small form factor in this price range. Normally, if you’re looking for a budget smartphone, you’ll have to sacrifice a few things such as the display quality or a few big flagship features.
One thing to consider is that you’re getting a small battery with this model. On Apple’s website, the iPhone 12 mini is quoted at lasting 15 hours.
It might be fine if you’re a light user that only makes calls, send a few text messages, and light internet browsing, however, if you’re a heavy user you may find yourself charging this phone before the day is over. You may want to look towards the Pro or Pro Max models for a better battery.
As you might’ve guessed, the iPhone 12 Pro is the direct upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro. And with the “Pro” in its name, you’d assume that it has more features than the iPhone 12. In all honesty, there’s not much different between the 12 and 12 Pro other than a few incremental things.
Let’s get into what those differences are.
The size of the display on the iPhone 12 Pro is 6.1 in. which is the same as the iPhone 12. However, the difference between the two is the screen brightness on the iPhone 12 Pro gets up to a Max brightness of 800 nits. This means that it’ll be a bit brighter in sunlight or overall viewing brightness over the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini.
The Pro and Pro Max have a 3 camera setup instead of a dual camera setup. Not only do they have an ultra-wide and a wide-angle lens like the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini, but they have the addition of a telephoto lens.
The focal length of the telephoto lens is 52mm with a 2.0 aperture. With the telephoto lens you can do optical zoom when taking images. Instead of digital zooming which can make the image lose quality, you can physically zoom in using the camera. This should make for better images.
A new feature Apple’s coming out with is called Apple Pro Raw. This feature takes the power and flexibility of a raw image file and combines it with Apple’s other image features such as smart HDR and Deep Fusion.
Basically, it will allow for even greater depth of editing photos, and more details in the lights and shadows of an image as well as a wider range of colors.
On top of this you have the ability to edit these RAW files within the photo app on the iPhone 12 Pro as well as Lightroom and other third-party photo editing apps.
Apple ProRAW is only available on the iPhone 12 pro and pro Max models. This feature won’t come pre-installed at launch but instead through a future iOS software update.
The IPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max use surgical grade stainless steel for the framing and a frosted like material for the back. This gives the phone a more sleek and professional look to them opposed to the playful look of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini.
The colors available for the Pro Models are:
If you’re not familiar with the LiDAR sensor, it stands for light detection and range, and allows for better night mode portraits, autofocusing in low light situations, and better depth perception when using portrait mode.
This also allows for a better augmented reality experience. If you’re not interested in augmented reality or any of the photography benefits this scanner provides then save the extra money and consider the iPhone 12.
Dolby Vision HDR 4K
Apple has never shied away from putting awesome specs for recording video. They don’t seem to be changing that in the Pro models. This year’s iPhones have the ability to record video in Dolby Vision HDR 4K. You’ll be able to edit that footage from within the photos app or third party apps on the phone without having to transfer it to a dedicated laptop or desktop editing machine.
However, there is a minor difference between the base iPhone 12 and the Pro options. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max can record in Dolby Vision at 60 frames per second whereas the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini can only record Dolby Vision video at 30 frames per second.
It may not mean much to the average consumer purchasing a new iPhone but if you’re a content creator or videographer, these specs may make a difference in which model you get.
The big daddy iPhone. Usually, there aren’t many differences between the Pro and Pro Max iPhones besides the size so your decision would be based on the screen size and battery life.
Also, everything that was mentioned on the iPhone 12 Pro in terms of max brightness, the LiDAR scanner, build quality, Apple ProRAW, etc are on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
This year, however, there are some differences between the Pro models that may or may not influence your decision to buy either phone.
Let’s see what those differences are.
You may look at this phone and automatically think this is too big of a phone. But inside this massive phone is the biggest battery out of the lineup. The battery life on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is quoted at 20 hours.
With this big battery, you should be able to go through an entire day before having to charge it. However, if you’re recording a lot of footage or taking a lot of pictures and really pushing the phone through its paces, you may have to put it on the charger before the day is over.
This is a massive iPhone. Obviously. The screen size is quoted at 6.7 inches making this the biggest screen on any iPhone to date. The screen brightness also maxes out at 800 nits like the iPhone 12 Pro also making it slightly brighter than the iPhone 12 in sunlight and viewing regular content
Larger Camera Sensor & Sensor Shift
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the largest sensor out of the iPhone 12 models. Apple claims that the size of the sensor in the Pro Max is 47 percent larger. Because of the size, it’s supposed to allow 87 percent more light when recording video or taking pictures in low light.
While the iPhone 12, 12 Mini, and 12 Pro have their image stabilization in the camera lens, the Pro Max’s stabilization is through a new feature called Sensor Shift.
Sensor Shift is a movable sensor inside the wide angle lens which should better reduce camera shake in video and photos and should allow for better performance over the traditional method.
This type of feature is usually found in DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
While this is a big phone, the price requires a bigger budget. The MSRP starts at $1099.99 for a 128GB base storage. Price will increase roughly $100 based on the storage option you go with.
iPhone 12 Comparison Chart
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Final Verdict: Who Should Get these iPhones?
This year’s lineup of iPhones are pretty impressive and each model has a lot going for it. But now comes the question, which iPhone should I get?
Get the iPhone 12 Pro Max If…
You care about the best camera quality & performance
You want the best battery life
You want the biggest screen
You want the iPhone that can do the most
Budget is no issue
Go for the iPhone 12 Pro if…
You want the camera quality but you don’t need the big screen
You prefer the stainless steel design over the aluminum design of the iPhone 12
You still want good battery life but don’t want to go for the big phone to get it
Go for the iPhone 12 if…
You’re more interested in the selection of colors
You’re on a bit of a budget
You don’t care about the high performance camera features
You’re a light user but don’t want a small iPhone 12 Mini
Go for the iPhone 12 Mini if…
You want a smaller phone but a bigger screen size than the iPhone SE
You’re on a tight budget
You have smaller hands
You have a teenager that needs a new phone
Ultimately, no matter what model you go with, you’ll have a future proof 5G compatible phone that you can hold on to for the next 3-4 years.