IPhone 12 test: a new standard for Apple smartphones

 We waited for them a little longer than expected, but they are finally here. Well, not all of them. As everyone knows, Apple's 2020 line-up includes the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. And, for now, only the classic model and the 'Pro' are available for purchase.

 You will understand, today we are going to focus on the iPhone 12. The 'base' model, so to speak, which carries with it a number of major changes from the previous generation.


First, it seems important to us to point out that these are the very first iPhones to be 5G compatible (sub-6 GHz and mmWave). Then, and by virtue of the famous 'three-year rule', this new iteration is illustrated by some notable aesthetic changes.

Last but not least: now all iPhones benefit from an OLED display.

A rather busy program therefore. Which we invite you to dissect now in our comprehensive iPhone 12 review.

 

iPhone 12: the technical sheet


The iPhone 12 is a logical follow-up to last year's iPhone 11. His mission ? Become THE new standard iPhone; one that will suit the greatest number thanks to a balanced technical proposal. For extravagance, we'll have to look instead at the Pro models, which we'll have the opportunity to talk about at the end of the week.

 

The iPhone 12 is:

Screen: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR (OLED) with a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 ppi, 60Hz refresh, Dolby Vision) covering approximately 86% of the front panel. Protected by Ceramic Shield glass.
SoC: Apple A14 Bionic (2x3.1 GHz + 4x1.8 GHz and 4-core GPU)
RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4
Internal storage: 64, 128 or 256 GB (not expandable via SD card)
Battery: 2,815 mAh, fast charging at 20 W, compatible with wireless charging up to 15 W (MagSafe)
Watertightness: IP 68
3.5mm jack: No
Audio: Stereo speakers

Rear cameras:

Wide angle: 12 megapixels ƒ / 1.6, 1 / 2.55 ', 1.4 µm, OIS, focal length of 26 mm
Ultra wide-angle: 12 megapixels ƒ / 2.4, 1 / 3.6 ', focal length of 13 mm (120 °)
Front camera: 12 megapixels ƒ / 2.2, 1 / 3.6 '
Video: 4K @ 30/60, 1080p @ 60/120 fps, EIS
Unlocking: Face ID
Dual SIM: Yes (nanoSIM + eSim)
5G compatible: Yes (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)
Connectivity
: Wi-FI 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac / 6, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Weight: 165 grams
SAR: head 0.99 W / kg, trunk 0.99 W / kg and limbs 3.85 W / kg
OS: iOS 14
Colors
: Black, White, (Product) RED, green, blue
Availability: Available


Several major changes can be observed in the technical data sheet of the iPhone 12 compared to its predecessor. The screen, as we have said, switches to OLED (the same type of panel as the iPhone 11 Pro), and the Apple A14 Bionic - the first SoC engraved in 5 nm with the Kirin 9000 of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro - brings even better performance while providing 5G compatibility to the iPhone 12.

 



More subtle, the IP68 waterproofing certification now guarantees immersion up to 6 meters for 30 minutes. Finally, if the essence of the main 12-megapixel photo sensor does not change, Apple is gaining a stop by going from ƒ / 1.8 aperture to ƒ / 1.6 - a sign of better exposure in low light, in particular. For the first time, the manufacturer is also using a lens composed of 7 elements for increased sharpness over the entire surface of the image.

One final major change is upon us: the price of the device. To get the iPhone 12, you'll have to shell out $ 100 more than the iPhone 11 last year. Unless of course the iPhone 12 Mini (priced at € 809) is enough for you.

 

You couldn't have missed it: Apple has announced that it will no longer provide power adapters with its smartphones. An “ecological” gesture, we are told. In its case, the iPhone 12 therefore comes with only a Lightning to USB-C cable (which is absurd, we'll come back to that) and a pair of wired EarPods headphones. The regulations in force indeed oblige manufacturers to provide a hands-free kit when purchasing a telephone. Without this net, we could also say goodbye to them.

 

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iPhone 12: new with old, but so elegant

 



We write it without shaking our knees: iPhone 12 is hands down the sexiest iPhone we've had in a while. Since the iPhone SE of 2016, in fact.

 

For four years, Apple iterated on the iPhone 6 model, which featured more pronounced curves. Here, the Cupertino company rewinds and leaves to pick up everything the public had loved about the iPhone 4, 5 and SE (first generation).

 

So we find perfectly flat edges and, above all, a much more compact phone than the iPhone 11. In the photo, it may not be obvious. But using the latter daily, I can attest that the handling is undoubtedly more pleasant on the new model.

 

Not content with being lighter (165 grams versus 195 grams) and seeing its volume reduced by 15% compared to the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 also makes great efforts to thin the bezels of the screen. Except for the notch, of course. It stays in place, and doesn't even seem smaller to us than before. We will have to do with it.

Perfectly usable with one hand even with its 6.1-inch diagonal, the iPhone 12 is undoubtedly a beautiful object. Its brushed aluminum frame is the most beautiful effect and soft to the touch. Its rear side has not changed compared to its predecessor. Just like the camera block stays in place in the upper left corner.

 

The lower edge of the iPhone 12 reveals the unassailable Lightning port, a speaker grille and the device's microphone. Note that the phone's top earpiece is used to create stereo sound when listening through loudspeakers.

Finally, the different buttons are in the same place as usual. On the left, the volume and the ringer switch. On the right, the Power button dedicated to Siri.

 

Screen: the joys of OLED


With the exception of a possible next-generation iPhone SE in the months and years to come, Apple seems to be putting a definitive mark on LCD panels on its smartphones. And what can I say except that it was a much anticipated decision from Apple fans?

 

As a reminder, Apple only started offering OLED screens on its iPhone X in 2017. Since then, only its very high-end smartphones (iPhone XS, iPhone 11 Pro) have benefited from them. In other words: an asset that could not be afforded to everyone.

Today, there is no longer any question to ask: whether you spend € 809 in the iPhone 12 Mini or € 1,159 in the iPhone 12 Pro, you will get an equivalent panel, whose only variable (d 'after our measurements) is the brightness.

Speaking of which, our X-Rite probe and professional Calman Ultimate calibration software told us that the iPhone 12's display can achieve a luminance of 640 cd / m2. A very honest figure, which allows you to enjoy your smartphone in just about any condition. The contrast ratio is of course infinite thanks to the very nature of OLED.

On the temperature side, I must admit that I am somewhat cooled by the measurements obtained. Chilled to find that the display is too hot; you have it ?

 

Our probe tells us that the screen temperature is stuck at 6251K (with TrueTone off, of course). This is a bit too hot compared to the expected value of 6500K. For comparison, our iPhone 11 gets 6645K, which is closer.

The coverage of the sRGB and DCI-P3 gamuts is within the standards. 98.7% coverage is obtained for the first, and 75.6% for the second. In terms of colorimetric drift, on the other hand, the iPhone 12 is illustrated by obtaining a delta E of 1.35 - which never rises above 2.5. In other words: the colors are perfectly restored.

 

We cannot really explain the excessively high temperature of the Super Retina XDR panel of the iPhone 12. But it is frankly difficult to tell the difference with the naked eye by putting the iPhone 11 and the iPhone side by side. 12. Other aspects of the new model are more obvious, such as the much greater contrast.

 

Besides, the new screen of the iPhone 12 is a very nice mobile video companion. Thanks to its comfortable surface and especially the light weight of the device, we enjoy all our favorite content with indulgence. Newcomers to the Android world will probably have a hard time getting used to the notch, which in some formats can cut into video. Apple regulars have already got it right and don't really pay attention anymore.

 

Audio: a pleasant musical experience


Apple has rarely disappointed us on the audio performance of iPhones, and this newcomer takes up the torch with panache.

Carrying out an apparently identical configuration to the previous year, the iPhone 12 sounds just as good as it did last year.

Not particularly distinctive, but very homogeneous, the audio coming out of the two speakers of the iPhone 12 is good enough to play your favorite songs without distorting them too much. Saturation is also well controlled so as not to ruin the pleasure, even at high volume.

 

In wired, nothing to report either. If you have a Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter, you can enjoy your Hi-Fi devices in good conditions. The EarPods that come with iPhone 12 are equal to themselves: they produce fairly flat sound; without particular brilliance.

Finally, note that, via Bluetooth, the iPhone 12 only supports the SBC and AAC codecs. High definition music lovers absolutely desiring aptX HD or LDAC should look to an Android device, of which the recent Sony Xperia 5 II or Vivo X51 5G are solid benchmarks in terms of audio.

 

Performance: explosive


Each year, Apple sets a new performance record thanks to the progress made by its teams on Bionic chips. Today, the A14 Bionic (engraved in 5 nm), offers unprecedented velocity to the iPhone 12, while always pushing its capabilities in artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

It's a fact: an iPhone has never been faster. Even in the face of the iPhone 11, which is nevertheless a racehorse, I see my applications launch faster every day. Face ID is also quicker to recognize you.

However, in terms of numbers, we have to face a reality that may make Apple scowl: the iPhone 12 does not win the award for the fastest smartphone on the market. At least according to AnTuTu. With 562,146 points obtained, the new Apple smartphone rises to the level of the best Android under Snapdragon 865, or the Mate 40 Pro without “Performance Mode” - thanks to which it climbs to more than 650,000 points.

 

On Geekbench, however, the iPhone 12 completely flattens the competition. With 1,600 points in single-core and almost 4,000 in multi-core, the A14 Bionic's CPU offers simply explosive performance. For comparison, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro scores 937 and 3,264 points on the same test, and the Asus ROG Phone has 3,968 and 3,363 points. There is no debate.

Graphically, this year's progress is more measured than expected. According to 3D Mark (still heavily bugged on iOS 14), the iPhone 12 scores 4,956 points on Sling Shot Extreme. Last year, our iPhone 11 did with 4912 points on the same protocol (with 5 frames per second lower on average).

On the storage side, the chip integrated into the iPhone 12 offers speeds up slightly compared to the iPhone 11. According to the PerformanceTest application, which is no longer of prime youth, the writing speed is established at 834 Mb / s (against 783 Mb / s on the iPhone 11). In reading, we are at 893 Mb / s, which is about double what the previous model offered.

All this to say that the iPhone 12 is of course an excellent smartphone when it comes to performance. The game or app that will bring him to his knees does not yet exist. Call of Duty Mobile or Genshin Impact are launching into their maximum settings with no sign of weakness other than a very pleasant warmth to compensate for the dropping temperature in recent days.

 

All kidding aside, such power finds its application mostly in areas often invisible to the eye of the user. The iPhone 12 mainly uses it to offer, for the very first time on a mobile, the capture of 4K videos in Dolby Vision. Thanks to the A14, the smartphone is also much more precise in the areas of artificial intelligence and augmented reality - two hobbies at Apple.

Autonomy: a good day, but no more


Last year, Apple rolled up its sleeves to finally offer its iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro battery life worthy of the name. Or at least, a marked increase compared to the previous generation.

The iPhone 12 gave us very similar results, despite a battery with a priori lower capacity (Apple never communicates precisely on this type of characteristic).

The battery in our test model died out after 23 hours of use, including 5:34 hours with the screen on. A fairly short period, but during which we put the battery to the test by accumulating play and, above all, numerous photos and videos. The following days, when my use was 'gentler', I was able to last a day and a half without much problem.

 

Obviously, we are still light years away from what the Android competition offers at this price point. And we must also take into account that, in our case, only the 4G network was mobilized. To compensate for the energy spike induced by the use of 5G, Apple has opted for a case-by-case approach. If the activity you are undertaking requires broadband, the 5G network will be mobilized. Otherwise, LTE will suffice (and the battery will thank you).

We still have to tackle one of the thorniest topics about the iPhone 12: the lack of a charger in the box. Motivated by ecological imperatives to which we are free to adhere or not, it above all requires the user to already have in his possession something to revitalize his device. On this point, Apple is not wrong: we all have a ton of chargers at home. Where the manufacturer is on the wrong track is that few people have a USB-C power adapter (remember that a USB-C to Ligthning cable is provided).

An invitation to go get supplies from the official store, of course. But let's play the game. Since, according to Apple, we already have enough to charge our iPhone 12, we logically used the iPhone 11 wall outlet. But yes, you know. This horrible little object that develops a power of 5 W.

In other words, you will have time to take a good bath, prepare all your meals for the week and start your third reading of War and Peace before you see iPhone 12 read '100%'. Hold on tight: it takes 4 hours for the iPhone 12 to go from 0 to 100% with the iPhone 11 charger. That speaks for itself.

In the paraphernalia that Apple provided us for our test, the manufacturer also offered us a MagSafe charger: the great novelty of Apple to invite us to a future iPhone without a port. Operation is simple: plug the MagSafe (USB-C) into a compatible AC adapter (not supplied) and attach the pad to the back of your iPhone 12 or later.

 

Developing a power of 15 W, it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to fully charge the iPhone 12 with MagSafe. Progress therefore. Add to the subject of MagSafe that it is compatible with all iPhones with wireless charging ... with one detail: the power will be limited to 7.5 W 'due to the imperfect alignment of the elements' inside the smartphone.

 

Finally, to synthesize more, the charging speed of the new iPhone depends entirely on your equipment. Compatible with 20W wireless charging, the device is technically capable of regaining 50% battery life in 30 minutes with the appropriate charger.

Software: iOS 14 in the spotlight

 



We have already discovered it for a good month: iOS 14 is obviously in the spotlight on the iPhone 12.

Apple's new OS marks the expected arrival of widgets on the Home screen. The operating system also removes some barriers, in that you can now choose to set a default web browser and a different mailing application than Safari and Mail. 'A revolution,' the comments to this article will no doubt laugh - and it is fair game. Apple is second to none in spicing up features that have been around for years elsewhere.

 

Still, iOS has never been as successful as it is today. It is true that there are still some difficulties in organizing files downloaded from the Web. But for the rest, Apple remains in our eyes the manufacturer that offers the most pleasant interface on a smartphone.

The manufacturer is also at the forefront of some features dedicated to data protection. We particularly like the possibility (also new to Android 11) of granting location permission only once to an application.

 

Convenient, you can also activate a double or triple tap on the back of the smartphone to trigger a variety of features (screenshot, easy access, etc.).

The iPhone 12 takes advantage of a few exclusive photo features that previous models can't get. These include the possibility of using night mode with the ultra-wide-angle sensor, or the availability of the Deep Fusion algorithm on both lenses. In video, it has been said, the iPhone 12 is the first smartphone in the world to be able to shoot in HDR Dolby Vision up to 4K at 30 frames per second.

Finally, let's not forget that an iPhone also means particularly extensive software support from Apple. Unlike Android smartphones which at best offer 3 years of updates, Apple still supports the iPhone 6S, which was able to upgrade to iOS 14 last month. In other words, the iPhone 12 has many years ahead of it.

 

Photography: a smooth evolution


For the photo 'revolution', we'll have to wait until the iPhone 12 Pro Max arrives next month. On the iPhone 12, Apple has made it simple and efficient by using the two 12-megapixel lenses from the previous model.

Not without varying some parameters. As outlined above: the opening of the main sensor is now ƒ / 1.6 compared to ƒ / 1.8 on iPhone 11 and others. We will see in the following paragraphs what this induces in terms of performance in low light. Also, the objective lens is now made up of 7 elements, which are supposed to provide a more even sharpness over the entire surface of the image.


The ultra wide-angle module, on the other hand, does not change one iota. It does however benefit from some software improvements such as the arrival of Deep Fusion and night mode.

Wide-angle: efficiency from Apple


As a jack-of-all-trades lens, the iPhone 12’s wide-angle lens performs well in all situations. It captures very natural images, sparingly processed which ultimately only adjusts the histogram to provide the perfect exposure.


Point too much contrast, point too much saturation: a fair image, period. A little WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get, to borrow from computer language) that could disconcert users from a Samsung smartphone, for example, who have a little heavy hand on the processing.


With this sensor, the sharpness is good over a huge part of the image. Only the corners are evidence of a little loss of detail.


To sum up: a very 'iPhone' look in mind, which gives pride of place to nature and which offers a simple and effective way to immortalize your daily life - without fuss.


Ultra wide-angle: fun and quality optics


The back of the iPhone 12 has the same ultrawide optics that we really enjoyed last year.


This offers images of the same vintage as that of the main sensor; less homogeneity of the sharpness. Its lens composed of 5 elements compared to 7 above, there is a small loss of sharpness in the center of the image. But this very short focal length is intended to illustrate large spaces and not to depict an element of the decor with great precision, so we are not offended.


The processing is of course identical, and always doses the contrast and saturation very precisely. The colorimetric continuity between wide-angle and ultra-wide angle is also exemplary; no drift is observed in the tint of the image.

On high dynamic scenes, this sensor also has a lot of potential to expose properly. However, we note that Apple has a philosophy quite different from its competitors by maintaining fairly pronounced shadows and thus creating a more 'dramatic' contrast.

Zoom: digital only


You have seen it from the technical data sheet of the device: the iPhone 12 does not have a telephoto lens. An asset which is reserved for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Voluntary, the iPhone 12 still offers the possibility of zooming in the image to simulate a 52 mm (2x) or 130 mm (5x) optics.

If the results are decent in 2x zoom, you should not expect to get very detailed images when you push the knob further.

Even with a lot of algorithms to smooth the image and maintain the correct contrast and colors, we are faced with a pixel slurry that is more like an oil paint than a photograph.

 

Portrait: inconstant


While it was among the first to offer portrait mode on its phones, Apple is starting to fall behind its rivals in this area. In any case on this iPhone 12, which does not have a focal length very suitable for exercise.

The best results will be obtained outdoors. Here, the clipping is just excellent, and the background blur as gradual as it is soft to the eye.

Indoors, portrait mode is a little less comfortable with clipping. Nothing really bad.

We note a small improvement in the recognition of scenes, which is less painful to bend to our will on animals or still lifes.

On the latter, however, the treatment is much more random. It is difficult to obtain the desired results on these statues, and the treatment applied to this flower is a little off the mark (observe this whitish halo around the leaves).

Night: more detailed images at wide angle


It is of course in low light that the improvements to the wide-angle module are supposed to be a game-changer. And it is clear that this excess light is very beneficial once the sun is behind the horizon.

Like last year, the night mode activates automatically when the sensor needs more light. Available on both the ultra-wide angle and the main sensor, this mode offers very good results for maintaining good detail throughout the scene.

Unfortunately uncomfortable in the exercise, the ultra wide-angle module suffers from less interesting characteristics for night photography.

Even outdoors, the result is not there. The textures are extremely smooth and you can feel the phone struggling to focus properly. A problem that does not arise with the main photo sensor, which is distinguished by very good retention of details while keeping noise at a fairly low level.

We're not quite as comfortable as Google's Pixel 5 or Huawei's Mate 40 Pro yet, but Apple is definitely on the right track in night photography.

 

Video: little camcorder prodigy


We expected at the turn on this point and the iPhone 12 does not disappoint. In video, Apple’s new smartphone clearly hits its ball.

The new iPhone performs as expected in 4K at 30 (or 24) fps. Your videos are automatically captured in 10-bit Dolby Vision HDR for vivid color reproduction and stretched dynamic range. maximum.

I must confess that I do not have the video fiber very developed in a personal capacity, but I am amazed at the quality of the few clips that I was able to capture with the iPhone 12; at wide angle, as well as at ultra wide angle.

But Apple still has a little room to improve the stabilization of its device. It is because the Vivo X51 5G and its integrated micro-gimbal remain in our memory, and it is very difficult to match it on this point!

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