Do I Need to Upgrade to an iPhone 12?

Apple’s new iPhones are here, but should you splash out on one, or stick with your existing smartphone? Let’s take a look at whether you should upgrade to the ‘regular’ model, the iPhone 12.

You want one, but do you need one? You’ve set your sights on the glorious new iPhone 12, but can you justify upgrading? It’s not difficult to see its appeal. It’s the first iPhone to feature 5G connectivity for faster, more reliable cellular Internet. It has a great dual camera system with Night mode incorporated into both the Wide and Ultra Wide lenses for great low-light pics, and it has the fastest processor on any smartphone. With five stylish colours, the fashion-conscious are spoilt for choice too. But are these features enough to make you part with your existing iPhone – and considerable amount of money? Let’s take a look at what the iPhone 12 has to offer, and whether you should upgrade.

Meet the iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 features a return to the straight-edged, flat-screen format last seen on the iPhone 5s. Whether you prefer the look of the angular iPhone 12 or the more rounded iPhone 11 and earlier is a matter of choice, but there are definite tech advantages to the new build. Its new 5G antennas go all the way round this frame, giving excellent reception even in poor service areas, and it also makes possible some great new screen features.
For the fashion-conscious, it comes in five beautiful finishes; blue, green, black, white, and red. Its screen is 6.1 inches (154.94 mm) from corner to corner.

This is the same size as its predecessor, the iPhone 11, but it squeezes in more pixels, boasting a 2532-by-1170- pixel resolution against the iPhone 11’s 1792-by-828. The display borders have been reduced too, allowing the iPhone 12 a smaller footprint without reducing the screen size. Despite boasting the around same size screen as its predecessor, the iPhone 12 is 11 percent thinner, 15 percent smaller in volume and 16 percent lighter. If you have a relatively recent iPhone, we doubt you’re finding it too heavy or lacking in pixels, but it’s worth taking note if you’re thinking of upgrading.

The iPhone goes 5G!

The 12-series iPhones are the first Apple smartphones to incorporate 5G, the fifth generation of the broadband cellular networks standard. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it’s faster. Much faster. This makes downloads quicker, video streaming more reliable and online gaming snappier. Secondly, it’s much better at coping when lots of devices close by all try to access cellular data networks at once. We’ve all had problems going online with mobile devices when in a crowd, right? With 5G, this is much less of a problem.

Alas, there’s one major drawback. While most major mobile phone networks offer 5G services, coverage is extremely patchy. For example, where we are in South Devon, none of the major service providers offers 5G. If you’re in the UK, there’s a useful coverage checker at If you’re somewhere where there isn’t 5G coverage, your iPhone can still use older 3G and 4G networks, but without the advantages that 5G offers.
Naturally, if you’re outside of a 5G area you can still use the service when you’re out and about, but coverage is definitely something to take into account if you’re considering a new iPhone for 5G.

New Dual Camera System

You’d expect the iPhone 12, and its smaller stable mate the iPhone 12 mini, to have good cameras. They’re iPhones, after all. Even so, some of the advances made by the new advanced dual camera system took us by surprise. Harnessing the camera’s dual lens system and the computational power of the A14 Bionic chip, with the latest iPhones excellent photos are within anyone’s range.

The iPhone 12 has two cameras. The upper-most is a 12MP Ultra Wide device, featuring an ƒ/2.4 aperture, a five-element lens, 13 mm focal length and a 120-degree field of view. Below it is the new Wide camera with an ƒ/1.6 aperture, seven- element lens, 26 mm focal length and more. It’s the fastest camera yet on the iPhone, allowing around 27 percent more light to hit the sensor. This makes every photo and video better, with less noise and brighter results, especially when taken in low-light conditions.

Computational Photography

The dual camera system is augmented by exciting software features built into the A14 Bionic chip that help improve your pictures on the fly. Night mode and faster-performing Deep Fusion are now on all cameras for improved photos in any environment. Machine Learning intelligently adjusts the white balance, contrast, texture, and saturation of a photo for remarkably natural-looking images. Shadowy are lightened, bringing out more detail without over-saturating the highly lit areas, and brighter areas are dimmed, again bringing out more detail, without over-darkening the shadowy areas.

Video Vision

According to Apple, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini boast the highest quality video recording capabilities of any smartphone. Big improvements have been made in lower-light recording. Especially worthy of note is Night mode Time-Lapse, offering longer exposure times for sharper videos, better light trails and smoother exposure in low-light scenarios when used with a tripod. They also feature the first camera to shoot HDR video with Dolby Vision, and are the only devices in the world to enable an end-to-end Dolby Vision experience, allowing users to capture, edit, and share cinema-grade videos natively on the iPhone.

The Screen

The iPhone is famous for its screen excellence, and you probably have no complaints about your current one. Even so, the iPhone 12 makes major gains on its predecessors. The company’s key display technology, Super Retina XDR screens, has found its way into the iPhones. It’s this that has allowed Apple to reduce the size of the bezel, allowing a bigger screen without enlarging the phone’s footprint.

All iPhone 12-series models feature an immersive HDR viewing experience for high-definition video, photos with more detail, and nearly twice the peak brightness of iPhone 11. It has a great new cover glass too, called Ceramic Shield. This goes beyond glass by adding a new high-temperature crystallisation step which grows nano-ceramic crystals in the glass matrix to dramatically improve toughness. The new material’s performance in drop tests is four times better than the previous generation of iPhones, so if you’re clumsy, an iPhone 12 could be just what you need. Just make sure you put a case on it too.

Fastest Processor Ever

The 12-series iPhones are powered by a great new Apple- designed processor that’s streets ahead of its rivals. A14 Bionic is the first chip in the smartphone industry built on the five-nanometer process, making its transistors thinner and smaller than ever before. It contains an incredible 11.8 billion transistors, an increase of almost 40 percent over the previous generation of chips.

Its CPU (Central Processing Unit) has six cores, that is, six individual processors that can each work on specific tasks. Two are high-performance cores and four are designed for high efficiency. It’s the fastest CPU in any smartphone, performing up to 50 percent faster than its closest rival. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) built into the A14 Bionic has four cores, driving increased image quality and overall efficiency. Gamers take note – your games have just got better! It’s the fastest GPU in any smartphone, and is up to 50 percent faster than other manufacturers’ comparable phones.

Pushing the limits of machine learning (ML), A14 Bionic features a 16-core Neural Engine for an 80 percent increase in performance. It’s capable of completing 11 trillion operations per second, enabling improved performance on even the most intense ML models. Machine learning harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to allow a system to automatically ‘learn’ from experience, and it’s the next big thing in computing. It’s certainly big in the 12-series iPhones.

Mag-Safe Wireless Charging

When charging your iPhone wirelessly on a Qi-charger, it’s easy to misalign the phone so it charges slower, or not at all. The 12-series iPhones take wireless charging to the next level and do away with this problem using a new technology called MagSafe. Apple’s industry-unique wire-wound coil now accommodates magnets, so any MagSafe charging accessory simply snaps onto the back of the phone. There’s no danger of misalignment. Apple is bringing out a range of cases that snap onto the back of the phone in the same way, and third-party accessory manufacturers will follow suit.

It’s a small step forward, but a significant one. Another great feature that may tip the balance in your decision on whether or not to upgrade.

Missing in Action

Apple has dropped the headphones and the charging plug from the iPhone 12 series boxes, though you still get a cable. The company says this is ’to reduce waste’, a claim greeted with cynicism on the Internet, but we think this is unfair. How many charging plugs do you have in your drawer already? Lots? Thought so. And since most of us use wireless chargers and Bluetooth earphones, why do we need a charging plug and cabled earbuds anyway? Last time we upgraded our phones, the manufacturer-bundled plug and earbuds never even left the box, so we won’t miss them with the iPhone 12.

The Price is Right?

We won’t dwell on this one. You know what you can afford better than we do, and the price is different depending on what storage you want and whether you’re on a subsidised tariff. Suffice to say you should work out how much a new iPhone will cost you personally, and then ask yourself whether the extra features offered by the iPhone 12 are worth the money.

So… Should You Upgrade?

Ultimately this is your call, but we can offer a few pointers to help with your decision. Firstly, take a look at your current phone. If it doesn’t run iOS 14, an upgrade is definitely worth considering. There’s a huge advantage in keeping your operating system up to date. If your phone is older than an iPhone X, again it’s probably worth your while upgrading. The benefits of the larger display size and Face ID are not to be underestimated, and if you use processor-intensive applications like games or graphic editors, the extra speed offered by several generations of development really makes a difference.

But what if you own a more recent model, like the iPhone 11 or the iPhone XS? In this case, it really is up to you. Take a look at your current phone, and ask yourself whether the extra features of the iPhone 12, such as a faster processor and 5G, make enough of a difference to make it worth the upgrade price (remember, you can claw back some of the outlay by selling your old iPhone). If it does, go for it, and enjoy your new phone.

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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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