Apple has just taken the wraps off the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Each are available in two sizes (the regular iPhone 12 now comes in a 6.1-inch model and a 5.4-inch “mini”), but as was the case with the iPhone 11, the “Pro” models have some differences that set them apart and help justify their higher price tag.
Here are the most important things you need to know about the iPhone 12 Pro. If you’re interested in the less expensive variant, check out our guide to the iPhone 12.
It’s got a new, slightly larger design
As with the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro comes in two sizes. This year, the display on the two models measure 6.1 inches and 6.7 inches, up from 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches. (Bear in mind that a 6.1-inch display is the same size as the regular, non-Pro iPhone 11.)
This means the phone bodies themselves are a bit larger as well, though there’s less bezel area around the display, so it’s not as much larger as you might think, just a millimeter or two taller and wider. The iPad 12 Pro is 146.7 x 71.5mm, compared to the iPhone 11 Pro’s 144 x 71.4mm. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is 160.8 x 78.1mm, compares to the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 158 x 77.8mm.
Both the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are 7.4mm thick, about 10 percent thinner than the iPhone 11 Pro’s 8.1mm thick body.
The sides of all the iPhone 12 models are now flat, mimicking the design of the iPad Pro. They’re available in four colors: Silver (white), Graphite, Gold, and Pacific Blue (replacing Midnight Green on the iPhone 11 Pro).
The cameras got an upgrade
The iPhone 12 Pro can shoot night mode photos on the wide, ultrawide, and even the front camera now—but still not on the telephoto camera. And Deep Fusion now works on all four cameras. There’s a new improved 7-element lens on the main wide camera and a wider f/1.6 aperture to let in more light, improving low light performance.
The larger iPhone 12 Pro Max variant has a 47 percent larger sensor on the main wide camera, which means bigger 1.7-micron pixels. Combined with the larger aperture, Apple says it produces 87 percent better low-light photos. The telephoto lens on the Max is longer, too—65mm, or about 2.5x, instead of 52mm or 2x on the regular Pro.
The Pro Max uses sensor-shift stabilization on the wide camera, which should produce clearer and more detailed shots, especially in low light.
Thanks to the new LiDAR sensor, the iPhone 12 Pro can focus better in dark environments, and can shoot night mode portrait shots.
Both the regular and Pro models now shoot 10-bit HDR video, including support for the Dolby Vision format. While the iPhone 12 can do this up to 4K at 30fps, the 12 Pro can go all the way up to 60fps when shooting Dolby Vision.
Coming in a software update later this year will be a new feature called ProRAW. It takes the full imaging pipeline of the iPhone 12 and produces, in real time, a RAW image that contains all the metadata you expect of that format. The result should be the same level of creative control you get from a RAW image without sacrificing all the computational photography smarts of a modern smartphone’s multi-exposure and AI-enhanced imaging pipeline.
It’s more durable
The iPhone 12 Pro is IP68 water resistant down to a depth of 6 meters for 30 minutes. That’s a significant step up from the 4 meters metric of the iPhone 11 Pro’s IP68 resistance.
The flat surgical-grade stainless steel band around the outside makes the phone more impact-resistant than previous models, too.
Apple is using a new process from Corning that introduces nano‑ceramic crystals into the glass over the display. Apple calls this Ceramic Shield and says it is the toughest glass in any smartphone. It claims the new phones exhibit four times the drop resistance of last year’s iPhone (which previously had the toughest iPhone screen).
That’s the biggest year-on-year improvement in durability ever. Apple says the display is more scratch resistant, too, because it now uses the same scratch-resistance process on the display glass as it does on the back glass.
The iPhone 12 Pro supports 5G networks
While Android phones have supported 5G wireless networks for over a year, Apple is just now jumping on the 5G bandwagon. All models, from the iPhone 12 mini to the iPhone 12 Pro, now support 5G networks.
5G comes in two flavors: There’s sub-6GHz 5G, which uses the same frequencies as 4G LTE, and mmWave 5G, which uses very high frequencies that offer super fast speeds and very short range.
The new iPhone 12 models, Pro and regular, support sub-6GHz networks everywhere in the world. In the U.S. they work with mmWave networks as well. Apple says it supports 20 5G bands and up to 32 LTE bands, which is more than any other smartphone. For more on what 5G is and what it means for you, check out our 5G FAQ.
Faster chip, more starting storage
Apple has the first mobile chip to be made with a 5nm manufacturing process. It’s got a faster CPU, faster GPU, and much faster Neural Engine. Apple says both the CPU and GPU are 50 percent faster than any competing smartphone chip.
The iPhone 12 also uses the new A14 chip, so it’s not as if the iPhone 12 Pro faster than the non-Pro model. It does come with more storage, though: 128GB to start, with options for 256GB or 512GB. The iPhone 12 has half as much storage at every level.
It’s got LiDAR
Like the iPad Pro introduced this spring, the iPhone 12 Pro has a LiDAR sensor in the back camera array. (The regular iPhone 12 does not.)
This gives the phone the ability to build a high-resolution “depth map” of the area in front of the image sensors. This is useful for lots of photography features, like instant and accurate focus even in darkness.
LiDAR is perhaps most useful for augmented reality. It allows AR apps to get an accurate 3D map of your surroundings in a fraction of a second, instead of the sometimes-inaccurate and slow scene-building of current iPhone AR apps.
MagSafe means snap-on chargers and accessories
Apple is reviving the MagSafe brand for its new wireless charging accessory standard. Just like the Apple Watch, you’ll just “snap” on a wireless charger for precise placement and a secure grip.
A ring of magnets in the back of the iPhone, along with some new shielding and sensors, makes the phone just stick right to MagSafe accessories. MagSafe power adapters will charge up to 15 watts instead of 7.5 watts of previous iPhones on Qi chargers, and there will be a host of other MagSafe accessories: cases, wallets, you name it.
Don’t worry, your old Qi-based wireless charger isn’t trash. It’ll still work with an iPhone 12 Pro just as it did with previous iPhones.
Previous iPhones always came with a power adapter and a pair of headphones in the box. The regular iPhones and iPhone SE have a 5W USB-A power adapter, and the iPhone 11 Pro came with an 18W USB-C power adapter.
Those are no longer in the box. Not just on the iPhone 12, but from all iPhone models (as soon as current stock runs out).
Apple also used to include earbuds with a Lightning connector. Those, too, are no longer included. All you get in the box with your iPhone 12 Pro (or, indeed, any iPhone) is the phone itself and a USB-C to Lightning cable.
That may sound like a cheap move for the world’s most valuable technology company, and it is. But it’s also very good for the environment, which is why Apple says it’s doing it. At this point, we all have a drawer full of power adaptors (you don’t need to use an Apple brand one after all!) and earbuds, or Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone jack adaptors, or we use AirPods or other wireless headphones.
For most consumers, this stuff sits in a drawer or never comes out of the box. Making and shipping that stuff to every user is a big waste, both economically and ecologically.
Starting price is the same, and more storage is cheaper
The iPhone 11 Pro started at $999, with storage upgrades costing $1,149 (256GB) or $1,349 (512GB). The iPhone 11 Pro Max cost $100 more.
The iPhone 12 Pro still starts at $999, the storage upgraded versions are now $1,099 and $1,299, reducing the cost by $50. The iPhone 12 Pro Max still costs $100 more.
Though Apple no longer gives you a power adapter nor earbuds in the box, it’s not necessarily a worse value. The starting models have 128GB of storage rather than 64GB in the iPhone 11 Pro, and you don’t pay more for 5G, which usually carries a higher price tag on other phones.
The iPhone 12 Pro will be available for preorder on October 16 and will ship on October 23. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available for preorder on November 6 and will ship on November 13.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.