Apple's iPhone 12 Really Isn't That Big of an Upgrade

Announced yesterday, Apple’s four new iPhone 12s aren’t truly a revolutionary, generational leap. Here’s a couple reasons why..

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Apple's Four New iPhones

Yesterday, the 13th, Apple’s long awaited iPhone 12 generation was finally announced. These four new phones are the latest iPhones, complete with a brand new set of performance upgrades, and all around changes. While these are a formidable upgrade to some last generation iPhones, these phones aren’t particularly revolutionary, and possibly not worth an upgrade to some newer phones, at least in my opinion.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both start on sale next week, with delivery starting in the mid 20s this month. The prices range from $699 to $1099.

All of these phones come with a design that’s sort of reminiscent of the iPhone SE or the newer iPad Pros, with all of these devices coming with Corning’s new Ceramic Shield glass screen. While these changes are nice, Apple is removing charging bricks and EarPods from packaging and phones. Their reasoning is to reduce carbon emissions and plastic consumption, due to there being billions of those accessories.

These four new iPhones focus on 4 main changes: a 5G antenna addition, a new Ceramic Shield screen, the new A14 Bionic chipset, and upgraded cameras.

5G

The iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max, all come with 5G, a big part of Apple’s October 13th event.  This inclusion of 5G marks the first time that Apple has ever included the technology within their devices. All four of these devices come with 5G antennaes, including the millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which Verizon Wireless is a major proponent of. All four of these devices, the 5.4 inch, 2 6.1 inch, and 6.4 inch phones all come with some big improvements over last generation.

The big promise of 5G is either longer stretching distances for service, with slower speeds, or fast speeds with shorter distances, which was explained by Verizon CEO Hans Zimmer at the Apple Event. Along with this information, Zimmer announced the activation of Verizon’s nationwide 5G blanket service, as well as their city specific mmWave 5G, which runs in the gigabits per second.

Overall, 5G is expected to bring great changes to not only how we use phones, but how things work online, with faster speeds and near zero latencies.

While speeds are impressive, 5G is incredibly draining on battery life. That’s where Apple’s seamless 4G and 5G swapping appears. According to Apple, the iPhone swaps between 5G and 4G depending on what applications you’re using, where you’re using your phone, amongst other factors.

Verizon 5G Marketing
Ceramic Shield

The Corning Ceramic Shield is a brand new form of glass developed by the industry famous Corning, designed to provide up to 300% more protection. According to Apple’s presentation, the glass is developed with micro ceramic implants infused with the glass. Overall, this material is expected to provide 4X fall protection, making the already tough screen even tougher.

A14 Bionic Chipset

The A14 Bionic chipset is yet another generation of Apple’s A Bionic series. 

Previously used on Apple’s iPad Pro, this chip is built on a 5nm architecture, making it incredibly heat and power efficient, with 11.8 billion transistors, and 6 cores.

While this chipset is not completely new, it’s the first time it’s appeared on an iPhone, turning the already increasingly powerful devices into almost PC competitors.

The increasing efficiency of this chipset, combined with the increased performance has led to some major improvements overall. 

Upgraded Cameras

Apple’s pushing hard on the camera upgrades for the new iPhones as well. The standard to pro/pro max combination also involves an upgrade from two to three cameras, like with the iPhone 11s.

This year also marks the first appearance of a LIDAR scanner on an iPhone. A LIDAR scanner is a light detection and ranging scanner, which uses little lasers and sensors to detect how far an object is.

The main benefit behind the LIDAR scanner is the ability to map out distances and create realistic augmented reality situations.

In reality, the scanner doesn’t provide that much of a benefit, if you’re not focusing on augmented reality programs, which sort of overlay a digital footprint of sorts over real life video input.

The cameras also have Dolby Vision up to 30 FPS. According to Apple, this creates a very high quality, super high definition video, but in actual circumstances, I’m not sure how well it actually performs, or how big the difference is.

So how big of an upgrade is this to an iPhone 11?

It’s truly not a very big upgrade, unless you’re going for the new iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The cameras aren’t an upgrade, except for the LIDAR scanner or the Dolby Vision. The LIDAR is for the augmented reality aficionados, and Dolby Vision is for filmmakers or people with a filmmaking passion.

The Ceramic Shield is a nice upgrade, but realistically, the previous glass was still very tough. Taking a 99% success rate and increasing the power of it by 4X ends up still putting it at around 99%.

The A14 Bionic Chip is a very nice upgrade, specifically for AI processes. The 6 cores makes an increase of performance very apparent, but sitting around a 20% increase. The GPU is also more powerful, but compared to the monumental leap from 12 to 13, this jump isn’t that high.

5G is the biggest promise of these phones, but only for those that really need it. Once you get to a fast enough speed, there’s not much more that quick speeds are useful for. The biggest benefits are the ability to stream in 4K, game at 0-1 ms of ping, download and upload things really fast, and get instant and long spread access to data. Once speed gets fast enough however, you don’t necessarily need to worry about going faster. If you don’t game and need 0 ping, or watch in 4K, you don’t have to worry about faster speeds.

Overall, the biggest differences between the iPhone 11s and the 12s are in the 5G, the upgraded chip, and the different sizes of the phones. Add in a LIDAR scanner and Dolby Vision at 30 FPS, it really doesn’t make that much sense to spend more money on a slightly better phone.