The four new iPhones have something for everyone...
If last year the focus was primarily on the camera, this year Apple zeroes in on the guts of the iPhone. The four new iPhones can be divided into two categories, with the first set featuring the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini while the second has the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The former is about better display, better camera and better performance while the latter is about leaps in the camera department. Binding all the phones are two features — 5G and Apple’s latest processor, A14 Bionic, which is faster than any of the processors being used on smartphones. If 5G needed Apple’s validation, it has got it. In countries like India, creative users — like photographers, musicians and film directors — will have a lot to cheer about.
After a few years of rounded edges, Apple is bringing back flat sides to the iPhones. Fans of older iPhone models feel that this design is easier to hold. One can also stand the phone on its side to watch a movie, instead of propping it up against books. Some iPhone SE owners have said that the device’s edge could be used to open a bottle of beer.
Getting the base covered
The iPhone 12 is the new basic iPhone, succeeding the iPhone 11. The big feature on the phone is Apple’s A14 Bionic processor, which the company announced last month with the new iPads. It is the first smartphone chip built on 5-nanometre technology, allowing to put in billions of transistors on a chip. According to the company, this is the fastest CPU in any smartphone. Also present are 16 cores dedicated to machine learning processes.
Obviously, performance is also very good on the iPhone 11. So why upgrade? The iPhone 12 has a 12MP ultra-wide rear camera, with a wider aperture to allow better low-light performance, besides supporting an updated version of the high dynamic range (HDR) imaging standard. Enhancements also come in the Night Mode, which now works on both the rear ultra-wide and the front-facing selfie camera.
The real — we mean really big — improvements in the camera department are in the Pro variants. All the new iPhones come with OLED screens (a good transition from an LCD screen).
For people who had been waiting for a 5G phone, this is it.
Small but powerful
Apple has never used the ‘Mini’ moniker for smartphones but there is always the first time. Hello iPhone 12 Mini, which is basically a smaller version of the iPhone 12. This one has a 5.4-inch OLED display and the same chipset. Kaiann Drance, vice-president, iPhone product marketing says, “In fact, iPhone 12 Mini is the smallest thinnest and lightest 5G phone in the world, with its large screen and compact size.”
Snap it up
Apple doesn’t believe in incremental changes. On the new iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max models, there is a major update to the camera hardware and computational photography software. First, there is a larger sensor for improved low-light performance, plus the ability to fuse multiple frames into one top-quality shot. On the iPhone 12 Pro is the new “seven-element lens wide camera with an f/1.6 aperture, the fastest ever on an iPhone” and a 52 mm focal length telephoto camera, which will help framing portraits, bringing the optical zoom range to 4x.
On the iPhone 12 Pro Max there is a new f/1.6 aperture wide camera, which comes with a 47 per cent larger sensor, allowing 87 per cent improvement in low-light conditions. There is also an expansive ultra wide camera and a 65 mm focal length telephoto camera to help with closer shots.
The other big attraction that’s coming this year is Apple ProRaw format, which combines multi-frame image processing with the flexibility of a RAW format. The independent layers are baked into an image, which helps during the editing process. It gives a photographer control over colour, detail and dynamic range natively in the Photos app.
The iPhone 12 Pro range will have both HDR Pro and Dolby Vision HDR recording. Dolby Vision is a format more studios are using and is being supported by more televisions each year. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max can grade all frames in Dolby Vision, live, while recording.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot films like Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant, showcased a short film and noted that usually such technology involves renting expensive equipment.
One more thing. On the Pro Max hardware, there is sensor-shift image stabilisation. Basically, it moves the sensor and not the entire camera unit, allowing better pictures and smoother videos. Plus, it helps in low light.
The arrival of the LiDAR Scanner to the Pro line will offer the ability to measure light distance and use pixel depth information of a scene.
We have seen this on this year’s iPad Pro but it’s far more useful on the phone.
An iPhone falling from the hand is like watching one’s wallet getting depleted in slow motion. The new glass protecting the iPhone 12 series, made by Corning, is tougher because it’s “Ceramic Shield”. Apple says Ceramic Shield is “tougher than any smartphone glass”, offering four times greater resistance to damage from drops. According to Corning, it’s not only tough but also lightweight.
Apple has decided to drop in-box chargers and headphones, citing environmental benefits. There will still be a power cable, which plugs into a standard smaller, USB-C style port. “Customers already have over 700 million Lightning headphones, and many customers have moved to a wireless experience,” said Apple’s Lisa Jackson. It seems that there are also over two billion Apple power adapters in the world and that’s “not counting the billions of third party adapters”.
Wireless charging accessories
The new iPhones will have some awesome wireless charging capabilities under the rear panel. The alignment magnets will help snap accessories to the back of your phone. The line-up includes new cases, a wireless charger and a card holder. Already present on the back of the device are things like a magnetometer, a copper-graphite shield and an NFC antenna. So the addition of magnets will help start a new ecosystem of accessories
Reviving the MagSafe charging brand — which was associated with the MacBook Like and was phased out in 2016 — is a good move. The new MagSafe charger is a simple wireless charger that magnetically attaches to the phone. MagSafe is optimised for aligning to the magnets around the wireless charging coil.
New chapter with 5G
In the US, iPhone with 5G would be the big news but not so in India. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, puts emphasis on the fact the new iPhones have the capability to run on 5G next-generation cellular networks, for much faster speeds. He said 5G will offer a “new level of performance for downloads and uploads” but didn’t go into specifics about how much faster it would be than current 4G phones.
Mini but big on sound
If you are looking for a new smart speaker, wait for the HomePod Mini, a smaller version of the popular speaker. It features one main driver, two passive radiators, and an “acoustic waveguide” on the bottom. It is powered by an Apple S5 chip, which the company says allows for “computational audio” processing to adjust how your music sounds 180 times per second. You can sync multiple speakers to use the Intercom feature, which is like Google’s Broadcast feature, allowing users ask Siri on their phones to play a message on the smart speaker in other rooms.
What Apple doesn’t bother about and neither should you
- Going big on the megapixel aspect in cameras. Numbers don’t matter
- Flash charging: Juicing up the phone in 30 minutes doesn’t help
- Higher screen refresh rate makes no difference, for users can’t tell them apart. What matters is a fast processor and the iPhone 12 has the fastest of them
Pricing and availability
- iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models in graphite, silver, gold, and pacific blue starting at Rs 119,900 and Rs 129,900 respectively. iPhone 12 Pro will be available in India beginning October 30
- iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini: 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models in blue, green, black, white and red, starting at Rs 79,900 and Rs 69,900 respectively. iPhone 12 will be available in India beginning October 30
- HomePod Mini: Will be available in white and space grey for Rs 9,900. November 6 onwards