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Compared: iPhone 12 versus iPhone 12 mini versus iPhone 12 Pro versus iPhone 12 Pro Max

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Apple has launched four new models as part of its iPhone 2020 refresh, with the iPhone 12 joined by the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, but which one should you buy? We break down the differences to hopefully make the choice easier for you.

During its October 13 "Hi, Speed" event, Apple launched into the world four new models of iPhone, with the latest editions split into two tiers: The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, and the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The selection gives consumers the widest array of models to choose from than ever before, as well as some important new technologies.

However, many people witnessing the launch will soon be able to upgrade their existing iPhone for a new model, raising the issue of deciding which model to acquire.

This guide breaks down the main differences between the four iPhone models, and will hopefully make answering that question a little bit easier.

Specifications

iPhone 12 miniiPhone 12iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro Max
Price (starting)$699/$729$799/$829$999$1,099
Dimensions (inches)5.18 x 2.53 x 0.295.78 x 2.82 x 0.295.78 x 2.82 x 0.296.33 x 3.07 x 0.29
Weight (ounces)4.765.786.668.03
ProcessorA14 BionicA14 BionicA14 BionicA14 Bionic
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Display type5.4-inch Super Retina XDR6.1-inch Super Retina XDR6.1-inch Super Retina XDR6.7-inch Super Retina XDR
Resolution2,340 x 1,080 at 476ppi2,532 x 1,170 at 460ppi2,532 x 1,170 at 460ppi2,778 x 1,284 at 458ppi
True ToneYesYesYesYes
BiometricsFace IDFace IDFace IDFace ID
Connectivity5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Gigabit-class LTE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Gigabit-class LTE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Gigabit-class LTE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Gigabit-class LTE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
Rear Cameras12MP Ultra Wide
12MP Wide
12MP Ultra Wide
12MP Wide
12MP Ultra Wide
12MP Wide
12MP Telephoto
12MP Ultra Wide
12MP Wide
12MP Telephoto
Video4K 60fps,
4K 30fps HDR with Dolby Vision,
1080p 240fps Slo-Mo
4K 60fps,
4K 30fps HDR with Dolby Vision,
1080p 240fps Slo-Mo
4K 60fps,
4K 60fps HDR with Dolby Vision,
1080p 240fps Slo-Mo
4K 60fps,
4K 60fps HDR with Dolby Vision,
1080p 240fps Slo-Mo
Front Camera12MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth
Battery Size (Video playback time)Up to 15 hoursUp to 17 hoursUp to 17 hoursUp to 20 hours
ColorsBlack, White, Blue, Green, (Product)RedBlack, White, Blue, Green, (Product)RedGraphite, Silver, Gold, Pacific BlueGraphite, Silver, Gold, Pacific Blue

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Physical Dimensions

There are generally three different sizes of device for this generation, with the mini being the smallest at 5.18 inches by 2.53, followed by the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro at 5.78 by 2.82 for both. The largest, the Pro Max, measures 6.33 inches long and 3.07 inches wide.

All four models are of equal thickness, measuring 0.29 inches apiece.

As for weights, obviously the size of the device impacts how heavy each one is. The smallest mini is the lightest at 4.76 ounces, while the largest Pro Max is 8.03 ounces.

The similarly-sized iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro do differ here, with the components in the Pro bringing the weight up to 6.66 ounces to the non-Pro's 5.78 ounces.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Displays

Of course, a big factor in determining the physical size of each model is the display, which continues the edge-to-edge concept introduced by the iPhone X. On the extreme ends, the iPhone 12 mini opts for a 5.4-inch OLED display, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch version.

In the middle, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both use a 6.1-inch OLED panel. All are listed as Super Retina XDR displays, using the same display technology across the board.

All models of iPhone 12 use the new flat-edged design
All models of iPhone 12 use the new flat-edged design

The upgrade from LCD to OLED in the non-Pro models have boosted their resolutions, with the iPhone 12 mini having a resolution of 2,340 by 1,080, and the iPhone 12 at 2,532 by 1,170. The iPhone 12 Pro has the same resolution as the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max uses a resolution of 2,778 by 1,284.

The upgraded displays in the non-Pro range means they technically have the higher pixel density, with the mini having 476 pixels per inch, the middle-sized models with 460ppi, and the Pro Max with 458ppi

All offer the same True Tone, P3 Wide Color Display, and a maximum 1,200 nits of brightness for HDR content. Typical brightness maximums are 625 nits for the iPhone 12 and mini, 800 nits for the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Cameras and LiDAR

While the iPhone 12 Pro models have more cameras overall, all models do have the same wide-angle and ultra wide-angle cameras. Each use 12-megapixel sensors, along with a new 7-piece lens plastic lens array that improve the optics in some of the cameras.

Where the Pro models differ is that they, yet again, provide a telephoto shooting option. Sticking with a 12-megapixel sensor, the telephoto enables a 2x optical zoom-in on the iPhone 12 Pro, further enhancing the digital zoom to 6x, while the Pro Max has a 2.5x optical zoom in with a 7x digital zoom.

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have a 2x optical zoom out and a 3x digital zoom.

Like last year, this means the Pro models will benefit from being able to zoom in much closer to the action than the iPhone 12 and mini, and can even perform a zoom with more clarity due to that initial optical zoom boost.

The extra sensor will also mean computational photography efforts will be given more assistance on the Pro pair, due to potentially offering more data to work with.

The three cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as the new LiDAR sensor
The three cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as the new LiDAR sensor

The iPhone 12 Pro models go one stage further than even the iPhone 12 Pro, as it boasts a LiDAR sensor on the back of the device. Working similar to Face ID on the front, the sensor is able to spray infrared dots on the environment for depth mapping, which can enable it to focus more accurately on a subject, even in low light, as well as other potential photographic uses in the future.

There's also the possibility of using the LiDAR for augmented reality purposes, but that will largely depend on developers building apps using ARKit.

Apple also introduced a few features that will be highly beneficial to photographers and videographers in the Pro lineup. This includes the ability to record video in Dolby Vision HDR at 4K resolution, as well as Apple ProRAW for images.

To the front, Face ID remains practically unchanged with no differentiation between models, using a 12-megapixel and the same TrueDepth sensor array.

For videographers and smartphone photographers with a sufficient enough budget, it seems to be a no-brainer to upgrade to the Pro line, especially given the potential the rear LiDAR sensor offers for future use.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Processing performance

Apple has already provided some information about the A14 Bionic SoC that has been included in each of the 2020 models, as it's the same chip used in the iPad Air.

The A14 Bionic uses a 5-nanometer process in its construction, packing 11.8 billion transistors onto a single chip. The new A-series version uses a more efficient 6-core design that boasts a 40% performance boost in CPU performance than the A12, while the updated 4-core graphics system has 30% higher performance against the same chip.

Apple also claims the A14 is up to 50% faster in CPU and GPU performance compared to "the fastest competing smartphone chips."

There's also the new 16-core Neural Engine which is twice as fast, capable of up to 11 trillion operations per second, and second-generation machine learning accelerators in the CPU can make machine learning calculations ten times faster.

A side view of the iPhone 12 Pro
A side view of the iPhone 12 Pro

All four models use the A14 Bionic, so it would in theory be the same across the board, however that's not all the story.

Rumors have suggested Apple will include more RAM in the Pro models over the non-Pro variants, something it has done in previous iterations, with the Pro supposedly equipped with 6GB versus 4GB in the other models. As Apple doesn't state how much memory each model has, we have to wait until benchmarks are released to know how much the difference will be.

Sure, the same chip and general speed improvements will be felt by anyone upgrading, but the extra memory will allow Pro users to have more apps cached in RAM and ready to go.

For the average user, this isn't a big deal. So long as they get the new A14 Bionic, that's all that really matters.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - 5G

This year's range of iPhones all offer access to a new milestone in communications technology: 5G support. Enabled by a supply deal with Qualcomm to end a potentially costly legal battle, all models are capable of connecting to 5G networks.

However, there's some variation even in this, and it's partly due to the way 5G actually works. In reality, 5G isn't one high-speed communications standard, it's actually two.

The low-band 5G will provide wide signal coverage, allowing it to be used across countries and wide markets, albeit at speeds that may not be much better than offered by 4G LTE.

Then there's the high-band mmWave, which offers the headline high-speed connectivity that could reach gigabit speeds for some users. Signals used in mmWave are weaker, meaning they will only cover small areas and are able to be blocked by thin materials, and even rain, with carriers limiting its deployment to high-density population areas.

While rumors pointed towards the non-Pro models as losing the capability to use mmWave, Apple has instead enabled full 5G support across the entire product line. That means there's no difference in 5G quality between devices.

Whether you will be able to take advantage of mmWave is another matter.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Power and battery

All of the models benefit from the new MagSafe function, which will enable iPhones to be correctly aligned on compatible wireless charging stations. They also have the ability to fast charge up to half their capacity in half an hour, when used with a 20-watt charger or higher.

The biggest variation for power in the models is battery life, and size is a factor here. In comparisons of video playback time, the iPhone 12 mini lasts up to 15 hours according to Apple, with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both tapping out at 17 hours, then the Pro Max at 20 hours.

If you're looking for long usage times, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is obviously your best bet.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Capacity, color, and pricing

As you would expect, the iPhone 12 mini is the cheapest model on the block, priced at $699 for the version equipped with 64GB of storage, $749 for 128GB, and $859 for 256GB. The same capacities are available for the iPhone 12 Max, priced at $799, $849, and $949 respectively for the cheapest options on Apple's website.

The iPhone 12 is offered in 5 color options
The iPhone 12 is offered in 5 color options

On the Pro side, Apple shifts the storage options up, bringing 512GB of capacity to the mix. For the iPhone 12 Pro, the 128GB model is $999, the 256GB version is $1,099, and the 512GB variant is $1,299. Over on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, these capacities are priced at $1,099, $1,199, and $1,399 respectively.

Apple is offering the iPhone 12 pair in a choice of five colors: Black, White, Green, Blue, and (Product)Red.

The Pro models are available in four choices: Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Pacific Blue.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max - Which should you get?

For the 2020 range of iPhones, Apple has made it both the easiest and most difficult decision for consumers upgrading to the new models. Sure, you're going to enjoy the new models regardless, but there's a few factors to consider when making the purchase.

For a start, size is an issue, as some will prefer the smaller stature of the iPhone 12 mini, which may be more manageable to handle over time. Others will want the giant screen of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, with a screen that's an inch away from the iPad Mini.

Screen quality isn't going to be a factor. Neither will the amount of memory, as most people will care more about their iPhone using the powerful A14 Bionic.

While 5G support was thought to be a deciding factor, blanket mmWave support means it's not even something to consider between this year's models.

For the cameras, for most people it's simply a case of whether you need an extra zoom or not. Photographers will certainly lean in the direction of Pro for the extra image options, as well as the potential image-related applications of LiDAR.

Depending on what developers create using ARKit that could take advantage of LiDAR on the back, there may be a bigger market for the sensor in the future. That doesn't really help much now, but some may believe there will be benefits down the road, and will buy the iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max to be among the first to enjoy them.

Video producers will also be keen to get the Pro range for their ability to use the extra lens to record Dolby Vision HDR, as well as to edit it on the device, and even output it to a display using AirPlay.

Of course, price is always going to be an element for users, and with the low cost of the iPhone 12 mini, that makes it a compelling entry point to the iPhone ecosystem for those who don't want to deal with a smaller 4.7-inch display and one rear camera.

Going for the Pro models will push users into paying out around $1,000 for an iPhone, which is still a bitter pill for some to swallow. But for those who see the advantages of the extra camera, the sizable screen, the extra storage capacity option, and the extra LiDAR facility, the cost can easily be justified.

 

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