Apple iPhone 12 lineup: All the differences explained before you buy

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  • Apple's iPhone 12 series consists of two premium models, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and two ultra-premium models, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • There's about a $300 gap between these two categories, and the differences are subtle.
  • All of the models have lots in common, including major features, like 5G, MagSafe for iPhone, and OLED displays.
  • The main differentiating factors are screen sizes, frame metals, and cameras. 

Apple's new iPhone 12 series consists of four different iPhones, and they can be broken down into two distinct categories — premium and ultra-premium.

There's a big jump in price between the standard and "pro" models of the iPhone 12. Here's a breakdown of prices starting from least expensive to most expensive: 

  • iPhone 12 Mini: $699
  • iPhone 12: $799
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099

Indeed, that's about a $300 difference between the two standard iPhone 12 models and the two "pro" versions, and it's the cameras that make up the bulk of the distinction between Apple's premium and ultra-premium lineup.

Otherwise, the standard iPhone 12 and "pro" versions are mostly the same phones. That's a similar situation to the iPhone 11 series, where iPhone 11 buyers weren't missing out very much compared to iPhone 11 Pro owners.

There's still time to make a decision on which model you'd like. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are now available to preorder and will ship on October 23. The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available to preorder on November 6 and will ship on November 13.

What they all have in common

All four models in Apple's new iPhone 12 series have these factors in common:

  • Apple's A14 Bionic processor
  • 5G connectivity for the same carriers and specific 5G networks
  • Wireless charging, including MagSafe
  • Super Retina XDR displays
  • All the screens are OLED
  • Screens protected with "Ceramic Shield" glass
  • Metal frames: aluminum for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and steel for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • Glass backs: glossy on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, and matte on iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max
  • IP68 water resistance

Screen size

There are three screen sizes between the four phones that should satisfy preferences and, as mentioned earlier, they're all Apple's Super Retina XDR OLED for ultra-rich colors, brightness, and contrast. Here are the iPhone 12 screen sizes from smallest to biggest:

  • iPhone 12 Mini: 5.4-inch
  • iPhone 12: 6.1-inch
  • iPhone 12 Pro: 6.1-inch
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 6.7-inch

Cameras

Cameras are where the bulk of the difference will be found between the standard iPhone 12 models and the iPhone 12 Pro versions. If you're looking for the absolute best and latest that Apple has to offer — and you can afford them — the iPhone 12 Pro versions are what you're after. 

Otherwise, the iPhone 12 will, in almost all likelihood, take extremely good photos, too.  

What all the iPhone 12 cameras share:

  • 12-megapixel wide; f/1.6; OIS
  • 12-megapixel ultra wide; f/2.4; 120-degree field of view
  • Smart HDR 3
  • Apple's Deep Fusion for improved detail, texture, and less noise in low light

The extra specs and features in the iPhone 12 Pro cameras:

  • 12-megapixel telephoto; f/2.0; up to 4x optical zoom; up to 10x digital zoom
  • Apple ProRAW — an option that gives greater control over photo editing to those who want it
  • Night mode portraits enabled by the new LiDar scanner

The extra extra specs and features in the iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras:

  • 12-megapixel telephoto; f/2.2; up to 5x optical zoom; up to 12x digital zoom
  • Apple's advanced sensor-shift optical image stabilization

Battery life

Apple only gives estimated battery life, and it commonly uses video streaming playback as a reference. To that end, here's how each model stacks up:

  • iPhone 12 Mini: 10 hours
  • iPhone 12: 11 hours
  • iPhone 12 Pro: 11 hours
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 12 hours

 

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