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iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Buyer's Guide

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Apr 12, 2001
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This month, Apple unveiled the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max as the successors to the popular iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, with a new squared-off industrial design, the A14 Bionic chip, a LiDAR Scanner, and MagSafe. As Apple's premium flagship offerings, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are the most fully-featured iPhones available.


The iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999 and the iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099. Although the two phones share the vast majority of features, there are actually a number of differences between the devices besides just screen size. Our guide highlights the differences between the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, and helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.

Comparing the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max

The ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro and ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max share virtually all of the same key features. Both phones have the same OLED Super Retina XDR display technology, A14 Bionic processor, 5G connectivity, a "pro" camera setup with 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto lenses, LiDAR Scanner, and are available in the same colors. More interesting is where the two devices differ.

Differences


iPhone 12 Pro
  • 6.1-inch OLED Super Retina XDR display with 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution
  • Telephoto lens with ƒ/2.0 aperture
  • 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 4x optical zoom range
  • Digital zoom up to 10x
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • Battery life with 17 hours of video playback
  • Weight of 6.66 ounces (189 grams)
  • $999, $1099, $1299 for 128GB/256GB/512GB


iPhone 12 pro Max
  • 6.7-inch OLED Super Retina XDR display with 2778-by-1284-pixel resolution
  • Telephoto lens with ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • 2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 5x optical zoom range
  • Digital zoom up to 12x
  • Sensor-shift optical image stabilization
  • Battery life with 20 hours of video playback
  • Weight of 8.03 ounces (228 grams)
  • $1099, $1199, $1399 for 128GB/256GB/512GB


Aside from physical size, Apple has added a few more camera improvements into the Max. Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see where exactly the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro contrasts with its larger sibling.

Display Size

The most noticeable difference between the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro and ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max is the display size. The ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro has a size of 6.1 inches, and the 12 Pro Max has a size of 6.7 inches. This means that the larger phone will be able to display more content, with the UI elements of apps spaced further apart, and items such as the keyboard will be much bigger. The smaller phone, however, will be much more pocketable and easy to use with one hand.

iPhone 12 mini vs 12 Pro vs 12 Pro Max screen sizes in Xcode.Ad-free MacRumors subscription available here.


The displays themselves use the exact same technologies and have the same features, but the main reason to prefer the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro will be because of its better fit in the hand and easier one-handed use. Likewise, those that prefer a larger display, to the point that it may begin to cannibalize the 7.9-inch iPad mini, will clearly prefer the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Dimensions and Weight

As a smaller phone, the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro obviously has a lesser height and width than the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max. The ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro is 14.1mm shorter and 6.6mm narrower than the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max. However, both phones have the same thickness of 7.4mm. The ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro is also 39 grams (1.38 ounces) lighter than its larger counterpart, at just 189 grams (6.66 ounces) in total.



Cameras

The camera is another key area of separation between the devices. The two iPhones have very similar rear camera arrays, with three 12MP cameras, including an Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto, and a LiDAR Scanner, and many of the same software features, such as Smart HDR 3, Night mode, Deep Fusion, and Apple ProRAW. However, the larger size of the 12 Pro Max has allowed Apple to add three additional camera features.

The Wide camera of the iPhone 12 Pro Max features a 47 percent larger sensor with bigger pixels, which lets in a lot more light than the Wide-angle camera of the iPhone 12. Low-light photos taken with the iPhone 12 Pro Max are 87 percent better, according to Apple, with images also featuring more detail and better color.

The Telephoto lens on the iPhone 12 Pro has an f/2.0 aperture while the Telephoto lens of the iPhone 12 Pro Max has an f/2.2 aperture, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 65mm focal length and 2.5x zoom lens that is superior to the 52mm focal length and 2x zoom lens in the iPhone 12 Pro, allowing for a 5x optical zoom range.


The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has sensor-shift optical image stabilization on its Wide lens instead of lens-shift optical image stabilization. This means that the camera sensor moves to counteract shake, rather than the lens. The result is improved optical image stabilization.

Increased zoom in, better low-light performance, and sensor-shift optical image stabilization are noteworthy, if not especially groundbreaking, camera improvements. Nevertheless, if you heavily use your iPhone for photography and videography, the advancements on the 12 Pro Max will likely be appreciated.

Battery Life

The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max also differ when it comes to battery life. The ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro can deliver up to 17 hours of video playback, according to Apple. However, since the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max is much larger, it can accommodate a larger battery and therefore offer a longer battery life. This means that the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max can reportedly deliver up to 20 hours of video playback. Real-world battery life for both devices is likely to be lower than Apple's estimates, as mixed usage tends to be a bit heavier than video playback alone.



If battery life is a priority for you, the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max offers the best possible battery life in an iPhone. If you choose to get the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro, it will still have a fair battery life, but it does not reach the capability of the 12 Pro Max.

Other iPhone Options


At a starting price of $999, if the iPhone 12 Pro is outside your comfortable spending range, you should definitely consider its cheaper counterpart, the iPhone 12 ($799/$829), or even the iPhone 11 ($599).



Final Thoughts

The most obvious decision point between the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max falls comes down to screen size. The camera enhancements of the iPhone 12 Pro Max also make it the best iPhone for photography and videography. Likewise, heavy battery users will value the added capacity.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max represents the most you can get out of an iPhone in all areas, but that does not necessarily translate into a worthwhile purchase for all users. A large 6.7-inch phone is not for everyone. Some may consider the iPhone 12 Pro Max's size excessive or uncomfortably large, while others will love the larger display for consuming media.

Screen size is ultimately a matter of personal preference, and Apple offers the ‌iPhone 12‌ and iPhone 12 Pro lineup in three different sizes to meet all users' needs. Since the ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro and ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro Max share almost all features except for some camera hardware, it comes down to individual taste. The added $100 in price seems a fair trade for the added size, battery life and camera features.


Article Link: iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Buyer's Guide
 
Last edited:

farewelwilliams

macrumors 68040
Jun 18, 2014
3,500
14,449
The Telephoto lens on the ‌iPhone 12 Pro‌ Max has a larger ƒ/2.2 aperture, rather than the ƒ/2.0 aperture of the ‌iPhone 12 Pro‌.

I think that's wrong. f/2.0 allows more light. Pro Max has a longer telephoto lens which is unable to let in more light.

Also, Pro Max sensor has a larger sensor for the wide camera with larger pixels which Pro doesn't have I believe. Pro Max's wide camera will have better low light performance than Pro.
 

jambon

Contributor
Jul 15, 2010
102
104
London
As I understand it the focal length of the telephoto on the pro is superior to the pro max (lower is better ie 2 vs 2.2 and lets in more light). However, the zoom capabilities of the pro max (2.5x vs 2) is clearly the more important and superior feature.

Edit: three of us have said the same..
 

FaustsHausUK

macrumors 6502
Mar 11, 2010
366
479
Chicago, IL
Definitely going with the Pro Max this time around. I take a _lot_ of photos and videos on my phone, it's pretty much the main use when my Mac or iPad is within reach as I find big screens better for everything else. Might as well get the best camera now, and hold on to the device longer.
 

Blackstick

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2014
714
2,977
Sunny South Florida
I'm going from an X to a plain-Jane 12. Like it or not, we'll be living the mask life next Fall (at least, in the USA), and Apple will most certainly add the TouchID sensor to the sleep/wake button on the next iPhone... so I might do a quick turn around in 11 months.
 

roland.g

macrumors 604
Apr 11, 2005
6,841
2,175
Maybe MR can't weigh in, but I'd love to see some info on the difference between the US carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile as far as what we can expect from 5G, now and soon. Everything I have read indicates T-Mobile with their midband has the best coverage and highest average 5G speeds for iPhone 12.
 

jclo

Editor
Staff member
Dec 7, 2012
1,668
3,344
California
I think that's wrong. f/2.0 allows more light. Pro Max has a longer telephoto lens which is unable to let in more light.

Also, Pro Max sensor has a larger sensor for the wide camera with larger pixels which Pro doesn't have I believe. Pro Max's wide camera will have better low light performance than Pro.

Thanks! We've addressed this and fixed that information.
 

Adoniram

macrumors regular
Aug 7, 2016
111
111
Fort Worth, TX

It's hard to say. The focal length is longer (because it has higher zoom), and the aperture = focalLength/fStop.

So... lower fStop means larger aperture at a fixed focalLength, but both have been adjusted.

Perhaps someone else wants to take a stab at what the focal length is? It's a function of pixels, pixel size (or rather, the sensor size), and the FOV of the lens. Well, that's one way to do it.

**Edit** if you attempt the above, make sure you use the actual focal length, not the 35 mm-film-equivalent length (which is 52 mm)
 
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nwcs

macrumors 68000
Sep 21, 2009
1,914
2,534
Tennessee
How about an overlap comparison of the first iPhone SE and the 12 mini? I think those of us who remember the size of the 5 and SE want to see how the mini relates to it rather than the larger 12 or 12 pro.
 
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aperture01

macrumors member
Jun 27, 2007
69
11
Washington, DC
I think that's wrong. f/2.0 allows more light. Pro Max has a longer telephoto lens which is unable to let in more light.

Also, Pro Max sensor has a larger sensor for the wide camera with larger pixels which Pro doesn't have I believe. Pro Max's wide camera will have better low light performance than Pro.

This is correct. It’s written wrong In the article. An f2.0 is a LARGER aperture than f2.2. It lets in MORE light. However the sensor size is larger in the max pro which they’re saying allows more light despite this difference.

So mad about these camera specs on the Pro vs Pro Max. I had a 6 plus one time and I couldn’t wait to upgrade to get rid of that thing. The big phones just do it fo me. That said, I want to see some real world comparisons of the camera performance. Is it really that much better? I decided against ordering today until some actual reviews come out.

Looking at these camera bumps you could seriously shoot almost anything with this thing now. It’s not going to kill a cinema camera or high end DSLR/Mirrorless and what not, but having all 3 lenses like this with OIS and 4K 60FPS 10-bit HDR. That’s insane. Really it’s is. People are going to strap batteries to these things and start using them for more serious video shoots.
 
Last edited:

farewelwilliams

macrumors 68040
Jun 18, 2014
3,500
14,449
This is correct. It’s written wrong. a 2.0 is a larger aperture. More light. However the sensor size is larger in the max pro which they’re saying allows more light despite this difference.

So mad about these camera things on the Pro vs Pro Max. I had a 6 plus one time and I couldn’t wait to upgrade to get rid of that thing. Want to see some real world comparisons of the camera performance.

I believe the larger sensor size is only for the Wide, not the Telephoto lens.
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Jul 11, 2014
279
773
Boston
This is correct. It’s written wrong. a 2.0 is a larger aperture. More light. However the sensor size is larger in the max pro which they’re saying allows more light despite this difference.

So mad about these camera things on the Pro vs Pro Max. I had a 6 plus one time and I couldn’t wait to upgrade to get rid of that thing. Want to see some real world comparisons of the camera performance.

The wide angle lens sensor is larger. Doesn't say about other lenses, which I assume are the same across Pro and Pro Max.
[automerge]1602882308[/automerge]
Thanks! We've addressed this and fixed that information.

As I mentioned f-stop number is the ratio between focal length and aperture diameter, so assuming the sensors are the same size the aperture is still physically 13.6% larger on the Pro Max tele lens.
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Jul 11, 2014
279
773
Boston
It's hard to say. The focal length is longer (because it has higher zoom), and the aperture = focalLength/fStop.

So... lower fStop means larger aperture at a fixed focalLength, but both have been adjusted.

Perhaps someone else wants to take a stab at what the focal length is? It's a function of pixels, pixel size (or rather, the sensor size), and the FOV of the lens. Well, that's one way to do it.

**Edit** if you attempt the above, make sure you use the actual focal length, not the 35 mm-film-equivalent length (which is 52 mm)

I believe it is 6mm on the Pro and 7.5mm on the Pro Max.
 

840quadra

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 1, 2005
8,198
3,486
Twin Cities Minnesota
I don't like that Apple is taking steps backwards, making a divide in their flagship phone camera systems. If size (especially depth) is a factor, make the dang smaller phone 1-2 mm thicker. Was always frustrating being a small phone user, but (back in the day) not being included in having a telephoto lens. The iPhone X changed all of that, and here we are starting to separate the two flagship sizes yet again.
 

Ds6778

macrumors 6502a
Sep 9, 2016
826
2,512
I don’t think we will be able to really know until there are some comparisons. It kinda sucks that you either have to wait until the Pro Max comes out and then decide, or you buy the 12 Pro now and return if the Max is that much better. I would say that while percentages look great on a slide, it does not always reflect reality lol.
 

ghanwani

macrumors 68020
Dec 8, 2008
2,052
1,481
There are too many choices and this pairwise comparison is confusing. Can you please just create a flow chart titled "The perfect iPhone for you"? Thanks.
 
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farewelwilliams

macrumors 68040
Jun 18, 2014
3,500
14,449
I don't like that Apple is taking steps backwards, making a divide in their flagship phone camera systems. If size (especially depth) is a factor, make the dang smaller phone 1-2 mm thicker. Was always frustrating being a small phone user, but (back in the day) not being included in having a telephoto lens. The iPhone X changed all of that, and here we are starting to separate the two flagship sizes yet again.
I'm no hardware engineer, but it seems like sensor shift requires more width and height of the module, not thickness.

Here's the Pro's camera over the Pro Max phone.
Screen Shot 2020-10-16 at 2.13.09 PM.png
 
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