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iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro Buyer's Guide

MacRumors

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Original poster
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This month, Apple unveiled the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro as the successors to the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, with a new squared-off industrial design, the A14 Bionic chip, OLED displays, and MagSafe across the lineup.



The iPhone 12 starts at $799 ($829 for some carriers), while the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999. As Apple's latest iPhones share a large number of features, should you consider purchasing the lower-cost model to save money, or opt for the high-end Pro model? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.

Comparing the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share an overwhelming majority of features, such as display size, processor, and 5G. Apple lists these same features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro:

Similarities

  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi, featuring HDR, True Tone, P3 Wide Color, and Haptic Touch
  • A14 Bionic chip
  • Sub-6GHz 5G connectivity (and mmWave in the U.S.)
  • 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide cameras
  • Face ID
  • Battery life with up to 17 hours of video playback
  • Ceramic Shield front
  • Water resistant to a depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes
  • Compatible with MagSafe accessories and wireless chargers
  • Available in 128GB and 256GB
  • Lightning connector

Apple's breakdown shows that the iPhones share a number of notable features. Even so, there are some key differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, including the LiDAR Scanner and Telephoto Lens.

Differences


iPhone 12
  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 625 nits max brightness
  • Aerospace-grade aluminum
  • 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide camera lenses
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom out, 2x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 5x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 30 fps
  • Available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB
  • Available in Blue, Green, PRODUCT(RED), White, and Black
  • 4GB of RAM *


iPhone 12 Pro
  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 800 nits max brightness
  • Surgical-grade stainless steel
  • 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto camera lenses
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 4x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 10x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 60 fps
  • Apple ProRAW and Night mode portraits
  • LiDAR Scanner for Night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences
  • Available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB
  • Available in Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver
  • 6GB of RAM *


Note that the iPhone 12 Pro Max provides a few additional improvements over the iPhone 12 Pro beyond a much larger 6.7-inch display. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also offers a wider optical zoom range, sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a telephoto lens with a larger aperture, and longer battery life.

Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both iPhones have to offer.

Design and Colors

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both have a squared-off industrial design with a flat band around the sides. The dimensions of both devices are identical, although the iPhone 12 is 25 grams lighter. More noticeable is the use of different materials and finishes.

The iPhone 12 uses aerospace-grade aluminum on the edges and a single piece of polished glass on the rear, while the iPhone 12 Pro uses surgical-grade stainless steel on the edges and a single piece of matte glass on the rear.

iPhone 12 colors


The two devices also use completely different color palettes. The iPhone 12 is available in Blue, Green, PRODUCT(RED), White, and Black, while the iPhone 12 Pro is available in Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver.

iPhone 12 Pro colors


The iPhone 12 Pro espouses a more luxurious appearance, but the iPhone 12 still looks like a premium device. As the designs are so similar, and only vary in terms of color options and materials, preference for the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro will come down to personal taste.

Cameras

The main difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is the rear camera setup. The iPhone 12 has a dual 12MP camera system with Ultra Wide and Wide lenses. This facilitates a two-times zoom out. On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro has a 12MP camera system with Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto lenses. This allows it to offer a two-times zoom in and a two-times zoom out. For video, iPhone 12 Pro can record HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 60 fps, but iPhone 12 can only do this up to 30fps.

The iPhone 12 Pro also has a LiDAR Scanner, which allows for Night mode portrait photos and enhanced AR experiences.

iPhone 12 Pro triple camera


Beyond hardware, the two devices offer different camera software features. iPhone 12 can use digital zoom to zoom in up to five times, but iPhone 12 Pro doubles this to a ten times digital zoom. iPhone 12 Pro can also capture photos using "Apple ProRAW," a new RAW file format that takes full advantage of the device's rear cameras.

iPhone 12 dual camera



iPhone 12 Pro clearly provides a more capable and fully-featured camera experience, so users who prioritize photo and video capabilities should get the more expensive device, and even consider the iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, beyond the telephoto lens, many of these features, such as Apple ProRAW and LiDAR, will not be important to the majority of users. For most people, the iPhone 12's camera setup will be more than sufficient, and still offers a range of significant advances, such as HDR video recording with Dolby Vision, Night mode time-lapses, and front-facing Night mode and Deep Fusion.

Other iPhone Options

If you feel that the iPhone 12 is slightly out of your budget, and you do not need the new industrial design, 5G connectivity, the latest A14 chip, or OLED Super Retina XDR display, you may wish to consider the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 uses the same materials as the iPhone 12, has the same 6.1-inch screen size, and starts at $599. The iPhone 11's A13 chip and dual-camera setup are still highly capable for day to day use.


iPhone 11


iPhone 12 Pro Max


If you feel that the iPhone 12 Pro is too small or you want the absolute best iPhone camera available, you may wish to consider the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts a much larger 6.7-inch display, and comes with a wider optical zoom range, sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a telephoto lens with a larger aperture, and longer battery life.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro offers minor advancements over the iPhone 12 in terms of materials and the rear camera. The iPhone 12 Pro is $200 more than the iPhone 12, and many people will find it difficult to justify the additional $200 simply for more premium materials and a better rear camera setup. Those opting for the iPhone 12 Pro will be seeking the most premium iPhone, or be interested in specific features such as the LiDAR Scanner or the Telephoto lens.

Since the two phones share a large majority of features, including design, an OLED Super Retina XDR display, 5G connectivity, the A14 Bionic chip, battery life, and MagSafe, it is difficult to actively recommend the more expensive model. As the improvements of the iPhone 12 Pro are minor and specific, most people should get the iPhone 12.

One caveat to this recommendation is if you have a need for more than 64GB of storage. The iPhone 12 starts at 64GB for the base model while the iPhone 12 Pro starts at 128GB. If you want or need 128GB or more, then the price gap closes between the models.

Article Link: iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro Buyer's Guide
 
Last edited:
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I7guy

macrumors Penryn
Nov 30, 2013
24,077
12,254
Gotta be in it to win it


This month, Apple unveiled the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro as the successors to the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, with a new squared-off industrial design, the A14 Bionic chip, OLED displays, and MagSafe across the lineup.



The iPhone 12 starts at $799, while the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999. As Apple's latest iPhones share a large number of features, should you consider purchasing the lower-cost model to save money, or opt for the high-end Pro model? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.

Comparing the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share an overwhelming majority of features, such as display size, processor, and 5G. Apple lists these same features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro:

Similarities

  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi, featuring HDR, True Tone, P3 Wide Color, and Haptic Touch
  • A14 Bionic chip
  • Sub-6GHz 5G connectivity (and mmWave in the U.S.)
  • 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide cameras
  • Face ID
  • Battery life with up to 17 hours of video playback
  • Ceramic Shield front
  • Water resistant to a depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes
  • Compatible with MagSafe accessories and wireless chargers
  • Available in 128GB and 256GB
  • Lightning connector

Apple's breakdown shows that the iPhones share a number of notable features. Even so, there are some key differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, including the LiDAR Scanner and Telephoto Lens.

Differences


iPhone 12

  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 625 nits max brightness
  • Aerospace-grade aluminum
  • 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide camera lenses
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom out, 2x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 5x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 30 fps
  • Available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB
  • Available in Blue, Green, PRODUCT(RED), White, and Black


iPhone 12 Pro
  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 800 nits max brightness
  • Surgical-grade stainless steel
  • 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto camera lenses
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 4x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 10x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 60 fps
  • Apple ProRAW and Night mode portraits
  • LiDAR Scanner for Night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences
  • Available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB
  • Available in Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver


Note that the iPhone 12 Pro Max provides a few additional improvements over the iPhone 12 Pro beyond a much larger 6.7-inch display. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also offers a wider optical zoom range, sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a telephoto lens with a larger aperture, and longer battery life.

Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both iPhones have to offer.

Design and Colors

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both have a squared-off industrial design with a flat band around the sides. The dimensions of both devices are identical, although the iPhone 12 is 25 grams lighter. More noticeable is the use of different materials and finishes.

The iPhone 12 uses aerospace-grade aluminum on the edges and a single piece of polished glass on the rear, while the iPhone 12 Pro uses surgical-grade stainless steel on the edges and a single piece of matte glass on the rear.


iPhone 12 colors


The two devices also use completely different color palettes. The iPhone 12 is available in Blue, Green, PRODUCT(RED), White, and Black, while the iPhone 12 Pro is available in Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver.


iPhone 12 Pro colors


The iPhone 12 Pro espouses a more luxurious appearance, but the iPhone 12 still looks like a premium device. As the designs are so similar, and only vary in terms of color options and materials, preference for the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro will come down to personal taste.

Cameras

The main difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is the rear camera setup. The iPhone 12 has a dual 12MP camera system with Ultra Wide and Wide lenses. This facilitates a two-times zoom out. On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro has a 12MP camera system with Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto lenses. This allows it to offer a two-times zoom in and a two-times zoom out. For video, iPhone 12 Pro can record HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 60 fps, but iPhone 12 can only do this up to 30fps.

The iPhone 12 Pro also has a LiDAR Scanner, which allows for Night mode portrait photos and enhanced AR experiences.


iPhone 12 Pro triple camera


Beyond hardware, the two devices offer different camera software features. iPhone 12 can use digital zoom to zoom in up to five times, but iPhone 12 Pro doubles this to a ten times digital zoom. iPhone 12 Pro can also capture photos using "Apple ProRAW," a new RAW file format that takes full advantage of the device's rear cameras.


iPhone 12 dual camera



iPhone 12 Pro clearly provides a more capable and fully-featured camera experience, so users who prioritize photo and video capabilities should get the more expensive device, and even consider the iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, beyond the telephoto lens, many of these features, such as Apple ProRAW and LiDAR, will not be important to the majority of users. For most people, the iPhone 12's camera setup will be more than sufficient, and still offers a range of significant advances, such as HDR video recording with Dolby Vision, Night mode time-lapses, and front-facing Night mode and Deep Fusion.

Other iPhone Options

If you feel that the iPhone 12 is slightly out of your budget, and you do not need the new industrial design, 5G connectivity, the latest A14 chip, or OLED Super Retina XDR display, you may wish to consider the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 uses the same materials as the iPhone 12, has the same 6.1-inch screen size, and starts at $599. The iPhone 11's A13 chip and dual-camera setup are still highly capable for day to day use.



iPhone 11


iPhone 12 Pro Max


If you feel that the iPhone 12 Pro is too small or you want the absolute best iPhone camera available, you may wish to consider the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts a much larger 6.7-inch display, and comes with a wider optical zoom range, sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a telephoto lens with a larger aperture, and longer battery life.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro offers minor advancements over the iPhone 12 in terms of materials and the rear camera. The iPhone 12 Pro is $200 more than the iPhone 12, and many people will find it difficult to justify the additional $200 simply for more premium materials and a better rear camera setup. Those opting for the iPhone 12 Pro will be seeking the most premium iPhone, or be interested in specific features such as the LiDAR Scanner or the Telephoto lens.

Since the two phones share a large majority of features, including design, an OLED Super Retina XDR display, 5G connectivity, the A14 Bionic chip, battery life, and MagSafe, it is difficult to actively recommend the more expensive model. As the improvements of the iPhone 12 Pro are minor and specific, most people should get the iPhone 12.

Article Link: iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro Buyer's Guide
You are probably right that "most people should get the iphone 12." But after using my XS Max, I can't downsize...so the iphone 12 pro max it is.
 
Last edited:

AskMcG

macrumors regular
Aug 2, 2014
114
107
1: technically it’s $150 more if you compare proper specs. iPhone 12 starts at 64GB storage, the pro comes in at 128. If you bump up the 12 to 128, then it’s $150 difference not $200

2: if they are correct, the iPhone 12 has 4GB RAM and the Pro has 6GB.

To me personally, having stainless steel and the extra 2GB of RAM is enough to go pro, especially since I intend to keep it until it’s unusable.
 

Noah Bloom

macrumors newbie
Oct 13, 2020
13
65
it's less than $200 if you can't live with only 64GB though.
which I can't. 128gb is perfect though, won't have to pay an extra $100 for the 256gb like I did for the 11 pro! if the 12/12mini base model was 128gb I'd heavily consider (I actually think the lighter aluminum build may be a plus over the pro since the steel band is covered with a case anyways), but with $999 model being 128, might as well get the better camera and have some fun with ProRaw when it comes out. May even sell my Panasonic GH5 if I can manipulate the video image to look a bit less "smart-phone" like with all that extra data.
 

Northern Man

Suspended
Aug 25, 2013
2,054
3,166
1: technically it’s $150 more if you compare proper specs. iPhone 12 starts at 64GB storage, the pro comes in at 128. If you bump up the 12 to 128, then it’s $150 difference not $200

2: if they are correct, the iPhone 12 has 4GB RAM and the Pro has 6GB.

To me personally, having stainless steel and the extra 2GB of RAM is enough to go pro, especially since I intend to keep it until it’s unusable.
Which phone do you currently have?
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Sep 16, 2008
2,229
187
Apples to Apples, compare the 128 gb models and factor in the true pricing which is $30 more for the non-Pro.

KEY Differences

iPhone 12

  • 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide camera lenses
    • Optical image stabilization
    • 2x optical zoom out, 2x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 5x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 30 fps
  • 4GB of RAM *


iPhone 12 Pro
  • 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto cameralenses
    • Dual optical image stabilization
    • 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 4x optical zoom range, and digital zoom up to 10x
  • Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 60 fps
  • LiDAR Scanner for Night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences
  • 6GB of RAM *

So really, it's just $120 more for telephoto, higher frame rate, LiDAR, and more RAM.
 
Last edited:

dvanwinkle

macrumors member
Feb 9, 2009
61
121
Ohio
I think the iPhone 12 Pro is actually, minor, but figured you'd want to know:

2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out;

At least from what Apple said at the intro and the web site:

Not:
2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out


Directly from your linked specs:

2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 4x optical zoom range (iPhone 12 Pro)
Digital zoom up to 10x (iPhone 12 Pro)
2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 5x optical zoom range (iPhone 12 Pro Max)
Digital zoom up to 12x (iPhone 12 Pro Max)
 
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jimbobb24

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
1,330
1,757
That is pretty tiny differences. Why even have the 12 Pro small?

Except the telephoto. Once I had that on a camera I can never go back. Why give the 12 an ultra wide? Do people use that more than telephoto? I almost never use that and use telefoto nearly everyday.
 

AskMcG

macrumors regular
Aug 2, 2014
114
107
Which phone do you currently have?

11 Pro Max, updated from the X, updated from the 6S Plus. To be honest, the only reason I am even upgrading is because the 6.5 feels too big for me. I got it because of my 1.5+ hours commuting, to be able to watch videos and such, with with Pandemic I don't have a commute and don't foresee one anytime soon, so I don't need that big of a phone when the iPad is accessible at all times. So, I want to downsize. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't even upgrade.
 

Deinocheirus

macrumors regular
Oct 5, 2020
236
285
It really just comes down to the Telephoto lens. If you've gotten used to using that over the years (like I have), you're not going to give that up. The Telephoto is monumentally useful. It allows you to take shots that would be otherwise impossible or unremarkable when taken with the Wide lens. And the Ultra Wide lens is nice, but its a small step away from being a gimmick. It can take some interesting pictures but its not something you would use normally. Telephoto is.

The extra RAM is NOT a reason to buy the Pro. The extra RAM serves a very specific purpose, and we can even point to them. Dolby Vision recording at 60 fps vs. 30 fps, and Apple ProRAW. These are distinct software features that have NO other hardware limitation other than memory. The extra 2 GB is there to serve those features. Apple does not add more RAM than is absolutely needed because the OS and user experience do not need it and the battery would suffer needlessly if they did.
 

Gatto37

macrumors newbie
Mar 29, 2016
21
10
Minor differences between iPhone 12 or 12 pro. Most customers who buy the pro/pro max are absolutley not interested in benchmark results, or RAM sizes, or professional photography. These products are so fast that average users won't notice any difference. They change their iPhones each year basicly to get more attention on social media, and public places, and this attention costs 200$ more... (Apple knows that for sure!) So simple it is! I bet the new pacific blue model will be the super best selling iPhone 12 pro EVER!
 

dr_lha

macrumors 68000
Oct 8, 2003
1,597
13
I've been struggling against 64Gb this year, so I already decided to go 128Gb. Given this and the $30 premium if you don't go through your carrier, the Pro seems like a no-brainer for the extra $120, especially as I often finding that I wish my camera had a zoom. Only thing pushing me to the cheaper model is I prefer the blue on the non-Pro.
 
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