Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Vs. iPhone 12: Which Is Best For You?
CRN compares the two similarly sized models of the iPhone 12 series on their displays, cameras, storage options and other features.
Buying a new iPhone used to be a fairly simple decision: did you want the smaller model or the larger one? But in 2021, there’s a lot more to think about. Apple has introduced five new iPhone models over the past year, including a record four new iPhones in the fall with the iPhone 12 series as well as a second-gen model of the compact-sized iPhone SE. For anyone who knows they don’t want the smallest or the largest models, though, the choice should be simpler--and probably has come down to an iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 decision. Why? Because those are the “typical” size phones in the current Apple iPhone portfolio--not as small as the SE or iPhone 12 Mini, but not as massive as the iPhone 12 Pro Max. For many users, the iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 might be “just right” -- at least on size. There’s more to consider, though, including around specs and features such as the camera system, battery life, RAM and storage--and, of course, the difference on iPhone 12 and 12 Pro price.
Which of the two phones is the better choice for you? What follows is our match-up of Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 on specs, features and price.
Display And Overall Size
If you’re looking for differences that set apart the iPhone 12 Pro from the base-model iPhone 12, the displays and overall sizes of the phones are not among them. Apple has used an identical form factor and, apparently, a near-identical display on both phones--to the point that protective cases for the iPhone 12 fit the iPhone 12 Pro as well. Both iPhones feature a 6.1-inch display with “Super Retina XDR” OLED technology and resolution of 2,532 x 1,170 (460 pixels per inch, or ppi)--offering the sort of vivid, colorful and sharp display quality that users in 2021 demand. The use of OLED display technology on both phones is a notable change from the past--previously, with the iPhone 11 and earlier base-level models, the display technology used was LCD and the Pro models were the only ones with OLED. But now, OLED is not an advantage that the iPhone 12 Pro can claim vs the iPhone 12, with Apple instituting OLED displays across the iPhone 12 line. Apple’s specs for the two phones suggest just one slight difference on the displays -- the iPhone 12 Pro features a typical max brightness of 800 nits, vs 624 nits on the iPhone 12.
It’s worth noting that Apple did shake up the design for the iPhone 12 series, though again, this isn’t something that will distinguish the iPhone 12 vs 12 Pro. The entire iPhone 12 lineup has shifted to a flat-edge design that makes them boxier than previous iPhones, which had featured a curved-edge design. The redesign removes the border that once separated the display and the stainless-steel body--allowing the glass and aluminum body to stay flush.
5G, Performance And Battery Life
Finally, Apple has outfitted the new iPhones with 5G support. Both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro offer high-speed 5G connectivity—with both supporting the two main varieties of 5G. That is, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro support both sub-6GHz 5G connectivity--which is the more widely available type of 5G—as well as the higher-speed “millimeter-wave” 5G service (or mmWave).
On performance, users shouldn’t notice a difference between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. Both use the same processor, Apple’s speedy six-core A14 Bionic. And benchmark results reported using Geekbench 5 showed nearly identical results between the two iPhones on both single-core and multi-core tasks.
On battery life, both devices reportedly feature the same-sized battery, with a capacity of 2,815 mAh. Interestingly, Apple discloses that battery life should be slightly better on the iPhone 12 Pro, with up to 20 hours of video playback possible, vs 17 hours on the iPhone 12.
RAM And Storage
Users that want the best specs possible might want to take note of a pair of differences between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. For one thing, while the two phones share the same CPU, reports indicate that the iPhone 12 Pro comes with a larger amount of RAM at 6 GB--which could help to enable better performance in some scenarios, such as mobile gaming, when compared to the iPhone 12 with its reported 4 GB of RAM.
Storage options are among the other internal specs that differ between the two iPhones. While the iPhone 12 starts out with 64 GB of storage, the iPhone 12 Pro base model offers double that amount at 128 GB. And the differences don’t stop there. While both devices offer three storage configurations, the iPhone 12 Pro provides double the storage in all cases--with choices between 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB. That’s compared to the iPhone 12 storage options of 64 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB. For buyers that are expecting to take a lot of photos and videos with their new iPhone, the storage options alone might be a key deciding factor in favor of the iPhone 12 Pro.
Speaking of taking photos and videos, that brings us to the biggest difference of all in our iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 comparison: the camera. Really, the main reason that a person would consider the iPhone 12 Pro--and accept its higher price tag--is to get the higher-end camera system. The iPhone 12 Pro features a three-camera system on the rear of wide, ultra-wide and telephoto cameras (12 megapixels each). By contrast, the iPhone 12 rear camera setup includes just a dual camera, of wide and ultra-wide sensors, at 12 megapixels a piece. And the differences don’t stop there. While both camera systems offer 2X optical zoom out, the iPhone 12 Pro offers 10X digital zoom, compared to 5X digital zoom on the base-model iPhone 12 camera.
Two other camera differences stand out on the iPhone 12 Pro camera. The first is the inclusion of a LiDAR scanner for enabling improved augmented reality and faster autofocus in Night Mode and other low-light situations (up to 6X faster autofocus in those environments, according to Apple). Additionally, the iPhone 12 Pro camera system offers enhanced HDR video recording with Dolby Vision--with the ability to shoot at up to 60 fps, compared to a max of 30 fps on the iPhone 12 camera.
Otherwise, many of the camera features on the two iPhones are shared--such as Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh and depth control; Portrait Lighting with six effects; Panorama; and Apple’s Deep Fusion computational photography capabilities.
Colors And Other Features
If color is a factor in your buying decision, that’s one of the other noticeable differences between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. For the iPhone 12, color choices consist of black, white, red, green and blue. The color options on the iPhone 12 Pro are fancier--silver, graphite, gold and “Pacific Blue.” Apple also says it has designed the iPhone 12 Pro with a “textured matte glass back” instead of the standard glass back on the iPhone 12.
In terms of other features, the redesign of the iPhone 12 series models has brought improvements to durability. The displays feature what Apple is calling “Ceramic Shield” material, which involves using high-temperature crystallization to improve toughness. The drop protection on the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro is now 4X better, according to Apple. The devices also get improved water resistance (with a rating of IP68 under IEC standard 60529)—signifying protection against a plunge into a depth of 6 meters for 30 minutes.
Additionally, for the iPhone 12 series, Apple has introduced support for magnetically attachable MagSafe accessories. The accessories can snap onto the back of the phone, as a way to enable wireless charging or attaching the device to a magnetic car mount.
To summarize, the two biggest differences between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are the camera and the storage options. That makes sense--the user that is willing to spring for the better camera system on the iPhone 12 Pro is also more likely to want to load up their phone with videos and photos. Thus, Apple’s inclusion of 128 GB of storage on the iPhone 12 Pro base model should be kept in mind when considering the starting prices of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. For the starting iPhone 12 Pro price, you’ll pay $999. The starting iPhone 12 price comes in at $200 cheaper--$799. But, since that base model iPhone 12 only gives you 64 GB of storage, a fairer comparison might be to look at the pricing for the 128 GB model of the iPhone 12. And that model is priced $50 higher, at $849. Suddenly, the iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 price difference doesn’t seem quite as significant, does it? As long as you think you’ll use the storage--and chances are, you eventually will--you really only are paying an extra $150 to get the iPhone 12 Pro over the closest configuration on iPhone 12. That may seem like a lot to pay just to get a better camera, and we admit that most users will do just fine with the iPhone 12--which is by far the most popular iPhone model. But some buyers also will no doubt appreciate the extra camera and better camera capabilities for low-light situations, zooming and HDR video recording of the iPhone 12 Pro.