The iPhone 12’s design feels like a bit of a greatest hits album, merging the notched, all-screen front first introduced on the game-changing iPhone X, with flat sides reminiscent of the iconic iPhone 4, as well as the iPad Pro since 2018.
With its shiny white glass back and silver aluminium rails, the iPhone 12 we were given to review is particularly iPhone 4-like, and we really love it. Apple might shift more green, blue and red iPhone 12s in the long run, but there’s something pleasingly nostalgic about the white and silver offering that just feels classic. The white is also better for hiding smudges than its colourful counterparts, which is good, as the glass back is a magnet for them.
While some will no doubt prefer the shiny stainless steel band that wraps the Pro, we tend to favour the smooth aluminium on the cheaper model. And eschewing the heavier metal frame means the 12 feels shockingly light (162g) in the hands. It’s thinner and smaller than the 11 and is therefore far easier to wield one-handed. For the most part, this is simply a beautiful device, even if it lacks the wow factor of the curved displays you’ll find on the flashiest Android flagships.
For the iPhone 12, Apple is also introducing a new kind of protective glass coating that it’s calling Ceramic Shield on the phone’s front.. The company claims it’s tougher than any smartphone glass, with 4x better drop performance, and while we’re reluctant to test this claim too vigorously, we’ve deliberately resisted precious handling of the phone and as yet it remains in good nick. Most people will still opt to put a case on it anyway. Once again you’re getting IP68 water and dust resistance, so rest assured that your new £799 smartphone is about as durable as you could reasonably hope for.
It’s not all good though; the raised camera bump on the back is still a bit of an eyesore, and worse, causes the phone to rattle on a hard surface if you’re using it caseless. And Apple continues to ignore cries to follow the iPad Pro’s lead and put USB-C charging on the iPhone. We’re stuck with Lightning, and now MagSafe (for more on the new magnetic charging solution see the iPhone 12 Pro review) has been resurrected, if anything the future of iPhone looks portless entirely.
You’ll notice when you unbox your new iPhone 12 that it no longer comes with EarPods or a charging plug, with Apple ditching both as part of its ongoing environment-saving quest. Problem is, you get a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box, and until recently iPhones shipped with a USB-A lead. So if you don’t have the correct USB-C plug handy you’ll need to buy one from Apple or elsewhere. We spot a flaw in the logic.
And Face ID remains the only way to unlock your phone without entering a passcode. It’s still blazingly fast and reliable when your whole mush is on show, but in the age of coronavirus, it presents a problem. Face ID can’t see through masks, so when you’re out and about you either have to remove the one you’re wearing (not always legal) or go back to entering a code to use your phone. It’s incredibly frustrating, and we struggle to see why Apple couldn’t have built a fingerprint sensor into the power button, as it did with the new iPad Air.