From its sleek new design to its 5G support, the iPhone 12 series marks one of Apple’s biggest smartphone upgrades in years. And the iPhone 12 Pro (starting at $999) has proven to be an especially big upgrade for me, coming from the now-dated iPhone 8 Plus that was released in the ancient, pre-pandemic times of 2017.
We gave Apple’s latest flagship handset high marks in our review, thanks to its great camera, blazing A14 processor and strong battery life. And while those features have proven to be key in my day-to-day use, there are plenty of other quirks — both good and bad — that I’ve discovered having lived with an iPhone 12 Pro for around two months. If you’re wondering how the iPhone 12 Pro holds up after long-term use, here are the biggest pros and cons I’ve experienced with one of the most popular smartphones you can buy right now.
The new camera is a game changer
As someone who upgraded from an aging iPhone 8 Plus, I was immediately struck by just how incredible the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera is. While the 8 Plus’ dual-camera setup is no slouch, the 12 Pro’s advanced triple-camera array unlocks a whole new level of color and detail when I’m out taking shots on my daily walks around Queens. Everything from the green of a grassy field to the blue of a sunny sky looks richer than ever, and I can make out even the tiniest ripples of water along the East River. Apple’s new phone has also been a godsend for work, allowing me to take professional-grade product shots for reviews and record crisp 4K video at 60 frames per second.
I’ve been having a blast taking dramatic portrait mode selfies with the 12 Pro’s 12-megapixel front camera, and my camera roll is loading up quicker than ever with gorgeous bokeh shots of my dog (who is probably getting sick of my antics at this point). Low-light photography is literally a night and day difference, as shots I took around my neighborhood late in the evening looked like they were taken in the afternoon. My Instagram Stories have never been the same.
A gorgeous design that does more with less
The iPhone 12 Pro also marks a big upgrade from my previous iPhone on the design front. I love having a phone that’s more compact than my 8 Plus while still delivering a bigger 6.1-inch screen. The flat edges are a nice throwback to my beloved iPhone 4S, and my 12 Pro’s Pacific Blue finish is one of the most beautiful color schemes Apple’s ever released. Heck, if the AirPods Max weren’t so expensive, I could see myself getting a blue pair of Apple’s new headphones to match my phone.
There are lots of other, smaller features I’ve been enjoying as someone new to Apple’s more modern iPhones, including the ability to harass my friends with Memoji videos that turn my head into a silly animated avatar. And while it’s not exclusive to the iPhone 12 range, I can’t stress enough how great Apple’s new iOS 14 software has been. Being able to finally load my home screen with widgets that let me check the weather at a glance or quickly see my upcoming meetings has been a huge convenience that I take advantage of every single day.
The lack of Touch ID is a real pain
If there’s one thing I miss about my iPhone 8 Plus, it’s the ability to unlock my phone with a fingerprint via Touch ID — especially when I’m wearing a face mask anytime I leave the house. I still get frustrated every time I have to manually enter my password when I open my phone on the go, all because I’m trying to responsibly shield the outside world from my respiratory droplets.
Granted, Face ID works like a charm when I’m at home, and there’s always the affordable iPhone SE for those who want a modern and powerful iPhone that still has a fingerprint scanner. But while I can’t fault Apple for not predicting a global pandemic when designing the iPhone 12, I do wish the new phone took a page out of the iPad Air 4’s playbook by featuring a Touch ID scanner on the power button. This would allow the iPhone 12 range to retain its slick, nearly bezel-less display while still giving us an easy way to unlock our phone while masked up.
The iPhone still won’t embrace USB-C
Also, as my apartment continues to fill up with disparate gadgets that all use the universal USB-C connection for charging, I’m getting more frustrated with Apple’s decision to stick with its proprietary Lightning port. At this point, I can charge everything from my Oculus Quest 2 headset to Apple’s own MacBook Pro with a USB-C cable, but I still have to switch over to a Lightning wire for my iPhone. While Apple dropped the power brick and EarPods from its latest iPhones in the name of sustainability, I can’t help but think that the company’s efforts toward reducing waste would go even further if its smartphones could work with the litany of USB-C cables many people already have.
There’s also the issue of the USB-C to Lightning charger that comes with every iPhone 12. As a tech writer, I’m lucky enough to have plenty of USB-C power bricks lying around. But for consumers upgrading from older iPhones, this change forces you to pay up for a new adapter (such as this $19 model Apple sells) or miss out on the faster 20-watt charging made possible by the new cable that comes in the box. Speaking of additional purchases, I’ve yet to try out the iPhone 12’s fast wireless MagSafe charging technology, since it requires paying up for a separate MagSafe Charger, such as the $39 one offered by Apple.
Does 5G matter?
The iPhone 12 Pro is also the first phone I’ve owned with 5G support, which feels like a solution to a problem I don’t have yet. While it’s great that my iPhone can take advantage of faster-than-ever cellular connections for smoothly browsing the web and streaming video, the reality is that I spend 90% of my time using my phone on my home Wi-Fi due to the pandemic.
I did notice some decent gains when testing the iPhone 12 Pro’s 5G speeds in my apartment in Queens, including download speeds that were more than double what I was getting from standard LTE. I’m glad to have a future-proof phone for when I can eventually start traveling again — but for now, 5G has yet to make a meaningful difference in my daily use of the iPhone 12 Pro.
The iPhone 12 Pro is the best smartphone I’ve ever owned. It looks beautiful, feels great, is crazy powerful and has an incredible camera that has brought new life to my ridiculous selfies and dog photos. And I anticipate that I’ll be hanging on to it for at least a few years.
That being said, there are some drawbacks to owning a new iPhone in the year 2020. The lack of Touch ID in an era of face masks is a daily frustration, and as someone who owns a ton of USB-C gadgets, I’m more impatient than ever for an iPhone that can use the same charger as every other product in my household.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great iPhone 12 alternatives out there if those two issues turn you off. For those who want a newer iPhone with a fingerprint reader (and don’t care about 5G), the $399 iPhone SE packs excellent performance into a more affordable, old-school iPhone design. If you don’t mind making the jump to Android, the $349 Google Pixel 4a and $699 Google Pixel 5 are both excellent options. Both phones charge via USB-C and feature fingerprint readers, with the Pixel 5 delivering an especially great photography experience that can hold its own against Apple’s new flagships.
Still, the iPhone 12 Pro’s few drawbacks haven’t stopped it from being a device that I find a delight to use on a daily basis. And if you’re willing to pay up for a gorgeous, powerful iPhone that takes stellar photos, you just might feel the same way.