Review: Is it worth upgrading to an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro?

The latest Apple smartphone model has been released in New Zealand in two variants: the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

They come packed with new features and upgrades on previous iPhones, but the cheapest iPhone 12 will set you back around $1500 while the least expensive iPhone 12 Pro costs around $1900.

Are these devices worth their hefty price tags in the increasingly crowded mobile phone market?

Next month further additions to the range are being released: the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Ahead of that, I've been using the two models already out in Aotearoa to see what sets them apart from each other - and the competition.

The good


The world is packed with iPhone fans for many reasons, one of which is their sheer horsepower.

The whole iPhone 12 range features the new A14 Bionic chip which is just super grunty. Apple says it's got the fastest CPU and GPU in the smartphone market and benchmark tests appear to back that up.

Doing anything on these feels a bit more fluid and games definitely look better, as do streaming movies and TV shows.

On both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro I opened 20 apps, left them running and had no lag while jumping between them as they all ran smoothly.

Granted, these are brand new phones with barely any digital clutter slowing them down, but that's still impressive.  

Apple says the new chip's neural engine is capable of 11 trillion operations per second. Who knows what that actually means, but it sure sounds like a lot. 

If you want what is currently the most powerful mobile phone on the planet, either the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro will tick that box thanks to the A14 Bionic.

Pacific blue Apple iPhone 12 Pro in New Zealand.
The iPhone 12 Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.


Apple has gone backwards to to go forward with the iPhone 12 range, resurrecting its 2012 design. 

These devices have an updated version of the squared-off edges of the iPhone 5, giving them a bit more of a simplified look over the rounded style. It's stylish and elegant, but also functional - you can sit an iPhone 12 on its side on flat surfaces for hands-free video watching and photo taking.

The devices I got are both in the new blue shades - pacific blue with the iPhone 12 Pro and navy blue with the iPhone 12.

Both are nice, but I like the pacific blue more. That view may be clouded by the superior finish on the Pro, which is fantastic. It's stainless steel, as opposed to the aluminium of the standard iPhone 12, which gives it a more refined look.

That extra prettiness is probably not worth an extra $400 or so, but it's definitely not the only upgrade you get with an iPhone 12 Pro over an iPhone 12.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro triple 12MP camera lenses and LiDAR Scanner.
The three main lenses of the iPhone 12 Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.

The cameras

Apple has undertaken some serious upgrades in their cameras for the iPhone 12 range.

Rivals like Samsung and Huawei have upped their camera game in recent years making for an excitingly competitive market. While other manufacturers offer higher megapixel counts, Apple has packed advanced new tech into their latest iPhone cameras to make them formidable beasts of quality.

It's also the camera tech that really separates the iPhone 12 Pro from the non-pro.

Best iPhone photos yet

There are long lists of the various impressive features Apple is piling into its new phone cameras like Deep Fusion and HDR 3, but the proof is in the pudding.

Here's how those features actually look in action - albeit a scaled-down version to fit on this webpage.

The three photos below were taken using a tripod at around 9:40pm on a cloudy Auckland night. The first is with the iPhone 12 without the flash or night mode on, the second is using a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra with night mode on and the third is with the iPhone 12 with night mode on.

iPhone 12 versus Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra night mode photography.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Remember, that last one was taken with the iPhone 12 - the iPhone 12 Pro cameras are even better.

Exactly how amazing the photos you can take with them depends a lot on your skill and the lighting and everything. A quick google will easily find an incredible showcasing of photos taken with the iPhone 12 Pro camera that Apple has put online, all done with professional photographers of course.

But for us dummies who want to push a button or two and not change many settings, know that the iPhone 12 takes superb photos and the iPhone 12 Pro takes the best pics of any iPhone yet.

The Pro also has a LiDAR scanner for improved depth sensing, a telephoto lens, RAW image format and can film 10-bit HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps - which is just a crazy high level of quality.


All of the iPhone 12s have beautiful OLED displays which look much nicer than the old LCD screens.

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a 6.1-inch screen with 2532 x 1170 pixels at a density of 460ppi.

They both feature what Apple calls its 'Super Retina XDR display'. Whatever that means, I can tell you it looks very nice, with proper looking blacks and lush, bright colours.

For my money, it's much of a muchness with the beautiful 2020 Samsung phone screens. If you're spending $1500 or over on an Apple or Samsung phone you can rest assured it's going to have a screen that makes whatever you watch on it a pleasure.

Apple's iPhone 12 Pro in pacific blue and iPhone 12 in navy blue.
The iPhone 12 Pro in pacific blue and iPhone 12 in navy blue. Photo credit: Newshub.


Apple has now caught up to its competitors in offering 5G capability in its phones.

Unless you believe in conspiracy theories and hogwash instead of science, this is a bloody good thing as it means much faster mobile internet.

Or rather, it will do.

Unfortunately, my provider 2degrees doesn't provide any 5G coverage yet, but its website says "5G and the future [is] firmly in our sights". Hopefully soon it'll catch up to its foreign-owned competitors Spark and Vodafone, both of which offer pockets of 5G around Aotearoa.


The snap of the magnet charger connecting to the back of the iPhone 12 is almost as satisfying as peeling that screen protecting sticker off when you first unbox it.

It's really nice.

But it's not just a novelty - how many times have you tried charging your phone while in bed and struggled to get that cord in? Now just hold it near and snap. You got power.

The other accessories like wallets and cases are also cool and show animations on the phone when they connect. I particularly like that the animation is the same colour as the actual product - it's silly, but fun.

Apple iPhone 12 in New Zealand.
The iPhone 12. Photo credit: Newshub.

The bad

Apple's removal of headphones and power adapters from their iPhone packaging has some positive aspects, but it's been done in an annoying way.

I don't care about the headphones - everyone's got headphones now, right? And most of us have wireless ones these days too, thanks to years of not having a headphone port.

But the one cable that comes in the iPhone 12 range's boxes is Lightning to USB-C, instead of USB-A. That's the USB type that most people don't have.

If this is really being done to help reduce emissions and protect the environment, then it seems like it's a fail as people may have to buy a USB-C power adaptor - then throw away the packaging waste that comes with it.

Luckily, most people will likely have a spare Lightning to USB-A cable or five around the house which will work on the iPhone 12 range. But then what's the point of the Lightning to USB-C cable that comes in the box?

If we all move to MagSafe charging our phones and everything - which will probably happen - we'll probably still need to buy at least one USB-C power adaptor. You can currently buy a MagSafe charger for $69 on the NZ Apple website, but that doesn't come with a USB-C power adaptor, which will set you back another $35.

So if you want MagSafe charging, you can add another $100 to the price tag of your iPhone 12. 

Other smartphone providers aren't that cheeky. 

There are a few other areas where Apple doesn't appear interested in matching or surpassing its competitors such as the screen refresh rate and the megapixel count, for example. This doesn't matter to me considering how great the iPhone 12 range's display and cameras are anyway, but some people might be bothered by it.

One other feature Apple's competitors have I wish the iPhone also did is an always-on display. Maybe on the iPhone 13...

Having used a few Android phones this year, they also still have an edge over iPhones in terms of how easy they are to use on a PC, too.

It's not a big issue, but having to use iTunes to manage the phone is easier on a Mac and not as smooth and hassle-free on a PC as it could be.

Review: Is an iPhone 12 Pro worth it?
The iPhone 12 Pro. Photo credit: Newshub.

The verdict

Apple has set a new standard for itself and its competitors with the iPhone 12 range.

These are powerful, stylish devices loaded with state-of-the-art tech - just minus a charger.

You can definitely buy great smartphones for less than $1500 and some people will consider the iPhone 12 range's price point a negative factor.

However, given the range of upgrades and high bar these devices set for quality, I don't think the cost is out of line. The extra money is not just going on the Apple logo - there is genuine quality in these products that simply must come at a premium.

As for the iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 Pro?

The more expensive model has a few cosmetic advantages over the standard that don't make it worth the extra money - but the better cameras in it do. To be clear, it's only worth getting a camera that fancy if you genuinely are using it professionally.

If you don't need to but really, really want to record photos and videos at a professional level, and can spare the extra cash - more power to you.

For most of us, the non-pro iPhone 12 is totally fine.

No matter what type of iPhone you own, an iPhone 12 will make for a great upgrade. In particular, if you haven't upgraded for a few generations, be prepared for a big jump in the power, display and photo quality of these new devices.


Newshub was supplied with an iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro for this review.