Apple iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 11 Pro: Should you upgrade?

The old adage “better than late than never” has never been so eagerly applied — the iPhone 12 range has arrived, having missed its usual launch window of Apple’s September event. But it was definitely worth waiting for, as the iPhone 12 takes Apple’s celebrated phone range to a new high, complete with a brand new processor, improved camera, and some shiny new color variants. But of all of the iPhones on parade, it’s the iPhone 12 Pro that stands out. Part of the iPhone’s high-powered Pro range, but not as huge as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro is going to be the high-powered iPhone of choice for many.

But this isn’t the first year we’ve seen an iPhone Pro — last year debuted the iPhone 11 Pro, and many will be wondering whether this year’s model is a big enough step up from the last. If you’re weighing up the options, is the brand new iPhone worth buying over the savings you may find on the older iPhone 11 Pro? Or, if you’re rocking the iPhone 11 Pro already, should you be upgrading right now? We’ve compared the two phones side by side so you know whether the new iPhone is worth the upgrade.

Specs

iPhone 12 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro
Size 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches) 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm (5.67 x 2.81 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 189 grams (6.67 ounces) 188 grams (6.63 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Super Retina OLED 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED
Screen resolution 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch) 2436 x 1125 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system iOS 14 iOS 14
Storage 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera Triple lens 12MP, 12MP ultrawide-angle rear, 12MP telephoto lens, and LiDAR scanner rear; 12MP TrueDepth front Triple lens 12MP, 12MP ultrawide-angle rear, and 12MP telephoto lens rear; 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 4K up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 4K up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports Lightning Lightning
Fingerprint sensor No, FaceID instead No, FaceID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 2,815mAh

Fast charging

Qi wireless charging

3,046mAh

18W fast charging

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network Support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Silver, graphite, gold, blue Purple, white, yellow, green, black, red
Prices $999+ $999+
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

iPhone 12 Pro blue

Apple tends to refresh the iPhone’s look every few years, and it’s right on schedule for it to shake things up this year. The iPhone 12 Pro isn’t a massive pivot away from the iPhone 11 Pro, but it is enough of a change that we finally feel we’re looking at a different device from the aged iPhone X design we’ve been looking at for years. The divisive notch has finally been slimmed down, and the edges have been flattened. It’s reminiscent of the classic iPhone 4, and we like it. The iPhone 11 Pro is still a good looking device, but the iPhone 12 Pro wins points simply for being different.

What about the displays then? The iPhone 12 Pro’s display is larger than the iPhone 11 Pro’s display, but thanks to similar resolutions, the sharpness between the two is much the same. Since both are equipped with OLED panels, they both have similarly stunning displays as well. Both phones have a stainless steel frame, overlaid with glass, and both have an IP68-rating for dust- and water-resistance. However, the iPhone 12 Pro takes a small lead with the new Ceramic Guard glass.

With an edge ahead in design and durability, the iPhone 12 Pro wins this round.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone 11 Pro Max game
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

iPhones are always blindingly fast, and this new generation is no different. The star of the show is undoubtedly the Apple A14 Bionic processor nestled inside the phone’s case. We first saw this chip in the new iPad Air 4, and it’s likely to be amongst the fastest processors of this generation. However, the iPhone 11 Pro is no slouch, and the A13 Bionic processor isn’t going to be showing its age for a long time yet. It’ll still handle anything you throw at it — though the A14 Bionic will have the advantage.

Our concerns about the smaller battery in the iPhone 12 Pro have turned out to be mostly unfounded, with Apple’s new iPhone providing an easy day’s worth of power. Heavy days of use will see the battery drop into low power mode by the end of the day, but this isn’t really worth worrying about. We do think there’s less wiggle room than you’d get with the iPhone 11 Pro’s full day battery life, but it’s not worth picking one over the other for. You’ll enjoy the same decent 18W fast charging and Qi wireless charging on both iPhones, but keep in mind that the new iPhone doesn’t come with a charging block.

As the iPhone 12 Pro’s battery has proven to be solid, we’re now changing this category to hand the win to the iPhone 12 Pro’s more powerful hardware. It’s simply the most powerful iPhone out there, and that deserves to be celebrated.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Cameras

iPhones traditionally have some of the best camera phones available, and the iPhone 12 Pro is no different. The iPhone 11 Pro set a new high standard for smartphone photography when it launched, and its three 12-megapixel lenses take some incredible still images. Apple beefed it up even further with the addition of software like Smart HDR, leading to a camera that eventually took a throne as the best camera phone.

The iPhone 12 Pro takes that same triple-lens camera system and ramps it up even further, adding an improved telephoto lens with a 2x optical zoom and a LiDAR scanner. The wide lens has a wider aperture than the iPhone 11 Pro, which lets in more light and boosts Night Mode considerably. The ultrawide lens can also take advantage of Night Mode, and while it’s not as good as the main lens, it’s still a great addition. It’s so good that we think its close to matching the Google Pixel 5 for low-light photos.

Both Pro iPhones will be able to capture video at similar levels, including 4K video at 60 frames per second, but the iPhone 12 Pro has an advantage with the addition of a low-light video mode, Dolby Vision, and HDR. The iPhone 11 Pro still has a great camera, but the iPhone 12 Pro is another step up.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Software and updates

iPhone 11 Pro Screen
Corey Gaskin / Digital Trends

Both these titans run Apple’s latest iOS 14, and it’s an excellent piece of software that adds a lot of new tricks, including support for home screen widgets. Since it’s Apple running the show, both are likely to get updates at about the same time as well. Usually, we’d give the newer phone a slight edge for update longevity, but Apple supports iPhones for so long that you might be upgrading before either phone runs out of updates. It’s a dead tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

iPhones aren’t generally known for their special features, as Apple tends to prefer perfecting new features before it pushes them out. However, you’ll still find a decent swathe of features on both of these, including the artificial intelligence (A.I.) assistant Siri and her Shortcuts, the Face ID-powered Animojis and Memojis, and Face ID itself. The new MagSafe system is also a bonus for the new iPhone range, but it hardly seems like a killer feature at this stage.

However, the iPhone 12 Pro really pushes it to the next level with the addition of 5G. The next generation of mobile networks is going to be vital for a smartphone’s longevity in the coming years, and phones without it will seem dreadfully slow in comparison. The addition of 5G means the iPhone 12 Pro wins here.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Price and availability

The iPhone 12 Pro is now available, and prices for it start at $999. As it’s an iPhone, it’ll work on pretty much every network, and you’ll struggle to find a phone shop that won’t sell it.

As of the launch of the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro is now discontinued. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find it. As with the new iPhone, the iPhone 11 Pro was available pretty much everywhere, and some retailers will still have stock.

Overall winner: iPhone 12 Pro

If you’re looking for a new, top-of-the-range iPhone, then there’s only one choice: The iPhone 12 Pro. As you might expect, Apple’s new iPhone beats the iPhone 11 Pro hands down, improving in most areas and putting on something of a clinic.

But if you’re already using an iPhone 11 Pro, there’s not actually much here to upgrade for. Sure, the iPhone 12 Pro is more powerful and probably has a more capable camera — but your iPhone 11 Pro is still very powerful and has an amazing camera already. Is it really worth the effort to upgrade when you could wait for the iPhone 13 or even the iPhone 14?

But even if you’re not going to be upgrading, it’s clear there’s a new iPhone boss in town — the iPhone 12 Pro.

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