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

Apple has unveiled the long-awaited iPhone 12, bringing to an end months of speculation and anticipation. The new smartphone represents a significant performance boost compared to previous models, introducing the new A14 Bionic chip and also 5G support for the first time. It also offers Apple fans a noticeably different design, reintroducing the flat, metal-edged sides of the iPhone 4 and 5 while giving the edge-to-edge display a smaller notch.

It looks very sharp, but given that the iPhone 11 was released only a year ago, is it actually worth upgrading to the new model? We answer this question by comparing the two phones across a variety of categories. By comparing their specs, performance, designs, displays, cameras, and special features, we should help you decide whether the iPhone 12 is worth the switch.

Specs

iPhone 12 iPhone 11
Size TBC 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm (5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 inches)
Weight TBC 194 grams (6.84 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Super Retina OLED 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD
Screen resolution 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch) 1792 x 828 pixels (326 pixels per inch)
Operating system iOS 14 iOS 14
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera Dual lens 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultrawide rear, 12MP TrueDepth front Dual lens 12MP and 12MP wide-angle rear, 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports Lightning connector Lightning connector
Fingerprint sensor No, FaceID instead No, FaceID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery TBC

Fast charging (18W charger sold separately)

Qi wireless charging

3,100mAh

Fast charging (18W charger sold separately)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace  Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network Support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Black, blue, green, white, and red Purple, white, yellow, green, black, red
Prices $799+ $699+
Review score News 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Apple may have been content over the past couple of years to reuse the landmark design of the iPhone X, but this year, it’s shaken things up a little. The iPhone 12 retains the edge-to-edge display of previous models but gets rid of the rounded sides of the iPhone 11, replacing them with the flat metal edges of the much-beloved iPhone 4 (or the more recent iPad Pro). This change may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly gives the iPhone 12 a more streamlined appearance.

As the above paragraph implies, the iPhone 11 was happy to ape the designs of the iPhone XS and X. It does look very nice, and some may prefer the rounded edges, but it certainly wasn’t especially adventurous at the time, while the larger notch is an obvious (if slight) drawback.

The iPhone 12 also has a distinct edge when it comes to its display. It houses a 6.1-inch Super Retina OLED display, which packs 2532 x 1170 pixels, or 460 pixels per inch. By contrast, the iPhone 11 comes with a 6.1-inch LCD screen, which doesn’t enable quite the same deepness and richness of colors as the iPhone 12’s OLED display. The iPhone 11 also provides a lower resolution at 1792 x 828 pixels, which works out at 326 ppi. You’ll probably notice a difference in quality.

Both phones come with an IP68 rating, indicating that they can cope with immersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, but Apple claims the iPhone 12’s new Ceramic Guard glass will boost its durability beyond older iPhones. But even without that, with a revamped design and a noticeably more vivid screen, it’s clear the iPhone 12 takes this round.

Winner: iPhone 12

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone 11 charging port
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Performance-wise, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 are identical, save for one all-important component. The iPhone 12 runs on the newer Apple A14 Bionic chip, while the iPhone 11 has the year-older A13. They both contain 4GB of RAM, but with the enhanced and more efficient processor, the iPhone 12 will handle multitasking and the latest games more comfortably than its predecessor.

Both phones give you 64GB of internal memory as standard, while both can be upgraded to 128GB and 256GB for extra money. Neither offers a microSD card slot, like many flagship Androids.

Things get more interesting with the battery, as the iPhone 12 is rumored to have a smaller battery than the iPhone 11. This may indicate it won’t last as long as the older phone before needing a recharge, but without fully road-testing it, we can’t say this for sure. It’s possible that the use of an OLED display could reduce demands on the iPhone 12’s battery, so its daily longevity may end up roughly equal to the iPhone 11.

This is a tough round to call. In terms of performance and battery life, both phones are largely similar. However, the stronger processor seals the win for the iPhone 12, even if we have questions about the battery.

Winner: iPhone 12

Cameras

As with the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 lacks the triple-lens cameras of its more premium siblings, making do with a dual-lens rear camera setup. This includes a wide lens and an ultrawide lens. Our review of the iPhone 11 found that it offers a great all-round camera. With such features as Smart HDR, faster autofocus, and semantic rendering, it can take beautiful shots in most situations. The iPhone 12 continues this tradition and comes with a wider f/1.6 aperture to let in more light. Enhancements to HDR, Deep Fusion, and night-time shots will also put it just ahead of the iPhone 11.

Both smartphones can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, but iPhone 12 is bringing low-light modes to video as well, giving it another edge. With all of these improvements, it seems likely the iPhone 12 will pull ahead of its predecessor. We’ll be sure to update this section after we’ve had the chance to play with it.

Winner: iPhone 12

Software and updates

iPhone 11
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This round is unsurprisingly a dead heat. Both the iPhone and iPhone 11 operate using iOS 14, which offers the biggest redesign iOS has witnessed in years. It significantly improves the customization offered by iOS, letting you put very useful app widgets wherever you want on the home screen. It also includes a highly useful App Library, as well as the nifty ability to double-tap on the back of your iPhone in order to activate shortcuts.

Likewise, both phones will benefit from equally speedy updates from Apple, even if the iPhone 12 may be supported for longer (given that it’s a year younger than the iPhone 11). Taken with the identical software, this can only mean that this round is also a tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Yes, it has been a long time coming, but an Apple smartphone finally does support 5G. The iPhone 12 is the first Apple device to achieve this feat, and while it appears not to support the faster mmWave band, its support for sub-6Hz 5G will still mean that it provides noticeably faster download speeds than the 4G-only iPhone 11. The iPhone 12 also gets Apple’s MagSafe system for the first time on an iPhone.

Aside from 5G, both phones offer similar special features. They both come with the now-familiar TrueDepth camera, which lets you unlock your phone and payment for things at stores using Face ID. Face ID also enables Animojis and Memojis: these are lighthearted avatars you can create for yourself and then use with FaceTime calls or in iMessages. Both phones also come with a surprisingly good speaker system, which, despite being small, does serve well in cases where you need a dedicated sound device.

While both phones share many special features, the inclusion of 5G for the first time and MagSafe ultimately puts the iPhone 12 ahead in this round.

Winner: iPhone 12

Price and availability

The iPhone 11 is available unlocked directly from Apple as well as widely available from every major carrier, and it starts at $699. The 128GB version will cost you $749, while the 256GB version ramps up to $849.

The iPhone 12 can be pre-ordered from Apple from October 16, and will release on October 23. It will start at $799 for the 64GB version, while the 128GB and 256GB version will cost you $849 and $949. It will also be available from every major carrier and the vast majority of major retail outlets.

Overall winner: iPhone 12

The iPhone 11 is still an exceedingly good phone for its price, yet the iPhone 12 wins this head-to-head convincingly. Its design is more distinct and adventurous, its display is richer and more detailed, it offers stronger performance, and it also supports 5G. In other words, if you can afford to upgrade or to trade in your iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 is certainly worth it.

But if you’re happy with your phone, the iPhone 12 has little to pull you away immediately. The iPhone 11 remains an excellent choice for those who aren’t bothered about having the very latest phone or who aren’t interested in 5G. Its camera is highly versatile, its software is second to none, and its battery life is decent. It may no longer be the newest iPhone, but it’s still up there with the best.

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