Battery Life

Battery life of the new iPhone 12 series has been quite controversial. This is due to a couple of reasons, but primarily due to the fact that Apple has reduced the actual capacities of the batteries this generation. The new iPhone 12 and 12 Pro come with a very conservative 2815mAh unit, which is less than the 11 Pro’s 3046mAh or the 11’s 3110mAh capacity. It’s extremely unusual to see battery capacities regress like this, particularly in a time where the Android competition routinely use +4000mAh batteries. Apple does have a huge SoC efficiency advantage, but that only goes so far to bridge the battery capacity deficiency for the new iPhones.

Another controversial aspect is the 5G connectivity of the new devices. This generation, Apple made the move back to using Qualcomm modems as Intel seemingly wasn’t able to supply them with a satisfactory 5G option. Last year, Apple had purchased Intel’s modem division for $1B, but it’s likely we’ll have to wait a bit more to see the vertical integration of that acquisition.

iPhones in the US are the only models which also feature mmWave connectivity, as the rest of the world “only” gets sub-6GHz variants. Unfortunately the models I have for review here are European and mmWave isn’t an option, and I also don’t yet have any sub-6GHz 5G coverage in my area yet, and as such, I can’t really comment much on the cellular battery life of the new phones.

Web Browsing Battery Life 2016 (WiFi)

That being said, in our regular Wi-Fi web browser test, we’re seeing very good results for both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. Although the 12 Pro has a 7.5% smaller battery and a larger screen than the 11 Pro, it lasted only 3% less than its predecessor, meaning that the SoC and display power efficiency gains this generations were enough to mostly counteract the smaller battery.

The iPhone 12 lasted 11% less than the iPhone 11, but that was quite expected given the 10% smaller battery and also the move from a low-resolution LCD to a higher resolution OLED panel. At 12.53h it’s still an absolute excellent result.

Apple’s decision to stick with 60Hz panels this generation, while not great in terms of fluidity of animations compared to other competitor devices, at least made a lot of sense for the battery life of the phones. 120Hz really only makes sense on the newer Note20 Ultra with its new “HOP” panel, but even that has some quirks here and there. I expect the iPhone 13 generation to finally embrace higher refresh-rate displays, once all the power efficiency concerns have been fully resolved.

Overall, the new iPhone 12’s battery longevity looks to be in line with last generation’s devices, especially comparing 11 Pro vs the new 12 Pro. While 5G remains a wildcard, especially for US users which are on mmWave carriers, it’s always something you can disable, even though that’s a suboptimal option to resort to.

Display Measurement Camera - Daylight Evaluation
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  • DejayC - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    I find the flat edges of my iPhone 12 mini to be easier to grip on to than the curved edges of the older iPhones.
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    I was just about to post just that. could it be that short people with small hands are the only ones to complain about flat edged phones (and other things)? those for 4 edges, intelligently chamfered of course, are what give you purchased to hold on to that slippery thing.
  • jeremyshaw - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    I think completely flat edges work better on smaller phones. Mini, 5, 5S, 5C, etc. 4 and 4S as well. Though the 4 and 4S were "technically" flat, they did have the actual back and screen protruding enough to be a stepped approximation of a curved edge.
  • xaneo - Saturday, December 26, 2020 - link

    I'm jumping onto the flat edges bandwagon, all for it.
  • milkywayer - Wednesday, December 2, 2020 - link

    I still don't understand what makes the iPhone 12 worth ~$850 after tax compared to iPhone 11 that apples website is selling for $640~? Can someone explain?

    My biggest gripe with iOS is it kills my previous app pretty fast e.g. I could be watching YouTube or browsing a chrome tab but if I switch to reddit and or then whatsapp and then come back to the chrome or youtube, it'll make likely reload the entire app/page and I lose my progress.

    I got tired of the small keyboard on my 2020 iphone SE and was going back and forth between picking iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 and when I realized the 13 still has the same 4gb RAM, it was an easy decision going for the iphone 11 as both have the same display size and except for the tiny bit faster cpu which I probably wouldn't have noticed browsing chrome or reddit and the oled screen which isn't a big deal.

    I couldn't justify spending almost 35-40% more for a tiny tiny upgrade.

    What I would love for would be to get a bigger screen size like the pro max but apple has prices those out of my budget and most people's budgets I'd assume.
  • Frantisek - Friday, December 4, 2020 - link

    I guess very durable screen on 12 can pay for itself.
  • Speedfriend - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    Your point about iOS is one of the main reasons I don't use an iPhone. I day trade and iOS suspending apps in the background means that I have switched quickly to a trading app to check prices not realising they are totally out of date. Totally useless
  • blackcrayon - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - link

    That sounds like that particular app doesn't work properly. Apps can refresh in the background, but even if not, why would it take more than a second to update from waking a suspended app?
  • ZGamer - Monday, December 7, 2020 - link

    12 Pro models ship with 6GB ram vs 4GB.

    As with everything it depends on which models your looking and how your looking to buy. If looking at purchasing outright for some of the mvno carriers or prepaid service the 11 is a better deal. If looking at deals with bill pay credits and other incentives it can be very cheap to get a 12.

    Sales around Black Friday had the iPhone 12 for free with qualifying trade and bill pay credits....12 Pro for $99 and 12 Pro Max for $199 if you had the right set of circumstances (new line/port-in only for AT&T and Best Buy).

    In general year or year performance gains are generally pretty small, it's the two to five year old devices that can see larger performance improvements.....and a fresh battery.
  • ebernet - Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - link

    @milkywayer these are some of the reasons that would lead me to pick a 12 over an 11...

    1. The iPhone 11 is an LCD screen instead of OLED, with a 2x Retina display and 1792‑by‑828‑pixel resolution at 326 ppi. The 12 is OLED with a 3 pixel per point for 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi. The OLED allows the screen to be closer to the edge. I would think that is the biggest reason.
    2. Significantly better night mode
    3. Only 32% more, not 35-40

    There are a bunch of other reasons to choose the 12 over the 11, but for me the change from LCD to OLED at MUCH higher pixel resolution and a more durable screen is sufficient.

    That being said, I am still on my XS Max and will be waiting for the 13. There were days when I would upgrade my iPhone EVERY year (original all the way through the 4S). As the curve of improvements slowed down I went to every other year (5S, 6S Plus). Now I am on a 3 year tick and the XS Max is plenty good enough for me. I am looking forward to HOPEFULLY some kind of better optical zoom in the iPhone 13. However, if this was my tock year I'd be going for a 12 Pro Max with 256, but if I had to choose between an 11 and a 12 it would be a NO brainer, much more than last year choosing between the 11 and the XR (much more of a valid comparison because they both shared very similar screens). The screen on the 12 is on its own worth the price delta between the 12 and 11.

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