It would’ve been nice to see a screen refresh rate faster than 60 Hz, especially since 90 or 120 Hz has become the norm on flagship Android phones. These higher rates make everything on the screen look and feel more responsive, because the screen is displaying more images per second. Heck, Apple was among the first to debut this “ProMotion” tech for faster screen refreshing in its 2017 iPad Pro. It’s bizarre that it hasn’t made its way to the iPhone.
But you get 5G instead. Honestly? I’d rather have a higher refresh rate. Don’t get me wrong, the promise of faster speeds with 5G is exciting. I’d love to be able to download large files, games, and 4K movies to my phone in seconds rather than minutes. The problem is that 5G is very sparse across the US. It’s also complicated, with carriers using different variants of 5G on different parts of the wireless spectrum. We have a guide that breaks it all down.
I don’t have a 5G-supported data plan on my AT&T SIM (yes, you will likely need to upgrade your plan to get 5G), so I popped an Apple-provided Verizon SIM into the review phone. I’m able to connect to Verizon’s “Nationwide” 5G pretty easily in my area. This is not the same as Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G, which offers tremendously faster speeds. On Nationwide 5G, the fastest download speed I hit was 119 Mbps with a 26-Mbps upload speed. The rest of my download speed results hovered between 70 to 100 Mbps. It’s higher than Verizon’s average download speeds in New York City on 4G LTE, but not by much.
So I took a stroll to a nearby Verizon Ultra Wideband 5G node (as indicated by Verizon’s own coverage map) to see if I could hit those promised gigabit speeds. It didn’t work. I stood across the street from the node, and my speeds were lower than what I hit on the carrier’s Nationwide 5G spectrum. I’m chalking it up to there being some kind of issue with this node (Update: Verizon says that node was down, but it’s now been “repaired”), but even if it did work, it wouldn’t have changed much. This type of millimeter-wave 5G offers superfast speeds but only works for about a block, and (at the moment) it puts you back on 4G when you enter a nearby building.
Give 5G another year or two and we’ll start seeing more coverage, and perhaps more apps and services that make use of those faster speeds. It’s nice that it’s included here, but as we say in our Best Android Phones guide, don’t buy this phone just because it has 5G. Do not believe the hype. You’re not going to see a dramatic difference over your current 4G iPhone.
Battery and Beyond
Finally, there’s battery life. It’s solid, getting me through a full day of average to heavy use (around five to six hours of screen-on time), and not much more. I’d be happier with a slightly thicker phone if it meant comfortably extending battery life to a day and a half, but I suppose that’s why the iPhone 12 Pro Max exists. If last year’s Max is anything to go by, it’s the iPhone to get if you need your phone to run longer than a day.
Do you see my conundrum? Lidar for nighttime portrait-mode photos, the promise of ProRAW, a stainless steel frame, and that additional 2X zoom camera are among the biggest reasons to go for the iPhone 12 Pro over the standard iPhone 12. Are those features worth the $200 more? I find the iPhone 12 Pro Max to be a far more exciting premise with its camera-specific upgrades, and it’s only $100 more than the regular Pro.
Then you need to carry a Big Phone around. Considering Apple debuted an iPhone 12 Mini this year, that must mean a lot of people don’t want a Big Phone, right? It’s just strange knowing that with the iPhone 12 Pro, you’re not quite getting the best iPhone.