Apple iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11: What's the difference?

It looks the same from the front, but there’s a wealth of upgrades

You might see the familiar notch and same screen size and think: Well, the iPhone 12 looks like another minor annual upgrade. That’s definitely not the full story, however.

From top to bottom and inside and out, the iPhone 12 seemingly packs a wealth of upgrades over the previous model - ones that will impact the way you use the phone daily, not to mention enhancements that make for a seemingly much more appealing handset overall.

Wondering whether it’s worth upgrading? Here’s how the new iPhone 12 compares to last year’s core iPhone 11.

Design: Flat frame and more

While it’s true that the notched screen hasn’t changed, there are other tweaks and upgrades to the design. Most notable, the rounded frame has been replaced with flat edges all around, similar to the current iPad Pro models as well as the iPhone 5. The iPhone 12 (shown) is also shorter, narrower, thinner, and 32g lighter than its predecessor.

The IP68 water and dust resistance has also been boosted, now offering protection up to 30 minutes in up to 6 metres of water (previously 2 metres). And the screen is protected by Apple and Corning’s new Ceramic Shield ceramic-infused glass, which has 4x better drop protection than the iPhone 11.

When it comes to colour options, however, the iPhone 12 has one fewer. Both come in white, black, (Product)RED, and green, with the iPhone 12 also coming in blue. The iPhone 11’s yellow and purple colours weren’t carried over.

Screen: A big upgrade

The big knock against the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR before it were the use of low-resolution screens well below the marks seen on most rival handsets, even those dramatically less expensive. They were still bright and nicely colorful screens, but fuzzier than you’d expect for the price.

Luckily, Apple got the message for the iPhone 12. This 6.1” screen is higher-res at 2532x1170, a major upgrade from the 1792x828 screen of the iPhone 11. On top of that, this crisper screen is also an OLED panel instead of LCD, which typically means deeper black levels and improved contrast. It should be a beauty.

Camera: Dolby Vision added

Like the iPhone 11 (shown), the iPhone 12 has a dual 12-megapixel main camera system, with wide and ultra-wide shooters on tap. By and large, the spec sheet looks mostly identical, so we’d expect minor improvements in image processing via next-generation Smart HDR. And that’s fine, because the iPhone 11 took great photos on its own.

The biggest addition is arguably that of Dolby Vision HDR video recording, plus night mode time-lapse shooting is now in the mix. The front-facing Face ID/TrueDepth camera seems to be unchanged.

Performance: More power onboard

The iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor is still the most powerful smartphone chip today, a year later, and the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic chip will bump things up even further. The 5nm chip is claimed to provide up to 50% improved CPU and GPU performance compared to any other phone chip today, says Apple, including 70% greater Neural Engine performance.

In short, the iPhone 11 is super speedy and the iPhone 12 will only be able to handle more. And, of course, the iPhone 12 adds 5G network support.

Battery and perks: Pretty much the same

Both the iPhone 11 (shown) and iPhone 12 are estimated to provide 17 hours of video playback, so the new phone will be another solid all-day handset. It also has the same 64GB starting storage cache, but you can pay extra for 128GB or 256GB storage instead.

The iPhone 12 retains the Qi wireless charging capabilities of its predecessor, but also adds support for Apple’s new MagSafe adapter. Thanks to the strong, circular magnet on the back, you’ll be able to attach a faster charger as well as accessories such as cases, wallet attachments, and other peripherals.

Initial verdict: Should you upgrade?

Maybe! We liked the iPhone 11 a lot, despite its screen deficiencies, as it provided an excellent all-around iOS experience at a much more reasonable price.

The iPhone 12 is £70 more expensive right out of the gate at £799, but between the much-improved screen and 5G support above all, it’s a seemingly sizable improvement. And if you’d rather save the cash and go for a smaller screen, the £699 iPhone 12 Mini delivers an apparently comparable experience top-to-bottom on a 5.4in screen instead.