October 30, 2020

Impressions After a Week with the iPhone 12 Pro

I’ve had the iPhone 12 Pro for a week now. That’s enough time to form some first impressions.

Physical

When the rumors came out that the iPhone 12 Pro would adopt the 6.1″ screen size of the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, I was concerned. The iPhone XS is right at the upper limit of what’s comfortable for me. It’s just barely small enough that I can use the phone one-handed. I’d played with an XR in an Apple Store a couple of years ago, and it was definitely too big of a device for me.

The iPhone announcement event gave me hope that the iPhone 12 Pro would still be usable for me. Because Apple made the bezels on the 12 smaller, it was very close to the same physical size as the XR, despite the larger screen. That said, it did still grow a bit, and even though the overall size of the device was similar, a larger screen does mean a longer reach.

Thankfully, having used it for a week, I can say that the iPhone 12 Pro is still a one-handed device for me. Despite being slightly wider, it doesn’t feel like it in the hand. The additional reach isn’t a deal-breaker. I may be using my other hand to tap a distant button a bit more often than I was with the 12, but for me, it’s still usable as primarily a one-handed device.

When the iPhone 11 Pro came out, many reviews noted that the matte glass back was considerably slipperier than the glossy back of the iPhone XS or iPhone 11. The 12 Pro shares the same matte glass on the back, and it is pretty slippery. However, the flat, polished stainless steel sides are very grippable, and I haven’t felt that the phone wasn’t secure in my hand when I was using it. The only time where the slippery back felt like an issue was getting it out of my pocket, where I sometimes pinch the phone between my thumb and forefinger. I’ll need to be careful about doing that.

The Pacific Blue color is just beautiful. I like green, so I was a bit disappointed when Apple didn’t continue the iPhone 11 Pro’s Midnight Green color on the 12 Pro, but I think the blue looks even better. The shiny dark blue stainless steel edges and the matte back complement each other nicely.

Features

Because of all the background tasks going on with a new phone (transferring data, facial recognition, etc.), the first week isn’t necessarily a great time to assess battery life. Even so, it’s clear that the iPhone 12 Pro is a massive improvement over my XS. With the 12 Pro, I’m ending a typical day with over 60% battery remaining rather than 25% or less, which was typical of my XS. Some of this may be down to the older phone’s two-year-old battery, but even accounting for that, this is a giant leap in battery capacity.

Losing 3D Touch is taking some getting used to. I know it was a rarely used feature for many people, but now that I have a phone without it, I’m finding just how much I relied on it. This is something I notice most on the lock screen. I used 3D Touch all the time to deal with notifications. Yes, I can use a long press/haptic touch to do the same thing, but it seems like it takes forever in comparison. 3D Touch was also my primary way of quickly accessing the camera. I’m trying to decide whether to retrain myself to long press on the lock screen camera button or go back to swiping over to open up the camera (which is how I used to do it before the lock screen got a camera button).

The other area where I’m missing 3D Touch is moving the cursor in text fields when typing. This is probably less of a big deal than the lock screen uses. I need to retrain myself to hold my finger on the spacebar.

I haven’t had a chance to get a whole lot of use out of the camera. I don’t know if I’ve taken a single shot using the ultra-wide lens, for instance. The main (wide) camera is noticeably better than the XS. Telephoto seems about the same.

The real standout so far is Night Mode. Coming from the XS, it’s just insane. Previously, the problem with low light photography is that, absent a tripod-mounted long exposure on a DSLR, it has always been difficult to capture a low-light scene that’s as good as the unaided eye. Even shooting handheld, Night Mode does a much better job in low light than my eyes do. I haven’t had a chance to do any long tripod-mounted Night Mode shots, but I’m eager to give it a try.

I picked up a MagSafe charger along with my 12 Pro, and I like it quite a bit so far. My phone charges overnight using a Qi charger on my nightstand, and I’ve had some instances where I’ve managed to bump the phone enough that it didn’t charge, and I woke up with a near-dead battery. MagSafe seems like it will be a solution to this issue. The solid click when the charger snaps onto the phone is very satisfying. I’d thought about getting a second MagSafe charger to put on my desk or kitchen counter, but the battery life on the 12 Pro is so great I don’t see the need at this point.

I’ve run my phones caseless for many years (the last case I used regularly was on my iPhone 4). However, I was intrigued by the MagSafe cases. Since it seemed like they might be easier to get on and off, I decided to order one with the idea that I might run it in the case part time. I haven’t had a chance to use the case much, but I like the look of the Deep Navy case on the blue phone, and the case is easy to get on and off.

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. I think this phone will serve me well for the next couple of years.


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