To the tech fan, hardware upgrades are a question of how soon, not whether or not it should be done. Apple rides this gadget lust every year with a new iPhone with a more impressive spec sheet than the one before it. It released the iPhone 12 series notwithstanding the pandemic that plunged the world in uncertainty.
The iPhone 12 is better than any other iPhone before it: 5G (a first for Apple), a ceramic-coated screen that is more durable, a faster A14 chip, a LiDAR scanner on the Pro models for depth mapping and night portraits, a larger 6.7-inch screen on the Max model and new Mini model with a 5.7-inch screen.
The iPhone 12 series also has flat sides, in a throwback to the design language of the iPhone 4, 4s, 5 and 5s. Yes, there's also a new Pacific Blue hue on the Pro models to set them apart from last year's signature color, Midnight Green. To achieve a 2020 look, the iPhone had to look like its early 2010s self.
Features aside, should you consider upgrading? That, of course, is a personal decision. We buy spurts of happiness during the quarantine from sushi bakes to lipsticks to plants. Gadgets are no different. The more appropriate question: Is it tech you can use?
5G is the future, it's still in the future
Ultra-fast 5G connections promise to be life-changing, but coverage is still limited. If you live in an area with no 5G signal, the iPhone 12, or any other 5G phone for that matter, will not take advantage of that power. You'll be stuck with 4G, worse, a slow 4G.
A 5G iPhone is a future-proofing investment. By the time 5G signals blanket the country, your iPhone 12 will be ready. But what happens if by then, anticipation is building up for the iPhone 13?
Remember the year of the iPhone 5, the first with 4G LTE? It took a while before you could move around without your signal downgrading to 3G or 2G. Yes, 5G is the tech of the future, the infrastructure is just not ready for the mainstream.
There's no charger, earphones in the box
The pandemic disrupted Apple's supply chain and the annual iPhone launch was moved back by one month. The Cupertino-based tech giant had to cut costs somewhere. All iPhone 12 models will not ship with earphones or chargers. The USB-C to lightning cable will still be included. Still, there's not a whole lot to see when you unbox it.
Remember when Tim Cook killed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and called it a "brave" move? Since then. Apple has pushed hard for its wireless AirPods. It also slowly enabled wireless charging on all iPhones (hence the glass bodies). If you're getting an iPhone 12, keep the charging brick when you trade up your old one. It may also be time to invest in ear buds that can work across devices, from your phone to your laptop.
Okay, there's magnets on the back
Trust Apple to coin fancy terms to add a bit of wow to useful features. Mag Safe aligns accessories to the back of the iPhone 12 from wireless charging pads to card sleeves that attach to phone cases.
They look useful enough. The problem with wireless chargers is that the coils concealed in the pad have to align with the coils hidden on the device's back. There has to be contact and Mag Safe ensures this. It's like the old connector on the early Aluminum MacBooks that snap magnetically into place.
As for the card sleeves and cases, I'm more concerned about the price rather than the utility.
Sweet camera, but we're mostly indoors
Every year Apple ugrades the specs of the iPhone's cameras. It's acknowledged as the best on a smartphone, rivaled only by Google's Pixel phones and Huawei's Leica optics on the P and Mate series.
The Pro models can zoom up to five times, from two times on the old model. The depth sensor also promises clear portrait shots in the dark. However, take a look at your camera rolls if there's anything other than selfies and shots of plants and food. The pandemic practically sucked the joy out of mobile photography.
The magic of the iPhone experience is whipping it out during travels and taking a shot that is ready for Instagram, no filters needed. The cameras look promising, but it will take a while to maximize it.
The iPhone 12 (not Pro) just got sweeter
What appears to be the most substantial upgrade, one that's really useuful, is on the 6.1-inch non-pro iPhone 12. The screen finally uses OLED tech, though less bright than the pro models.
It's predecessors, the iPhone 11 and XR, both shipped with LCD panels, which is considered inferior to OLED screens. Why? Blacks are deeper and colors are richer on OLED screens. They also consume less power as pixels on the screen remain unlit when the display shows the color black. By the nature of the panels, the LCD panels also had larger borders which spoils the illusion of an all-screen phone.
Apple sees the 6.1-inch screen size as the sweet spot, so much so that it offers two models at that size, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
In the end, it's classic needs vs wants
Days after Apple's unveiling, online sellers in the Philippines have begun taking pre-orders for the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro will be available in the U.S. this month, while the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will follow in November. There was no immediate word on local availability.
If your phone is a couple years old or you just want to have the latest tech that money can buy, you will be happy splurging on an iPhone 12.