Tech Guides

Apple iPhone 12 buying guide: Which iPhone 12 should you buy?

By Liu Hongzuo - 25 Oct 2020

The iPhone 12 lineup

Note: This feature was first published on 20 Oct 2020.

Lining up the suspects

With the announcement of the iPhone 12 series and the lead-up to the pre-order season comes a natural question for users who swear by the iOS ecosystem: which is the right iPhone 12 for your needs?

After all, the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max sit at different price points, despite the same A14 Bionic chipset and similar OLED panels across the board. Choosing the right iPhone boils down to user priorities and understanding exactly what you're getting in return for your chosen device.

iPhone 12 local prices compared
Model iPhone 12 mini iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 Pro Max
64GB S$1,149 S$1,299 - -
128GB S$1,219 S$1,369 S$1,649 S$1,799
256GB S$1,389 S$1,539 S$1,819 S$1,969
512GB S$2,149 S$2,299

In this guide, we look at what Apple brings to each model, and we propose an ideal iPhone 12 variant based on your expected usage patterns. Of course, we're going by what each phone offers on paper since they've yet to hit retail, so actual user experience may vary from the recommendations here.


What do all iPhone 12 models have in common?

For the first time in the iPhone series, every iPhone 12 model now comes with an OLED display (the marketing term Apple uses is Super Retina XDR display). Previously, the iPhone 11 series reserved the more expensive and higher quality OLED panels for the Pro and higher variants.

Apple has decidedly standardised the higher quality panel across the board - you now choose based on your preferred phone size. OLED is prized for its excellent contrast ratio, which commands a premium when you put it against other display alternatives out there.

All iPhone 12 models, regardless of variant, will use the A14 Bionic chipset. While Apple's chipset practice for iPhones remains consistent, it's the first-ever, commercially-available 5nm phone chipset in the world.

To put it very simply, the '5nm process' is a breakthrough since 2018, where chipsets of the last three years were made using a 7nm process. Smaller transistors made via the 5nm process meant having the ability to squeeze more transistors into the same physical space. This translates into having more transistors, which becomes more processing power while using the same real estate.

This is partly why Apple made such a big deal about being able to fit 11.8 billion transistors on the A14 Bionic, and why they were able to boldly claim it's 50% faster than any smartphone chip's CPU in the current market. The A14 Bionic's processing power also opened up the doors to new processing capabilities, such as computational photography.

Finally, all iPhone 12 models are compatible with sub-6GHz 5G networks, with the models in the U.S. offering compatibility with mmWave 5G networks. As of the iPhone 12 launch dates, the three major telcos of Singapore are running trial 5G (non-standalone) networks that are within the sub-6GHz range. As users, this means that you don't have to worry about local 5G compatibility when buying an iPhone 12 for the foreseeable future.

It's hard to pin down when mmWave 5G will be ready for mainstream use at a global scale, but we hazard it won't be here anytime soon, seeing how China's planning for mmWave 5G demonstrations sometime around 2022's Beijing Winter Olympics.

What's new across the board, in summary:

  • All iPhone 12 models get OLED-quality panels
  • All iPhone 12 models get the same cutting-edge A14 Bionic chipset
  • All iPhone 12 models get 5G connectivity that works with our telco's 5G networks

This doesn't factor in other iPhone 12 features available across the board, like MagSafe wireless charging for all models, equal fast-charging speeds across the board (wired and wireless, 20W adapter sold separately), the extra layer of Ceramic Shield for heightening glass durability, and an improved IP68 rating with up to 6m submersion for up to 30 minutes.

Now we know where the commonalities lie, let's look at the differences in features between each model.

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