The iPhone 12 is a big leap forward for Apple’s smartphone line – for every reason except 5G

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iPhone 12
Apple’s iPhone 12

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • With a refreshed design and better screen, the iPhone 12 feels like a step forward.
  • 5G is the iPhone 12’s headlining feature, but today’s networks aren’t much faster than 4G LTE.
  • The iPhone 12 also lacks some useful features found on Android devices, like a fingerprint scanner.
  • All told, the iPhone 12 is ideal for those upgrading from an older phone like the iPhone X or earlier.
  • Apple also recently launched the iPhone 12 in a new purple color.

The iPhone 12 certainly feels like the biggest leap that Apple’s smartphone line has taken in years, but not necessarily for the reason the tech giant- or major cell carriers – would have you believe.

Apple framed 5G as being the headlining feature of its new iPhones, with CEO Tim Cook describing it as “the beginning of a new era for iPhone” during the company’s launch event.

But, when it comes to the immediate improvements you should expect when unboxing the iPhone 12, which starts at $800 and officially launches on October 23, don’t expect 5G to be at the top of the list.

While it’s true that major carriers in the United States now have nationwide 5G networks, they don’t offer the blazing fast speeds that one would typically associate with 5G. Those networks are found in small corners of select cities around the US.

Still, the iPhone 12 is a step up in other important ways, like its refreshed design that makes it easier to hold, an improved screen, a high-quality camera that’s better at seeing in the dark, and compatibility with a new accessory line designed to seamlessly snap to the back of your iPhone. Here’s a closer look at whether the iPhone 12 is right for you.

Apple iPhone 12 Specifications

Apple iPhone 12 Specifications
Display 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED of (2,532 x 1,170 resolution)
Processor Apple A14 Bionic
Cameras 12-megapixel dual lens camera with wide-angle and ultra-wide angle lenses
Selfie Camera 12-megapixel
Estimated Battery Life Up to 17 hours
Storage 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Memory 4GB RAM
Biometric Authentication Face ID
Network Support 5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Durability IP68 (depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes); Display with ceramic shield coating for 4X drop resistance

Design

iPhone 12 and 12 Pro stacked
Apple’s iPhone 12 (top) and iPhone 12 Pro (bottom)

The most striking change about the iPhone 12 is its updated design. Gone are the rounded metal edges that have been present since 2014 starting with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Apple has instead reverted back to a design that’s reminiscent of the iPhone 5S and earlier – with more than a few modern design flourishes of course.

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro come with flat edges that are significantly thicker than the curved corners of their predecessors. A thicker look is usually frowned upon when you’re talking about new tech gadgets, but in the iPhone 12’s case it works wonderfully and results in an elegant appearance.

The larger and more defined edges give the phone an aesthetic that’s distinct from both the iPhone 11 and Android rivals, while also making the phone much easier to grip. It also comes in a variety of bright color choices, including a new purple finish that’s available for preorder on April 23 and launches on April 30.

The iPhone 12 is also more compact than the iPhone 11 in every way, despite the fact that it has the same sized screen and more pronounced edges. The iPhone 12 weighs just 164 grams and measures 5.78 inches x 2.82 inches x 0.29 inches, while the iPhone 11 weighs 194 grams and has dimensions of 5.94 inches x 2.98 inches x 0.33 inches.

However, it’s not quite as light as recent phones released by Google and Samsung. The Google Pixel 5 is 151 grams in weight, while Samsung’s Galaxy S20 weighs 163 grams.

The iPhone 12 line also lacks a fingerprint sensor, an incredibly useful authentication method at a time when our faces are partially obstructed by masks each time we leave the house. Android phones from Samsung, Google, and OnePlus all offer fingerprint sensors that are either built into the screen or located elsewhere.

Display

iPhone 12 Screen

Apple used to reserve its Super Retina XDR OLED displays just for its Pro models, but that feature is finally trickling down to the standard iPhone this year. That’s along with other improvements such as a higher resolution and better durability compared to the iPhone 11.

The enhancements are certainly noticeable when looking at the two phones side-by-side. The iPhone 12’s OLED 2,532 x 1,170 resolution screen offered bolder color and contrast compared to the iPhone 11’s LCD 1,792 x 828 resolution display when watching a 4K trailer for the action film “Tenet” on YouTube. This difference is especially apparent during any dark scenes since the iPhone 11’s LCD display doesn’t reach as deep of a black tone as the iPhone 12’s due to its lack of local dimming beneath the screen.

The iPhone 12‘s Super Retina XDR display is about on par with the much pricier Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 3,200 x 1,400 AMOLED screen, although Samsung’s device did display color that was slightly richer and more vibrant.

The other big upgrade coming to the iPhone 12’s screen is its ceramic shield coating, which the company says should make it four times as drop resistant as its predecessors. I wasn’t brave enough to test this with my review unit, but it’s a useful addition that will hopefully better equip the iPhone 12 when it comes to enduring accidental bumps and drops.

The iPhone 12 also manages to have the same-sized screen as the iPhone 11 despite being physically smaller. That’s because Apple slightly decreased the size of the the thin black borders that frame its display.

It’s a welcome improvement compared to the iPhone 11, but it’s not quite as sleek as the display on Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series, which simply has a hole punch-shaped cutout for the cameras rather than a full notch. Apple’s iPhone 12 also still lacks an always-on screen that can show the time and other information even when the display is asleep, a common feature I’ve come to appreciate on Android phones.

Cameras

iPhone 12 Cameras

Among the improvements to come to the iPhone 12’s camera is its ability to take in more light thanks to a wider aperture, resulting in better low-light photos.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have an aperture of f/1.6 on their main wide cameras while the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro have an aperture of f/1.8. When discussing aperture, or the opening in which light passes through the camera lens, a lower number is usually better.

The ability to absorb more light has made the iPhone 12’s camera system slightly better at capturing photos in Night Mode compared to its predecessors. Below you’ll notice the iPhone 12’s photo of a Halloween display at night is a little brighter than the image shot on the iPhone 11 Pro.

Apple iPhone 12

iPhone 12  Low Light Outside

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro Low Light outside

The iPhone 12’s Night Mode shots are sometimes better and, in other scenarios, a little worse than those taken by the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Google Pixel 5. In some test shots, the iPhone’s photo has better lighting than Samsung’s phone. It is also a bit crisper than the Pixel 5’s photo.

But, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is able to focus more sharply on the subject – likely because it has a depth sensor in its camera system unlike the standard iPhone 12 (that feature is reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro.)

Take a look at some test shots below. You’ll notice the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s shot is the sharpest, although the iPhone has the boldest color, while the Pixel 5’s is the most blurry.

Apple iPhone 12

iPhone 12 night mode flower

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Galaxy S20 Ultra night mode flower

Google Pixel 5

Pixel 5 flower night mode

But, the most significant update to come to the iPhone 12’s camera is its ability to capture Night Mode photos on all camera lenses: the wide camera, the ultra wide-angle camera, and the selfie camera. This has resulted in noticeably brighter photos taken with the ultra-wide lens and front camera that simply would not have been possible without flash otherwise.

Here’s how a selfie without flash looks on the iPhone 12 with Night Mode compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, which doesn’t have a night mode on its front camera.

Apple iPhone 12

iPhone 12 Night mode selfie

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro selfie dark

Night mode almost makes it look like the photo above, which was taken at about 8 p.m. in the evening, was captured during the day. Still, while the iPhone’s photo is plenty bright, it isn’t nearly as sharp as the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s photo. The Pixel 5’s shot is slightly crisper, too. Samsung’s photo may have been the darkest, but it’s also the most detailed by far.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Galaxy S20 Ultra Night Selfie

Google Pixel 5

Pixel 5 night mode selfie

When it comes to everyday photography in outdoor, well lit circumstances, the iPhone captures bright and vibrant color.

Take a look at the photos below, and you’ll notice that the colors in the subject’s face in the portrait shot look much more lively and realistic. The sand in the photo of ducks by the river also has much more color and contrast, making the images from Google’s phone look a bit dull in comparison.

Apple iPhone 12

iPhone 12 outdoor portrait
iPhone 12 outdoor ducks

Google Pixel 5

Pixel 5 outdoor portrait
Pixel 5 outdoor ducks

I noticed the same pattern when testing the selfie camera during the day as well – the iPhone provides richer color than those from Samsung and Google.

Apple is adding a few new tricks to the iPhone for video enthusiasts as well. Owners of the iPhone 12 will be able to shoot in Dolby Vision HDR up to 30 frames per second, and you can also capture time lapse videos in Night Mode.

5G

t-mobile store 5g network logo
Customers at a T-Mobile store, with 5G signage in February 2020.

Next-generation 5G networks from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile may be nationwide, but there’s a good chance you’ll be experiencing speeds that aren’t much faster than your current LTE network. At least for now.

Service will always vary depending on a variety of factors such as your location, but in my experience Verizon’s nationwide non-millimeter wave 5G network only performed incrementally faster than its 4G LTE offerings. That falls in line with claims that Verizon has made in the past about its nationwide 5G network.

Using the app Speedtest.net, which evaluates the performance of your internet connection by measuring upload and download speeds, I achieved an average download speed of 109.3 megabits per second (Mbps) and average upload speeds of 34.4 Mbps on the iPhone 12.

My iPhone 11 Pro running on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, by comparison, achieved an average download speed of 106.4 Mbps and average upload speed of 21.4 Mbps during the same test.

Super-fast 5G networks that run on millimeter wave spectrum are only available in very small areas of the country – quite literally specific street corners in a handful of cities. So, don’t expect a major jump in performance because of 5G just yet.

MagSafe accessories and battery life

MagSafe iPhone 12

If you’re anything like me, you’ve placed your iPhone in the wrong spot on its wireless charger at least once or twice, resulting in a drained battery and a missed alarm the next morning. Apple is hoping to circumvent this issue with its MagSafe wireless charger, which as its name implies uses magnets to snap onto the back of the iPhone 12.

The MagSafe charger essentially feels like a bigger Apple Watch charger designed for the iPhone. Simply place the phone against the round charger and it’ll seamlessly snap into place. Like the Apple Watch charger, Apple’s MagSafe wireless charger also makes a sound to confirm that it’s connected and displays a graphic showing your iPhone’s battery level.

But Apple is betting that its MagSafe tech will be useful for much more than adding convenience to wireless charging. The company is also launching a wallet that attaches to the back of your iPhone using MagSafe, and says that third-party accessory makers will be launching new add-ons of their own.

That opens up the door for a whole new crop of add-ons for the iPhone down the line, similar to Motorola’s Moto Mod accessories.

When it comes to battery life, the iPhone 12 can comfortably last a full day and then some. After a little more than 15 hours of use, the iPhone 12 still had 34% of its battery left, suggesting that the iPhone 12 is more than capable of meeting Apple’s 17-hour claims.

Battery life will always vary depending on how you use your phone and the settings that you have enabled. During my time with the iPhone 12, I streamed video for about 45 minutes – while having the brightness set to its maximum for about 15 of those minutes – and used 5G for about an hour and a half. Other than that, I streamed music for about 20 minutes and checked emails, browsed social media, took photos, and made a few brief phone calls.

The bottom line

iPhone 12 and Pro Back

Apple’s iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro introduce many improvements, such as an elegant and comfortable-to-hold design, a sharper OLED display on the standard model, a camera that’s better in low-light conditions, and compatibility with new MagSafe accessories.

But, if you have a relatively new iPhone, such as a device in the iPhone 11 or iPhone XS generation, you can probably hold off at least another year or so before upgrading your iPhone.

Those with an iPhone X or older will probably appreciate the leaps in power and battery life more than those with an XS or 11. If you’re upgrading from an 11, the biggest benefits you’re getting are the new design, a more vibrant and durable screen, a faster processor, MagSafe compatibility, and night mode on all cameras.

That might sound like a lot. But, unless you’re using an older phone that’s lacking modern features that have become mainstays on the iPhone, such as Face ID or the ultra-wide angle camera, you’re probably not going to notice all that much of a difference in your daily experience.

If one thing is for certain, it’s that you shouldn’t upgrade to the iPhone 12 just for 5G alone. The version of 5G that’s widely available today isn’t much faster than 4G LTE, and the 5G networks that do offer ultra-fast speeds are only available outdoors in small areas of certain cities or in stadiums.

All told, the iPhone 12 is chock full of seemingly separate updates that come together to make for a compelling step forward for the iPhone. The new design alone makes it feel fresher than Apple’s iPhone lineup has in years. The addition of 5G may not matter much today, but it sets up the iPhone 12 to remain relevant for years to come.

Pros: New design looks elegant and makes the iPhone 12 easier to hold; Better low-light camera and night mode on all lenses; OLED display on the standard model looks sharp and crisp; 5G will keep the iPhone 12 relevant for years to come

Cons: Widely deployed 5G networks aren’t much faster than LTE today; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display; Night mode selfies aren’t very sharp

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Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 phones feature a new look, improved specs, and cheaper prices than last year’s models

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Samsung Galaxy S21 ***EMBARGO 1/14 10AM ET***
The Galaxy S21 Ultra (left), Galaxy S21 Plus (center), and Galaxy S21 (right).

  • Samsung launched its new Galaxy S21 flagship phones on January 14.
  • Prices start at $799.99 for the Galaxy S21, $999.99 for the Galaxy S21 Plus, and $1,199.99 for the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
  • They’re available for preorder today and will be widely available to buy starting January 29 from Samsung, online retailers, and carriers. 
  • The Galaxy S21 phones come with a fresh design, new specs, and camera improvements. 
  • See also: The best smartphones

Samsung announced its latest Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra flagship smartphones on January 14.

The new Galaxy S21 phones will be available to preorder from Samsung.com starting on January 14 at 11 a.m. ET, and ending on January 28. They’ll be widely available to buy starting on January 29 in carrier stores, online retailers, and Samsung.com.

Samsung Galaxy S21 price

The phones start at $799.99 for the Galaxy S21, $999.99 for the Galaxy S21 Plus, and $1,199.99 for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Those are cheaper price tags than Samsung’s 2020 Galaxy S20 series, which are always welcome. Samsung says that the price difference can largely be attributed to maturing 5G technology. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus ***EMBARGO 1/14 10AM ET***
The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus have flat screens compared to the curved screens from previous generations.

As usual, Samsung has some incentives for preorders, which include $200 in Samsung credit and a free Galaxy SmartTag. Samsung and some carriers also have trade-in program that let you trade in your old phone to reduce the price of a Galaxy S21 device.

Samsung Galaxy S21 features

Samsung has overhauled its usual smartphone design for the new Galaxy S21 series, including flat screens for the S21 and S21 Plus compared to curved screens from previous models. The backs of the Galaxy S21 series are also getting the matte glass texture treatment compared to Samsung’s traditional clear glass.

And who could miss the fancy new camera module design that wraps around the top left corner of the Galaxy S21 phones? It’s a unique look compared to the usual plaques we often see on smartphone camera models, and it helps the Galaxy S21 series stand out among the crowd.

***EMBARGO 1/14 10AM ET*** Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus come in a variety of colors.

The Galaxy S21 series is getting the full 120Hz screen refresh rate treatment that’s largely expected on high-end phones these days, which makes for a smooth look and feel when navigating around Android and apps. Samsung also added a new Eye Comfort Shield feature to each S21 model that automatically adjusts the screen’s color temperature based on the time of day. The screen will have a brighter, cooler tone that transitions to a warmer tone as the day wears on.

And of course, the cameras got some attention, too. Save for the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s new quad-lens system, there’s nothing too remarkably different with the camera hardware itself, but Samsung added some new features that could prove handy for certain users. Namely, the new Director’s View shows you what each camera lens sees in small thumbnails and lets you switch between lenses while you’re recording video. There’s also a Vlogger View that records video with both the rear and front cameras at the same time.

***EMBARGO 1/14 10AM ET*** Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has four camera lenses, and comes in two different colors.

The fourth lens in the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s quad-camera system is an extra 10x optical zoom lens that complements a 3x optical zoom lens. Having this variety of lenses should lead to better zoomed photos and a wider range of distances, while also enabling Samsung’s crazy 100x digital zoom, which is seeing several improvements as well.

Samsung also said that it’s improved the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s low-light photography capabilities by combining nine pixels into one to absorb more light. Unfortunately, this feature won’t be available on the S21 Plus or standard S21.

Also specific to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, is support for the S Pen stylus from Samsung’s Galaxy Note series. It’ll offer the same functionality as Note users get, and you can store the S Pen in a sleeve that comes with a special case.

And specific to the Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra will be ultra-wide-band (UWB) radios. The UWB radios will let users turn their phones into digital car keys to lock and unlock their cars.

***EMBARGO 1/14 10AM ET*** Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with S Pen
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is compatible with Samsung’s S Pen stylus with the same functionality as the company’s line of Note phones.

Galaxy S21 specs

Display: 6.2-inch flat 1080p (2,400 x 1,080) 48-120Hz AMOLED

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Memory and storage: 8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage

Rear cameras: 12-megapixel standard wide, 12-megapixel 120-degree ultra-wide, and 64-megapixel 3x hybrid zoom up to 30x digital zoom 

Selfie camera: 10-megapixel 

Battery: 4,000mAh

Water resistance: IP68

Connectivity: Sub6 (5G), mmWave (5G)

Galaxy S21 Plus specs

Display: 6.7-inch flat 1080p (2,400 x 1,080) 48-120Hz AMOLED

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Memory and storage: 8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage

Rear cameras: 12-megapixel standard wide, 12-megapixel 120-degree ultra-wide, and 64-megapixel 3x hybrid zoom up to 30x digital zoom 

Selfie camera: 10-megapixel 

Battery: 4,800mAh

Water resistance: IP68

Connectivity: Sub6 (5G), mmWave (5G), ultra-wide-band (UWB)

Galaxy S21 Ultra specs

Display: 6.8-inch curved 1440p (3,200 x 1,440) 10-120Hz AMOLED

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Memory and storage: 12GB RAM with 128GB/256GB storage; or 16GB RAM with 512GB storage

Rear cameras: 108-megapixel standard wide with phase detection, 12-megapixel 120-degree ultra-wide, 10-megapixel 3x optical zoom, and 10-megapixel 10x optical up to 100x digital zoom 

Selfie camera: 10-megapixel 

Battery: 5,000mAh

Water resistance: IP68

Connectivity: Sub6 (5G), mmWave (5G), WiFi 6E, ultra-wide-band (UWB)

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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is now streaming on HBO Max – here’s how to watch the movie at home while it’s still playing in theaters

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wonder woman 1984 warner bros
“Wonder Woman 1984” is Gal Gadot’s fourth film as the titular character.

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” premiered in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25, Christmas Day.
  • The blockbuster sequel is the first in a series of Warner Bros. movies that will debut on HBO Max and theaters at the same time.
  • HBO Max subscribers don’t have to pay extra to stream “Wonder Woman 1984,” but the movie is only available for one month.
  • The HBO Max streaming app costs $15 per month, though it’s usually included if you already pay for HBO through your cable provider.

“Wonder Woman 1984” premiered in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25. The movie is the first in a series of Warner Bros. films that will be available for streaming the same day they hit the big screen.

Director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine return for the sequel to 2017’s “”Wonder Woman.” The action picks up 40 years after the conclusion of the last film. Kristen Wiig plays Cheetah, a villain who can match Wonder Woman’s superhuman abilities, and “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal plays nefarious businessman Maxwell Lord.

“Wonder Woman 1984” will be available on HBO Max for just one month starting December 25. It’s possible the movie will return to the service at a later date once it finishes playing in theaters. Viewers outside the US will be able to see “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters starting December 16, with dates staggered through January based on region.

Updated on 12/25/2020 by Steven Cohen. The language in this article has been revised for timeliness. Added details about which devices you can watch “Wonder Woman 1984” on in 4K HDR.  

How to watch ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ on HBO Max

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now streaming on HBO Max. The movie premiered on December 25. Streaming access to the film is included with an HBO Max subscription and doesn’t require any extra fees. “Wonder Woman 1984” will remain on HBO Max for 31 days. The movie will then be removed from the HBO Max library, but it’s possible that it could be added back in the future. 

The HBO Max service is priced at $15 per month, and new members can currently receive over 20% off if they prepay for six months. You can sign up directly through the HBO Max website, with your cable subscriber, or through select streaming services, like Hulu. If you already pay for HBO through your cable provider, you should be able to access HBO Max for no extra cost, with some restrictions. 

The HBO Max app is available on Apple devices, Android, Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation and Samsung smart TVs. Deals bringing the HBO Max app to Roku and Fire TV were announced just weeks before the release of “Wonder Woman 1984,” ending months of tense negotiations between AT&T, Amazon, and Roku. 

Does ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ support 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos?

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the first movie on HBO Max to stream in 4K with support for high dynamic range (HDR). The film is available in HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos on supported devices, matching the maximum quality typically seen on Netflix and Disney Plus.

Here’s a rundown of streaming devices with support for 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos through HBO Max:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Roku Ultra 4800x
  • Roku 4K TVs
  • Roku Premiere (Dolby Atmos not supported)
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ (Dolby Atmos not supported)
  • Google Chromecast Ultra
  • Chromecast with Google TV (Dolby Atmos not supported)
  • Android TVs
  • AT&T Streaming Box
  • Xfinity X1 (Xi6) and Flex

What other Warner Bros. movies are coming to HBO Max?

The next scheduled Warner Bros. release on HBO Max is “The Little Things” starring Denzel Washington and Rami Malek, which is due out on January 29, 2021. Other major releases set to arrive on the streaming service throughout 2021 include “Dune,” “The Matrix 4,” “The Suicide Squad,” “The Conjuring 3,” and more.

You can see a full list of upcoming Warner Bros. movies scheduled for day-and-date releases in theaters and on HBO Max here.

Hopefully HBO Max will be able to maintain the level of technical quality it’s setting with “Wonder Woman 1984” as more theatrical releases launch in 2021. HBO Max representatives said 4K support will arrive for more films and TV shows in 2021, but it’s unclear which will be prioritized.

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