iPhone 12 plans

I made an early start on an iPhone 12 Diary back in July because reports as of then were leading me to suspect that I was going to choose what we now believe will be called the iPhone 12 mini. But there is one rumor which might change my plans very significantly.

The appeal for me of the mini was the pocketability. As I’ve explained before, if I’m planning to do any significant device usage while mobile, I’ll take my iPad, so the key role of my iPhone is to be as pocketable as possible …

While Apple commandeered the “iPhone SE” name for something that was absolutely not a successor to the beautiful, compact original, things look set to change this year. Because the bottom-end iPhone 12 is sounding almost exactly like the iPhone SE 2 I’d long been wanting […]

The 5.4-inch screen size is, of course, bigger than the 4-inch original, but thanks to a near-bezel-free design, the external dimensions shouldn’t be very much larger than the first-generation SE. Being almost as pocketable, and with the return of the classic design, it is — in my view — the true successor to the iPhone SE.

So … I already want one. The question is: what compromise might be involved in choosing the bottom-of-the-range iPhone 12 rather than the iPhone 12 Pro?

I said at the time that the cameras would be a factor, but probably not a decisive one. Most reports had suggested no deviation from the current iPhone 11/iPhone 11 Pro difference – and if the mini lacked the telephoto lens, I could live with that.

However, there was a report back in March that suggested that the largest model – the iPhone 12 Pro Max – would get a larger sensor.

Kuo says that the top-end 6.7-inch model will get a new camera module for the wide-angle lens, known as the 7P. This will have a 1/1.9″ sensor – up from 1/3.6″ in the iPhone 11 Pro – as well as sensor-shift tech.

It was a credible source, but the report came and went without any corroboration – until last week. We then got a second reliable source saying the same thing.

The key differentiator between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max will be the sensor size, with the Max model packing a 47% larger sensor with 1.7μm pixels.

Now, there are two ways you can go with a larger sensor. The first is to keep the pixel density the same, and increase the number of megapixels. That’s not interesting to me at all: we already have enough pixels for even poster-sized prints.

But the second is to keep the megapixel count the same, and reduce the pixel density. Lower pixel density means less noise in the image. The biggest difference is seen in low-light images. I adore the blue hour, and also take a lot of night shots – so better quality low-light images would be a huge deal for me. I also use the ultra-wide-angle lens the most, and that’s the lens which Kuo said would get the larger sensor.

Neither report tells us which way Apple will go, but historically the company has not chased megapixels, and has instead prioritized the quality of the image over the resolution.

All of which leaves me in the rather odd position of ideally wanting the smallest model, the iPhone 12 mini, but finding myself tempted by the largest, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That definitely wouldn’t be something I could carry in jeans pockets, but then even the 6.1-inch Pro would already be pushing things there. If I have to carry it in a jacket pocket, then 6.1-inch or 6.7-inch doesn’t really make any difference (other than to my wallet, of course). We’ll see!

What about your own plans? Based on what you know so far, which model are you expecting to buy, and why? Please let us know in the comments.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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