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AirPods Studio and AirPods Pro 2 Rumor Rundown

So, literally, just after I finished posting my analysis of all the Apple Silicon Mac Event rumors, including the AirPods Studio rumors — link in the description — Mark Gurman and Debbi Wu of Bloomberg goes and reports on a whole batch of AirPods rumors — AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2, and yeah, AirPods Studio. Some new, some we’ve seen or heard before.

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Apple Silicon November Event Rumor Rundown

While I was busy covering the stuffing out of the iPhone 12, a few rumors hit about the upcoming November Apple Silicon Event. Including, yeah, that there’ll be a November Apple Silicon event. A third fall event. 2020 says hi… We’ll get to all that.

And, apparently, the rumors are… conflicted. Like, a giant leak slap fight or something. And I say apparently... because I haven’t even had time to look at them yet.

So, I’m going to do that, and give you my live reactions, right now.

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iPhone 12 vs 11 vs XR vs SE — Don’t Choose WRONG!

Apple has unleashed 4 new iPhones this year, from the 12 to the mini to the Pro to the Max. But if any or all of those are too rich for your blood, then Apple has a few other, lower priced models still on the virtual shelves. 11, XR, and SE.

If you need to upgrade, if you need a new phone, but you don’t want to pay any more than you absolutely have to, then one of these lower priced iPhones just might be for you.

But which one? What are you getting and what are you giving up?

Price and capacity

Apple has actually held the line on iPhone Pro base pricing and even doubled the storage and lowered the higher capacity options this year. Yeah, a rare 2020 miracle. The iPhone Pro starts at $1000 for 128GB, goes to $1100 for 256GB, the jumps to $1300 for 512GB. Max starts at $1100 and goes to $1200 and $1400.

The regular iPhone 12, though, has gone back up in price. Blame OLED and 5G. It starts now at $830 for 64GB, goes to $880 for 128GB, and $980 for 256GB. And the iPhone 12 mini slots in right under that, starting at $730 and going up to $780 and $880.

If that’s just way too much for you to spend on an iPhone, you can an iPhone 11 starting at $600 for 64GB, $650 for 128GB, or $750 for 128GB, and iPhone XR starting at $500 for 64GB or $550 for 128GB — but strangely no 256GB option — or an iPhone SE, which is basically the guts of an iPhone 11 in an iPhone 8 body, starting at $400 and going up to $450 or $550 — with, yes, a 256GB option.

So, if you know what you want to spend, you can whittle right down to which model and which storage size you want to spend on.

Just remember that, with the smaller storage capacities, you won’t be able to keep as many photos or songs or videos or games or — pretty much anything locally. If you stream all your content and store all the things in all the clouds, maybe you’ll be fine with 64GB. For most people, 128GB is going to be the sweet spot, especially for just $50 more if you can afford it.

Materials and Colors

If you want stainless steel bands, or the more matte silver, graphite, 18K gold, or Pacific Blue colors, you’ll need to go iPhone 12 Pro. Otherwise, you’ll get aluminum bands but an even wider choice of colors.

And yes, even if you put a case on, you’ll still see the color sticking out, so, really, make sure you get what you like.

Interestingly, the iPhone 12 has among the fewest options. Black, white, a slightly more orange Product RED, a deep blue and a minty green. Going to the iPhone 11, you lose the blue but get a light, lavender purple option as well as yellow, a slightly different but still minty green, and a more neutral product red. With the iPhone XR, you lose the purple, get a sky blue back, a deeper yellow, orange coral, and slightly more blueish red.

For the iPhone SE, though, it’s just black, white, and the neutral product RED.

But please, pick the best phone for you first, then the color of that phone you like best.

Display & Size

Ok, so, display technology first. By skipping the iPhone 12s, you’re giving up on the triple density OLED displays that are just all across the whole line now. Those have high dynamic range and contrast ratios for deep, inky blacks, bright whites, lots of detail in shadows and highlights, and rich, vibrant colors. There are some problem areas with OLED, like color shifting, smearing, and more, but Apple’s done a really good job just mitigating all of that. So they look terrific for watching movies, TV shows, and looking at photos.

What you get with the iPhone 11, XR, and SE are double density LCD displays. They’re wide gamut, so you still get rich reds and vibrant greens, but you don’t get the same high dynamic range and contrast. Now, Apple uses really, really good LCD panels with excellent color calibration, so unless you really care about HDR or are holding them side-by-side with OLED, you may not recognize or care about the difference.

In terms of size, if you don’t get an iPhone 12, you don’t get the option for either a Max or mini size. The 6.7-inch Max can either show you more information or show you the same information bigger, if that’s better for your eyes, though it’s harder to use one handed or fit in a pocket. The 5.4-inch mini is the opposite — much easier to use one handed and fit in a pocket, but much less and smaller text on the screen.

What you do get is 6.1-inches on either the iPhon 11 or iPhone XR, same screen sizes as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, but just slightly bigger, thicker, and heavier, because they have to squeeze in those LCD screens. Otherwise, goldilocks all the way, all of them.

If you want small but don’t want to pay mini prices, there’s also the iPhone SE. It’s a little bigger physically but, at 4.7-inches, has an even smaller display. That’s thanks to the classic forehead and chin design, rather than the more modern edge-to-almost-edge design of all the others. It’s still pocketable and one… hand-able, just with a much lower screen to bezel ratio.

Durability

If you don’t get an iPhone 12, you don’t get the new ceramic shield on the front either. That, combined with the flatter design, has Apple rating them as 4 times harder to break than the chemically strengthened, ion-exchange glass on the iPhone 11, never mind the iPhone XR or SE. So, just keep that in mind if you, like me, tend to drop your phones. In other words, invest in a case if you need it.

When it comes to scratch protection though, they’re all the same. So get screen protectors as needed. Particle ingress protection is also the same. IP6, which is basically as good as it gets when it comes to keeping dust and dirt out.

Water resistance varies a lot. Where the iPhone 12 models, all of them, will give you up to 6 meters for 30 minutes, the 11 will only do 2 meters and the XR and SE, only 1 meter. So, you can’t swim or anything with any of them, they’ll fail eventually if you do that, but if accidents happen in the bath, at the pool or beach, or in the rain, you’ll have as much protection as you pay for.

Cameras

The main differences between the iPhone cameras is how many there are, how good they are, and how many computational modes they have.

They’re all 12 megapixel, all the time, and all have wide angles. The iPhone 12 Max is just a wide aperture, big sensor, low light monster, with the other iPhone 12s being just a step behind.

All the iPhones 12 and the iPhone 11 also have an ultra wide angle, which means you can kind of zoom out to capture more of what’s in a scene, and the iPhones 12 Pro have a telephoto, with the Max being slightly worse aperture but also slightly more… telephoto-y, so you can kind of zoom in to get better close ups.

And yeah, the iPhone XR and iPhone SE just have that single, cyclops wide angle.

For computational modes, the iPhone XR has the original Smart HDR while the iPhone SE and 11 have the second generation and the iPhone 12s, the 3rd gen. The iPhone 11 also has deep fusion for mid-level light and Night Mode for low light, but only on the wide angle. The iPhones 12 have it on all the cameras.

With the iPhone SE and XR, you get single lens Portrait Mode, which uses phase adjust and segmentation masking for decent results. On the 11 and regular iPhone 12, you get wide angle portrait mode with optical depth, which is better. But all of those only really work in decent lighting. The iPhone 11 Pros, though, with LiDAR scanners, can do damn good wide angle and telephoto portrait mode even in low light and full-on night mode.

Which mainly just means they’re all great in normal conditions, especially outside during work he day, but the new models are just that much better, and if you really need full on low light functionality, especially in doors and at night, you’ll really want the new iPhone 12s Pro.

And, yeah, the selfie camera story is very similar. Just 12 megapixels with a slightly wider mode only on the iPhones 12 and 11, and 7 megapixels on the XR and SE.

Video

For a long time, the iPhones have had some of the very best video cameras in the game. And all of these, just all of them, can capture up to 4K at up to 60 frames per second and slow motion at up to 1080p at 240 fps.

The difference is, the iPhone XR and iPhone SE cap out at 4K 30 with extended dynamic range, while the iPhone 11 can go up to 4K 60 EDR. Which is great, expect that the iPhone 12 can now go up to 4K 30 in full-on HDR, Dolby Vision high dynamic range and the iPhone 12 Pro, up to 4K 60 in that mode.

And, of course, you get that video in wide angle on all of them, ultra wide on the 12s and 11, and telephoto just on the 12s Pro.

So it really just comes down to — do you want to shoot casual video under normal conditions or do you want to pay more to shoot next level video under a wider range of conditions.

Wireless

If you really care about the speeds to go with your feeds, both the iPhones 12 can iPhone 11 go up to Wi-Fi6, which is 802.11ax. The iPhone XR and SE cap out at Wi-Fi5, or 802.11ac.

All of them are Bluetooth 5.0, but only the iPhones 12 and 11 have the new U1 ultra Wideband chip, which… actually doesn’t do much now but will be playing a big roll in the future with features like CarKeys, or virtual keys for your car, and Find My, so you can exactly locate your stuff, like down to the inch, especially if and when the long-rumored Apple tags actually roll out.

The biggest difference is cellular. The iPhones 12 all support 5G NR, maybe you heard? Of course, whether your carrier in your area supports it or not is a bigger question. And sure, getting a 5G iPhone now will future proof you if you get 5G soon, but if not, future iPhones will have better, more efficient 5G radios, so you know my advice here — wait as long as you can to buy, then buy when you absolutely need to, and then enjoy the hell out of what you buy and have zero regrets, because there’ll always be something better coming next, and that just means something better for you to buy the next time you really need to.

For 4G LTE, the iPhone 5s go up to 2 Gb, while the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE go up to 1 Gb and the iPhone XR tops out at LTE advanced. Which is, yeah, slower than 1 Gb.

Biometrics

Another key difference is biometric authentication, or what lets you skip having to enter your password, making it easier and faster to unlock, authenticate for purchases, use Apple Pay, all that stuff.

Almost all the iPhones currently available use Face ID, or Apple’s facial geometry scanner that identifies you based on the structure of everything between your eyes and nose. Which, in normal times, is super quick, almost transparent. But, it doesn’t work almost at all with masks, because masks when worn properly cover your nose. And all of us are wearing masks a lot more these days.

The iPhone SE, though, still has a Home button and that means it still has Touch ID, or Apple’s fingerprint scanner that identifies you based on your swirls and ridges. It has some problems if you’ve just washed your hands, and doesn’t work with gloves, but masks are zero problem.

Probably not what you want to base your whole decision on, but important info to consider either way.

Battery Life

The iPhone 12 Max, by virtue of its size, just has Max battery, because there’s so much of it. Rated for up to 20 hours of video playback. On the flip side, the iPhone 12 mini, also by virtue of its lack of size, has mini battery life, because there’s just less battery. So it’s rated for only 15 hours of video playback.

The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 are both around 17 hours and so is the iPhone 11, and the iPhone XR is just behind with 16 hours. That leaves the iPhone SE dead last at 13 hours.

And, yeah, the iPhone 12s are all OLED and all A14, they get a boost. If you go on 5G though, especially mmWave in the US, that’ll drain away fast, especially on mmWave in the US.

They can all charge inductively on Qi standard pads up to 7.5 watts, but the iPhone 12s can also use the new MagSafe magnetic inductive charging system to get to 15 watts.

They all also have Lightning ports, sorry, still no USB-C, and can fast charge up to 50% in 30 minutes with something like Apple’s new 20 watt AC adapter.

So, the only big differences here, MagSafe aside, are bigger more expensive phones have longer battery life, and the little, less expensive phones have… less. Funny that physics.

Performance

If you want the fastest, more energy efficient processor in the game right now, you’re going to have to go with the iPhone 12 and the brand new A14 Bionic. It’s on a 5 nanometer process, with better CPU, GPU, a 16 core neural engine, blazing fast machine learning, with 4GB of RAM for the regular models and 6GB for the Pros. That’s enough overhead for all the compute you need now, and probably 5 years or so of iOS updates down the road. So, like iOS 19 in 2025.

The 7 nanometer A13 Bionic in the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE is no slouch though, and probably still better than what’s in most other phones still to this day. Not quite as much compute as the A14, but still has 4GB of RAM, and that means you should still get up to 4 years of updates, to about iOS 18 in 2024.

The A12 Bionic in the iPhone XR is a little older now, but still 7 nanometer and similar architecture, just not as much power, 3GB of RAM, and probably only good for updates out to iOS 17 in 2023. Which, to be fair, is the maximum currently offered by the best of the best Android phones by the likes of Google and Samsung.

Day to day, you’ll only really notice the difference in things like how many photographic modes you get and how fast they resolve, and how long big apps like social media and games stay in memory before being jettisoned.

So, yeah, more is always better but enough is also enough. Especially with just how damn good Apple silicon is in general.

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iPhone 12 Dolby Vision HDR — FROM THE SKY! (Feat. Toby Harriman)

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro don't just shoot 4K video. They shoot 4K Dolby Vision video. That's HDR — High Dynamic Range — video the way... HDR is meant to be.

Famed aerial photographer and videographer Toby Harriman has been testing out the capability but in his own spectacular way: From high above in the skies of San Francisco!

We chat about his first impressions of iPhone 12 Pro Dolby Vision HDR video, how it fits into his workflow, what it means for professionals and everyday people alike, and take a sneak peek at the video he shot.

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Unboxing iPad Air 4 — Hands-On!

The 2020 iPad Air (4th Generation) is here — edge-to-sorta-edge Liquid Retina display, Touch ID, landscape stereo audio, Apple A14 chipset, the whole bit! — and getting unboxed alongside the Apple Pencil 2, Smart Folio cover, and 11-inch Magic Keyboard 2!

Let’s do this!

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iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Mega Review

New, retro-future design. All-OLED displays. Better camera systems. LiDAR. A14 Bionic. MagSafe. But… well, we’ll get to all that… I’m Rene Ritchie and this… is my iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro review.

Pricing

There’s a difference between cost and value. — And yes, I’m doing this review totally backwards, relax about it —. There’s a difference between the price you pay and what you get for that price. For your money.

And this is something I’ve been struggling with, a lot, ever since Apple announced the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

See, when the iPhone X came out three years ago, it was clearly something new, something novel, something next, the future of the iPhone but with a future-popping $1000 price tag to go with it.

Two years ago, the iPhone XS tried to cement that $1000 as the new normal while the stripped down $800 iPhone XR felt like… a discount, more compromised model just slipped in underneath.

But then… then, the iPhone 11 came out last year, no R, no Fs, and just reset expectations again. Pushing aside and re-branding the high-ends as Pro, re-claiming the mass market and, while still compromised compared to the Pro, its lower $700 price tag made those compromises far, just far more palatable to… well… everybody. Especially when other phones were all just racing to $1000.

And now… this year, we have the iPhone 12. Again, no letter, and just negative fs, if that’s at all even possible. Because the price tag is back up at $800. $830 if you’re not getting any big three-carrier cash back. Up to $850, because you now have to shell out almost $20 for the new, and newly sold separately, AC adapter…. More on that in a hot take minute.

And doing the math, yeah, divide by zero, carry the one, just all that math… in 2020… of all years, the Devlin Emerich blockbuster bomb of years, it just didn’t make sense. If there was any year, any year, we needed a break — just a beyond Baby Yoda coming back break— a break on iPhone pricing break, it was 2020.

And, instead, we got… this?

But then, over the last week, as I started doing my analysis, and especially the last 5 days as I’ve been using… ok, fine, abusing my review units in tests, I’ve come to realize something… this may well be a more expensive iPhone 12. But it’s also a less expensive iPhone 12 Pro.

And I’m painfully aware that might just sound like one of those dumb things reviewers just say. But it’s not. It’s real. Except for a very few, very specific features, the 12 is now all but indistinguishable from the 12 Pro.

So, for $150 more, you get an almost Pro. But wait, there’s more. Because — get this — while many other premium phones have shot up to $1200 or more over the last year, never mind the flips and the folds, even the slabs, Apple has held the 12 Pro to just exactly that $1000 line. Like… This far. No further. Better actually, because storage increased so now you get 128GB for less than last year, and the 256 and 512GB models are $500 less than last year.

So, for $150 more that last year you get an almost Pro, but for $150 more than that, you get the full-on Pro.

And here’s where I start to review backwards. What are the features that make the regular iPhone 12 so almost-Pro, what are the features that still set the actual iPhone 12 Pro apart, and is the value that they provide — both of them — is that value worth the cost, to me, to you, to anyone?

Design

We knew this, just everybody knew this was coming. We knew it since the moment we saw the updated iPad Pro a couple of years ago — the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5-style squared off sides have returned.

Yeah, after half a decade of curved glass and rounded antenna bands, Apple has taken the iPhone design language… not back to the future but… forward to the past.

The iPhone 12 borrows most heavily from the iPhone 5, because aluminum. And manages the same trick of feeling just as impossibly light for its size. Like it’s not a real phone but one of those dummy phones at carrier stores light. 15% less volume than the iPhone 11 light.

The squared off edges feel every bit as good — or bad, if you preferred the curves. For me, they dig in just a little for a more secure grip. But because the back is glossy glass and not textured aluminum, and because anodization seems a little thicker, the overall feeling is different. At least on my deep blue review unit. Yeah, this year it comes in deep blue, but also black, white, a minty green, and Product RED.

Also, of course, the squared off sides mean it’ll still stand up all on its own. Which is just super cool for videos like this.

Same with the iPhone 12 Pro. Which I got sampled in the lighter, slightly more teal looking Pacific Blue, but also comes in silver, and, like the new Apple Watch, graphite and 18-K-as-in-Kardashian gold.

The difference is that, for the 12 Pro, the very iPhone 4-like antennae band is also in a very iPhone 4-like stainless steel. Which is what Apple’s been using for he higher-end iPhones since the iPhone X.

It still feels light for the size, though not as light, but the lack of the curve also makes it feel slightly thicker. And, obviously, since this, the smaller of the iPhone 12 Pros, is now as big as the iPhone 12, same size as the previous iPhone 11 and iPhone XR, just bigger in general than the iPhone 11 Pro.

But I’ve always wanted the non-Max Pro in this size. Just the perfect middle-ground size.

Because the bands on the colored models are PVD and not just clear coated like all the iPhone 4 models were, and the glass doesn’t sit above the bands, but flush with them, it ends up feeling very different as well. Especially with the back glass having a matte finish, something Apple introduced last year for the Pro line.

Sadly, Apple didn’t return to the round volume buttons of the elder iPhone era. Which, visually, I’ve always just loved and wish they had. Tactilely, though… I’ll admit to liking the utility of the longer lines better.

So, retro, yes, a throwback, in a way, but also a design that ends up being distinct and futuristic in their own way.

And that’s really the only differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro here. Colors and materials. Glossy black, white, green, blue, and red with aluminum bands versus matte graphite, white, pacific blue, and gold with stainless steel bands. That’s it.

Even the front glass is the same… Well, it isn’t even glass any more. It’s impregnated with Nanoscale ceramic crystals — which is a fancy way of saying super tough but still transparent — to make what Apple calls Ceramic Shield.

Combined with the retro, flat, flush design, Apple says it provides 4 times more break resistance than the iPhone 11. Which… I’m both super curious and terrified to find out about at some accidental point in the future.

Because, so far, the glass backs also seem every bit as slippery as the last few versions. Which means, if you put them down on anything other than a level surface, which I do a lot, they’ll probably slide and tumble, and in short order. It’s never caused a break for me, but every time I see or hear it, it does cause my robot heart to skip a beat or several.

Now, If you’re concerned about scratches, nothing has changed there. It’s still ion-exchange, chemically hardened, but break resistance and scratch resistance are also still a trade off and Apple is still optimizing more for break resistance. So, if you used a screen protector before, you’re going to want to keep right on using one.

Also, the Ceramic Shield is only on the front. The back is the same hardened glass as the iPhone 11 series. Which, Apple says, is still harder than any other glass on the market. A benefit of their super buddy-buddy relationship with Corning. That doesn’t mean, if you drop an iPhone 12, you want it to land butter side down, though. Because that’s where the display is.

Display

There’s a 5.4-inch iPhone mini and 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max coming next month, but they’re the only models at those sizes. So if you know you want the smallest or biggest new iPhone 12, you know you want the mini or Max. The subtleties are all between the regular iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro.

First, because they’re both 6.1-inches now. Yeah, the Pro’s all grown up. And second, they both have mostly the same display now. Mostly.

After the iPhone XR and regular iPhone 11 stuck with the traditional double density LCD displays, like iPhones have had since… well.. the iPhone 4, the regular iPhone 12 is graduating to OLED, like the iPhone X, XS, 11 Pro, and, yeah, 12 Pro. Again, almost.

This year, both models, regular and Pro, have Apple’s triple density XDR OLED Displays. Though, RGB stripe LCD isn’t directly comparable to PenTile OLED, but, suffice it to say, they both have top of the line panels.

OLED isn’t perfect. In previous reviews I’ve gone over all the mitigations it requires for burn-in, off-axis color shift, and more. And I know some people believe it gives them eye-strain and headaches due to the pulse-width modulation, PWM, used to maintain performance at lower brightness levels. And if that’s you, you’ll want to stick with an LCD iPhone 11, XR, or SE. But, all that said, OLED is currently the best display technology for phones.

The lower power draw means, even slimmed down, the iPhone 12 keeps roughly the same battery life as the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 Pro, what Apple rates at 17 hours of local video playback or 11 hours of streaming.

And the lack of an LED backlight, which the LCD on the XR and 11 required, means the Lightning port is now all right and properly centered again. Hurrah.

And then there’s HDR.

I’ve explained this before, but you never want just more pixels. Wanting just more pixels is the real not-1080p-in-2018 facepalm. You want better pixels. And that involves everything from color-calibration and management to, yeah, high dynamic range — HDR.

And now both new iPhone 12s, regular and Pro alike, are fully HDR, high dynamic range, supporting the open HDR10 and licensed Dolby Vision standards, as well as HGL, hybrid Gamma Log, which is what some broadcasters prefer for compatibility reasons.

They’re both 2 million:1 contrast ratio, and both can hit 1200 nits for HDR content, so blacks look deep, inky black, whites look bright, there’s detail in shadows and highlights, reds look rich, and greens look vibrant.

I love it. When I’m watching the Mandalorian or Avengers Endgame on Disney+ or Stranger Things or Daredevil on Netflix or, you’re damn right, Ted Lasso on TV+, HDR is just how I want to watch now.

Now, you may not notice the difference unless you’re looking at SDR and HDR side-by-side. Even then, Apple’s LCD’s are really, really good so you’ll only notice it at the extremes ends of the dynamic range. Or you may just not care, either at all or simply on a phone sized screen. Which is totally valid. But for those that do care, it’s there.

Unlike high refresh rate, which is another one of several characteristics that make for a really premium display these days.

The iPhone has been 60Hz since it launched in 2007, which was terrific… in 2007. These days, many other phones are 90Hz, 120Hz, even more. It makes scrolling look smoother and reduces visual latency for however many games support it.

My guess is that it’s because high refresh rate OLED is still in its infancy. Apple’s been doing up to 120Hz adaptive refresh going on 3 years on the LCD iPad Pro. But the key word there is adaptive. It can ramp up to 120Hz for scrolling and the like, but also ramp down to 24Hz from static images. And that’s important because, by itself, 120Hz burns a lot more power. So balancing it with 24Hz helps maintain battery life.

Other phones have compensated by downscaling resolution, sometimes badly, by sucking up the extra drain, or by adding a manual toggle… but because the color management isn’t there, you can literally see the white point change. Which I’m guessing is a deal-breaker for Apple.

So, just like they ignored OLED until 2017, when they could get panels they liked, I’m guessing they’ll ignore high-refresh rate until 2021 when they can get adaptive OLED panels in sufficient quantities.

Like HDR, nerds like me want it now, now, now. Mostly because of the adaptive part — so I can watch those HDR movies in the proper 48Hz, 24 fps frame rate nature and Hollywood intended. Even if others can’t see the difference or simply don’t care. Which, frankly, is probably more than 90% of the market still today.

Either way, and all that context understood, it’s still totally fair to ding the iPhone 12 for not having it. And to see, when and if Apple adds it next year, whether the quality was worth the wait. Meanwhile, if you want it too, hit the like button as we’ll see how high it gets.

And, yeah, the notch is still there. And, personally, I don’t care. Subjectively, you might prefer a notch or a forehead or a hole punch, but objectively they all waste pixels and none are any less of a splinter in the eye. Especially since Apple would need like 4 hole punch and I can’t take that many spider eyes. I just can’t, not even in 2020.

Mechanical choochers what raise and lower hidden cameras introduce new points of potential mechanical failure, and under-display cameras still aren’t ready for primetime, so we’ll likely have notches of diminishing sizes until they are.

Which also means, it’s all still Face ID, and only face ID. No touch ID in the power button like the new iPad Air. Not this year at least. I hope Apple does add it back though. In the age of pandemic, wear masks or is common now as gloves, multiple biometrics moves from being a nice to have to a must have.

If you’re coming from an iPhone 6s to iPhone XS, you’ll also immediately notice 3D Touch is gone. It left last year with the iPhone 11 and isn’t coming back. Now we have Haptic Touch instead, which is less firm press and more long press. It’s more consistent across Apple’s devices, namely the iPad, but it’s also slower. It’s gotten better every year as well, but it still doesn’t have the speed or tactility of 3D Touch. I’m hoping Apple can implement better machine learning to deal with the speed and just keep tweaking the Taptic Engine to better simulate the feel. Until they nail it, though, I’m going to keep missing 3D Touch.

Now, there is one difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro panels: The regular iPhone 12 only sustains at 625 nits typical brightness when you’re not watching HDR and the iPhone 12 Pro sustains at 800 nits. Which means, probably just because Pro has to mean “premium” or just “nicer” in some ways, its display will be easier to see when you’re out in the sun.

For me, that’s certainly a difference. Just not as major a difference as the previous years’ LCD vs. OLED. And it’s just exactly the type of Pro-level upgrade I was talking about for the non-Pro iPhones.

Cameras

Since Apple just OLED all the things, the biggest difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is now the camera system.

And yeah, I’ll be doing a more in-depth camera review soon, so make sure you hit the subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss it.

The iPhone 12, like the iPhone 11, has a dual camera system. If you’re coming from an iPhone 7 or 8 Plus, or X or XS, it’s a different kind of dual camera system — wide angle and ultra wide instead of wide angle and telephoto. In other words, it quote-unquote zooms out instead of zooming in.

The effective 26mm wide angle, which has always been the best camera on the iPhone, is even better now. It has a faster f/1.6 aperture. So, it’s not Barry Allen or anything, but it’s still the fastest iPhone alive, and lets it take in 27% more light. It’s also got a new 7-element lens system, one more element than before, so you get less noise, and better sharpness as well, especially around the edges. And, the optical image stabilization, or OIS, ca now make 500 micro-adjustments per second, so it can stay open longer and steadier. For most people, this just means you’ll get better photos in lower light than over before. Which is good.

The effective 13mm, 120º ultra wide angle, which has been the weakest camera since Apple introduced it last year… is still pretty weak, at least comparatively. But, what Apple can’t beat with big physics, they’re throwing even more big compute at. Specifically, computational lens correction.

See, the wider the lens, the more the distortion around the edges. One minute, ultra wide, the next, boom, fish-eye. So, Apple is using the image signal processor and what I’m guessing may be some very fancy ARKit-style scene intelligence, to straighten out lines normalize faces, at least to some extent. Typically, it’s something that you’d typically pay thousands and thousands of dollars to get a special, real-wolrd architectural lens for, but here, now it’s just one more check off the computational photography boxes.

Now, I do find the effect works best if I’m at mid-level with my subject. If I’m shooting too high up or too low down, the straightening still happens, but wow is it sharp. Straight on, though, it’s dead on.

Apple’s also iterated their smart HDR feature to version 3, and expanded both Night Mode and Deep Fusion to the the ultra wide camera now as well. The selfie camera on front too while they were at it.

Smart HDR typically handles bright scenes, making sure skies aren’t blown out or details aren’t lost in shadows. Deep fusion works best in the middle, less bright, shadowed, indoors, and the like, preserving texture and detail. Night Mode just stacks and brackets the crap out of low-light to almost no light photos, so it can bring out the subject, while minimizing blur and noise, and maintaining that night time mood.

The iPhone can take multiple photos so fast, and round trip them through the image signal process and compute engines so quickly, that it can just figure out what the different elements are in any given scene, process them on a pixel-by-pixel basis, and take all the best bits from all the best frames and serve you up something that’s far better than the sum of any of those bits.

Some phones have bigger optics, others better algorithms, but no one is currently balancing the atoms and bits the way Apple is with the iPhone, and when you look at the results, not so much year-over-year, but over the stretch of a few years, the improvements are remarkable. Especially in low light and depth compared to the iPhone 7, or HDR compared to the iPhone XS.

Where the iPhone 12 Pro stands out is the extra cameras and sensors.

In addition to the same wide and ultra wide cameras, the 12 Pro also has an effective 52mm, f/2.0 telephoto camera. Similar to what the dual cameras had on the iPhones 7 through XS.

In Apple terms, where the ultra wide lets you step back from 1x to 0.5x, the telephoto lets you step forward to 2x.

Which is why I like having the telephoto so much. I mean, sometimes you can sneaker zoom in or out, though not always. But the lenses don’t just look closer or further away, they compress depth to a lesser or greater degree. That same distortion I talked about with the 22mm also makes close objects look much closer and farther objects look much farther, whether that’s a nose and a hoodie or a person and a tree. It’s almost… hyper dimensional. With the 52mm, it’s the opposite. The distortion is less. Which is why photographers love 50mm lenses, 80mm lenses even, so much for everything from portraits to product shots.

I’ll almost always default to the telephoto if I can, which is why I’ll almost always default to the iPhone Pro if I can.

Unfortunately, other than extending the computational modes like deep fusion across all the cameras, Apple didn’t really do much to improve the zoom-in aspect of telephoto this year. I mean, 10x digital zoom does look a bit better. Part of that might just be the better sensor and smarter HDR processing. But it doesn’t look like they’re using Smart HDR for Smart Zoom the way Google’s been using HDR+ for SuperRes Zoom.

Never mind periscope zoom cameras like or 48 to 108 megapixel, pixel binned sensors, like Samsung or Huawei.

And yes, I realize I just pontificated about more pixels not being as important as better pixels. But why not both? Once the world finishes ending, being able to take good zoom photos of kids or pets at the park, sights we’re out seeing, just anything further away, is a huge advantage.

Part of Apple’s whole approach to photos is just to let us whip our phones out of our pockets, tap or click, and get the best photo possible. And year after year, just increasing the range and conditions under which we can just get those best photos possible. And really good zoom is still just a glaring gap in getting just exactly that. Fingers crossed for next year.

What Apple did do with the 12 Pro is add a LiDAR scanner, like the one they added to the iPad Pro back in March. It’s like having the FaceID TrueDepth camera on the back, just not as dense but with much greater range. So it can just… like… ingest what’s in the room in front of you or, outside, what’s a similar sized distance in front of you.

Sadly, Apple didn’t add the ability to create Youmoji. You know, the opposite of Memoji. Relax. I’m kidding. Kinda. I’d pay good money to drop dinosaur or, sure, poop emoji heads on some people when taking snaps.

Anyway, right now, photographically, it’s used to improve auto focus in low light, which means instead of a few seconds of that little yellow square blinking, it locks on almost immediately, and to extend Portrait Mode into low light. Because it doesn’t have to interpret depth optically any more. It has literal fricken lasers. Well, not literal, it has light beams.

The LiDAR scanner also makes AR much faster and better. It can start positioning AR objects almost immediately, which means you don’t waste any time any more waving your phone around waiting for it to detect a flat surface, and it handles everything from tracking to occlusion much, much better. Apple already has their Measure app on the iPhone and I can’t wait for some of the 3D scanner apps from the iPad Pro to make their way over as well.

And, fair bet, Apple’s using all these year-over-year improvements to build towards something… next.

But even now, it all comes together to make a camera that’s just incredible fast, fluid, and fun to shoot with. That, like any good iPhone camera, you can just pull out, snap a photo with, and almost always get a great photo, regardless of the conditions. And in a wider range of conditions now than ever.

Side note, Apple has also pre-announced ProRAW for the Pro iPhone 12. Basically, trying to balance the flexibility of RAW with the power of computational photography. But it’s not coming out until later in the year so I’ll cover it when it does.

Video

The improvements too the camera system also carry over to video, specifically the larger aperture for better low-light and the more precise image stabilization for smoother, steadier shots.

There’s a new night mode time lapse, so you can put together some really cool shots over really long exposures.

Recording is still capped at 4K60. There’s no 4K120 yet for slow-motion, which I was really hoping for this year. Even if it needed just all the light.

Also, no 8K anything. Basically for the same reason there’s no higher levels of optical zoom. Apple’s still using 12 megapixel sensors and 8K needs just over 33, at least.

And yeah, I’d like 8K for pretty much the same reason I’d like greater optical zoom — to punch in when and if I need to.

But, what Apple is doing is Dolby Vision. Previously, the iPhone could do extended dynamic range recording by interleaving the frames. Now it’s doing full-on HDR by processing Dolby Vision dynamic meta-data in real-time as you record. It’s even editable, with the data being re-tuned on-the-fly. And to maximize compatibility, the iPhone also performs a standard dynamic range tone map so, if you share to a device without HDR, it gets sent an SDR version instead.

That’s just a lot of tech speak to say videos shot with the iPhone 12 will look more colorful, like 60 times more colorful, and have those same deep, inky blacks and bright whites, with detail in the shadows and highlights, like the Dolby Vision movies and shows you see on Disney+ and Netflix and TV+.

Now, Samsung phones offer HDR10+ video recording, initially as a labs feature, but now up to 4K30 on the back camera, with manual SDR conversion.

The iPhone 12 will do Dolby Vision at 4K30 on the front and back cameras, and the iPhone 12 Pro, Dolby Vision at 4K30 on the front but a whopping 4K60 on the back, my guess is because the Pro has 6GB of memory to the 4GB on the regular iPhone 12.

In general, Dolby Vision offers higher potential bit-depth and peak brightness, and typically better standards for tone mapping than HDR10+. Apple is only going to 10-bits and 1200 nits right now, but their tone mapping is terrific, and I like that there’s that extra headroom to grow into.

More than that, I like that Apple is putting Dolby Vision cameras into the hands of millions of people, in a simple and straight forward way, which will hopefully make HDR in general far more fully fully mainstream.

I already record these videos in 10-bit but I upload them in standard dynamic range. Maybe this will help change that?

A14 Bionic

All these real-time computational photography and Dolby Video capabilities are thanks to the new A14 Bionic SoC, or system on a chip. It’s what does everything from Smart HDR 3 using the new image signal processor, or ISP, combined with the Apple Neural Engine, or ANE. Which, this year sees its core count double again from 8 to 16. It also has the performance and machine learning controllers, which round trip the data between the CPU, the ML accelerators or AMX on the CPU, and the GPU, and the storage controllers, that make sure you don’t drop a single photo or frame of video. Which… you really only appreciate when you hear other people yell about dropped photos and frames.

For me, real-time is still a huge deal, because it means I can see what I’m shooting. Like with an actual camera. I don’t have to guess, wait for an after effect, get it wrong, try again. Waste time. Lose the light. Lose the position. Lose the moment.

Anyway, I’ve already done a huge deep-dive into the A14 Bionic, so I’ll link to it in the description, and just quickly go over a couple points I think are key.

It’s built on a 5 nanometer process, which means it can fit 1.8 times as many transistors into the same space. It looks like Apple is using that to increase both speed and efficiency.

Basically, anyone can make a chip go faster just by dumping more power into it. The trick is to increase performance through efficiency, which is a trick Apple just keeps on pulling.

And, I have a sneaky suspicion platform technologies is spending that transistor budget on more than just the CPU and GPU — It’s gotten to the point where Apple silicon isn’t just industry leading but industry lapping.

And I know it’s popular these days to say you don’t need the latest or the top of the line processor in a phone, but yes you really do.

First, because chipsets enable feature sets. Smoothly scrolling an interface is like the lowest bar can set these days. If you want things like real time computational photography, on-the-fly high dynamic range, functional augmented reality, or any cutting-edge feature set, you need a cutting edge chipset.

And second, if you want to be able to keep scrolling an interface smoothly for years — and software updates to come — you’re going to want as much processor overhead as well. Because if a phone costs half as much but only lasts half as long, what kind of savings is that, really?

The A14 handles everything the iPhone 12 throws at it with… panache, and should easily be able to handle the 4 to 5 years of iOS updates Apple is typically throwing at devices these days. So, just like the iPhone 6s and original SE just got iOS 14 this year, I fully expect the iPhone 12 to get iOS 18 in four years. Maybe more.

5G

Apple didn’t call this year’s lineup the iPhone 5G, though it would have been a clever way to reset the numbering scheme. No, they called it the iPhone 12, right after 11. But 5G was all over the announcement. And all over the iPhone 12. Literally every model has 5G, and the same 5G. Nothing different between the regular and the Pro.

Of course, the usual suspects who said the iPhone 11 was doomed without 5G almost immediately said the iPhone 12 was doomed with it, given the very, very low levels of 5G deployment in most of the world still.

But I think both of those statements are missing the point… unless that… is the point.

Anyway, I don’t have any 5G anywhere near where I live. If I go into town — downtown Montreal, that is — there’s a bit, but most of our spectrum auction has been delayed until next year so we’re… a way out at the very least.

Apple is supporting FR1, frequency range 1, or the low and midbands, pretty much everywhere though. Low band isn’t any faster than LTE but has much better capacity, which should aid in congestion, and just getting more signal to more people in more places.

Midband, which is the one I’m excited about, is quite a bit faster. Not blazingly fast, but faster, and is what I think will just end up being the most 5G for the most people.

In the U.S., Apple is also supporting FR2, frequency range 2, or the high bands. What’s commonly called mmWave. And it’s blisteringly, almost terrifyingly fast. But it’s also so short range and has such poor penetration that if you turn around, or go inside, or a leaf falls, I dunno, you lose the signal.

It’s U.S. only because most other places have sufficient FR1 that they don’t need FR2. The U.S. doesn’t, which is why FR2. At last for now.

And yeah, that’s why U.S. versions of the iPhone 12 have that weird oval on the side. It’s for radio frequency — RF — transparency. Older mmWave devices needed RF transparency on 4 of the 6 sides to work. Some newer ones try to get away with 2. I’m assuming Apple’s using the display and the back as well as this cutout, at the very least. Oh, mmWave.

But, regardless, the result is the most confusing carrier situation since… CDMA. Back when you had to worry if you had the HSPA or EVDO iPhone. Something no one has had to worry about for most of the run of LTE.

Apple’s doing a really good job of abstracting away the complexity. They’re supporting a ton of NR or Never Retiring — I mean, New Radio Bands. So, as long as you have a local SIM card, because 5G roaming isn’t really a thing yet, it should just work. The exception being you need a U.S. iPhone 12 to get mmWave in the U.S., and a U.S. iPhone 12 won’t get mmWave anywhere else, because it doesn’t really exist yet anywhere else, and if it ever does, probably won’t exist on the same exact bands.

Apple’s also doing something they call Smart Data, where they’ll automatically switch you between 4G LTE, long term employment, kidding, long term evolution, and 5G NR, to save as much power as possible. So, if you’re streaming music with your display off, you’ll get LTE. If you’re downloading a movie, you’ll get 5G so you can race-to-sleep, meaning turn the radio off again as fast as possible.

It’s optional, and you can turn Smart Data off, and set 5G to always on if its available, but I personally like the idea of it a lot. Especially while 5G is still waiting to mature.

If you, like me, don’t have 5G yet, Apple’s also made the LTE better. It has double the throughput now, for a theoretical maximum of 2Gbs. Which, you know, means if you’re alone in town sitting on top of the cell tower.

But I think for anyone who’s been getting sub-par LTE on previous iPhones, the iPhone 12’s new modem will make things better while we’re all waiting on 5G.

I’ve done a couple deeper dives on 5G already, which I’ll link in the description, and I’ll be doing a follow up on 5G on the iPhone 12, so seriously, hit that sub button and bell already so you don’t miss it.

MagSafe

About 5 years ago, Apple started ripping the beloved MagSafe power connectors off of MacBooks and replacing them with USB-C. They weren’t as convenient when it came to safety, but they were much more convenient when it came to every plug suddenly being usable for power or data.

But it turns out, Apple didn’t kill MagSafe just to watch it die. Instead, they left it all cocooned up in some lab somewhere in Cupertino, no doubt safely secreted away behind a fishtank badge, and in that time it transformed… into a new magnetic inductive charging and accessory connection system for the iPhone.

The implementation is really simple and elegant. You have a ring of magnets on the back of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and that lets you slap anything from a charger to a wallet case right onto them, and it’ll stay stuck right there.

If you’re familiar with how the Apple Watch charger works, it’s very similar to that. The disk isn’t as big as the device, like it is on the Watch, though, so you have to aim for the Apple Logo. If you miss, you can just slide it into place until you feel the magnets lock. If you hit it though… if you hit it you’re immediately rewarded with this incredibly satisfying thwuk. Like I half considered starting an Apple ASMR channel satisfying thwuk.

Having the inductive charger magnetically stuck onto the back of the phone means you don’t have to worry about the ultra-slick glass back sliding out of place or just plain off over night, denying you a charge. You can even use it while charging, though because there’s currently only a 1m cable version you’ll need an extension cord close by. At last until someone makes a longer version.

Now, Apple has famously or infamously removed the headphones and power brick from both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. They say to reduce eWaste and protect the environment, but probably also to keep the sticker price down and margins from going further down.

Again, most phones went up in price by $100 this year thanks to 5G, and switching the iPhone 12 to OLED certainly wasn’t cheap either, but neither of those things change that people who don’t have a USB-C power adapter now have to buy one, and that includes most former iPhone owners who, for more than a decade, have only ever gotten USB-A adapters.

The cable in the box, which last year switched from Lightning to USB-A to Lighting to USB-C on the Pro model has now done the same for every model. So, if you only have an old USB-A adapter, you’ll need your old Lightning to USB-A cable to go with it.

Apple is offering a new 20 watt power adapter at a reduced, $20 price, but for most people it’s going to be an extra financial and cognitive burden in 2020, the year when most of us could really just use the exact opposite.

And I’d be tempted to dismiss it as Apple being Apple. You know, deleting the floppy and pushing USB forward, deleting the headphone jack and mainstreaming headphones like the AirPods. And, sure, removing the AC adapter and maybe next deleting the Lightning part, all to push adoption of inductive charging technologies. To make that wireless world they’re always talking about.

But here’s the thing — the MagSafe charger doesn’t come with an AC adapter either. And unlike the iPhone, where you can still use an old USB-A to lightening cable and adapter if you have one, the USB-C cable on the MagSafe charger is built in, so you need a USB-C adapter — or USB-C port on a computer, for it to just work. And that’s very pre-post-PC.

So I really hope Apple steps up here and makes sure that at both online and retail, no one checks out or cashes up without being offered a charger, so nobody gets home only to find out they have no practical way to charge their new iPhone.

Apple’s going to have a dual charger out for any of the iPhones 12 and Apple Watch sometime in the future, and there’ll be a variety of third party options available as well from all the usual suspects. I’m very, very much hoping for a next generation Smart Battery Case that, instead of being a case, is just a thin slab that slaps right on the back as well.

Like the wallet case, which is cute and all, but only really fits three credit-card thick cards. Maybe four if a couple of them are extra thin.

Ecosystem

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro ship with iOS 14, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Yeah, the one that lets you put widgets all over your Home screen. I have a review up already with special guest John Gruber, and I’ll link it in the description.

It also runs all the iPhone apps in the App Store, including LiDAR apps on the iPhone 12 Pro, and Apple offers a bunch of free apps, like Garage Band, iMovie, iWork, and more, as well as free training either at any Apple Stores that remain open, or, now, online as well, because 2020. And it’s surprisingly good training, including music, photography, video, coding, design, education, and more.

It’s part of that value proposition I’ve been wrestling with since the iPhone 12 announcement. Where, yes, the iPhone 12 Pro is the same price as the iPhone 11 Pro. A bit less, even, when you adjust for storage, especially for storage upgrades.

The regular iPhone 12, though, well that’s $100 to $150 bucks more, depending on your carrier and AC adapter situation. But, for that money, you’re getting an iPhone 12 that’s closer, just far closer than ever to being an iPhone 12 Pro.

Similar redesigns, just different colors and an aluminum band with a gloss back instead of a stainless steel band with a mate back. Very similar OLED display, just not quite as bright when not showing HDR. Identical A14 Bionic chipset, just 4GB of memory instead of 6. Identical LTE and 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and U1 ultra-broadband. Same App Store and Apple Store support. The only big difference is the additional telephoto camera and LiDAR scanner, and double the extra base storage.

And then, for just $150 more than that, you’re getting the full on iPhone 12 Pro with… all of that.

For me, that makes the Pro worth it. Aide from connecting to the internet, the camera is just the most important feature to me. To quote someone I met in an iPhone line, I can never go back in time to get better photos so I always want the best camera I can have at any time.

If none of that matters to you though, and I think it won’t to many, many people, you can get and almost pro iPhone now starting at around $850 for 64GB. $900 if you want go up to 128GB of storage. Which, if you’re not living that stream everything life, and especially if you wanna shoot that 4K video, you probably want to do.

If you’re coming from an iPhone 6s or 7 or 8, even a X or XR, everything taken together, from the OLED display to the better cameras and radios, MagSafe, just everything, makes for a really compelling upgrade.

If it’s just too much cash for you, if you weren’t asking for OLED or 5G, Apple just did their Usual price drop on last year’s model as well, and you can now get an iPhone 11 with LCD and LTE starting at $600, which Might just be super compelling in 2020. The iPhone XR from 2018 is now starting at $500 as well, and this year’s new iPhone SE, which is kind of like iPhone 11 guts in an iPhone 8 body, is at $400.

If you have an iPhone XS or 11, especially 11 Pro, and you don’t just have money to burn, and aren’t on an annual update program — or, of course, work in the tech industry — then you’ve got to really, really not just want but need the new camera, especially on the 12 Pro, to even remotely consider it.

But that just brings me back to my always advice — wait as long as you can to buy, then buy what you need, enjoy the hell out of it, and have zero regrets, because there’ll always be something next.

And by then, when you’re ready for next, that next will be even better

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Unboxing iPhone 12 & Pro — Hands-On EVERYTHING!

20w USB-C Adapter (yes, really!), MagSafe Charger, MagSafe Wallet, Clear MagSafe Case, Blue MagSafe Case… ok, sure… but also what you really want to see! The iPhone 12 in blue and the iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue all unboxed, tested with all the unboxed things, and compared to pretty much everything else!

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Beats Flex Review — $50 ‘AirPods’ On a String

Sure, AirPods are everywhere. They’re become memes. Literal memes. But Beats are still around as well… Like… Apple’s… alt account or something. The one where they can get a little wild, like with Mickey Mouse, or go down market, like with these new Beats Flex, which replace the Beats X first introduced back in 2016 alongside the original AirPods. But at just 50 bucks. Something way below any AirPods.

And to help me review them, I’ve got Lory Gil on the line, iMore’s managing editor, punk rock star, and resident audio expert.

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iPhone 12 — What Apple Didn’t Answer!

You had questions about the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, 120Hz, 5G, Dolby Vision, MagSafe, cameras, mmWave, and so much more. You wanted answers, you wanted the truth. Well, I’m here to hand you that truth.

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Why Apple is putting Dolby Vision cameras on the iPhone 12

When scuttlebutt started spreading about Apple working on a "Dolby Vision" camera for the iPhone 12, my mind immediately started racing.

See, several years ago, during Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), I was invited to Dolby to see their then-new Vision system.

They showed us the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi in both 4K and 1080p. The 4K was SDR or standard dynamic range. The 1080 was HDR or high dynamic range.

And it was no contest — the 1080p HDR just blew the 4K SDR out of the skies and straight back to Mos Eisley. And Dolby knew it. Their team had been smiling the whole time.

Read the rest in my weekly iMore column:

https://www.imore.com/why-apple-putting-dolby-vision-cameras-iphone-12