The new MacBook Air kicks the old Intel Y-Series to the curb and replaces it with an M1 — think A14X but custom made for the Mac! — and that means more power, much better battery life, and... Let's find out!
I turned on Apple's event, hit record on the camera, and here are my live reactions and thoughts on the M1 MacBook Air, straight from the November 2020 One More Thing Event!
Apple has just announced the new M1-powered Apple Silicon MacBook Pro — 13-inch, at least... 16-inch still to come! — and it's packing even more performance into its actively cooled shell than any similar MacBook Pro before it. Battery life as well!
I turned on Apple's event, hit record on the camera, and here are my live reactions and thoughts on the M1 MacBook Pro, straight from the November 2020 One More Thing Event!
The 12 Pro max is now the ultimate power in the iPhone universe. Come on, you had to know that was coming, right?
OK. I’ve already covered all the basics of the iPhone 12 Pro in my mega review, everything from the new, squared off design and finishes to the OLED displays to the camera systems, including Dolby Vision HDR recording, The A14 Bionic and 5G, and MagSafe accessories, so I won’t waste your time going over it all again here. Just make sure you hit the subscribe button and bell, and check out that video, my iPhone 12 mini review which should be up around the same time, and all the longer-term tests and reviews I have coming your way soon.
For right now, let’s get Max.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is $100 more than the iPhone 12 Pro non-Max. Regular. Normal. Single adjective. And wow these names are getting cumbersome. I’d love it if we could just distill down to iPhone mini, iPhone Air, iPhone Pro, and iPhone Max. But I don’t every time get what I want.
Anyway, SIM free and flat out, that’s US$1100 for 128GB, $1200 for 256GB, and $1400 for 512GB. No 1TB option like the iPad Pro. At least not yet.
But that’s it. For everything, all the extras I’m about to go over. The cost differential is just $100. Just $220 over the 128GB iPhone 12 non-Pro, non-Max, which is… kinda wild. As much as the regular prices have gone up, the Pro prices just haven’t.
And… that’s caused some people to look and think… the features and prices are so close, there’s not much difference, they can just go with the lower cost version and save $100. Others to look at them and think… the features and prices are so close, there’s not much difference, they can just go with the better version for $100 more.
Both are totally valid perspectives, but I’m a glass half full type of, so I figure if I’m going as far as the 12, I might as well go just that one more step to the 12 Pro. Then, maybe, that one last step to the 12 Pro Max. Which is probably exactly why they’re all priced that way this year.
And I understand, seriously, even $100 more may be a too much for some people, 10% more on an already $1000 phone. But, if you really want the size and feature set, what with trade-ins, installments, upgrade programs, the difference over the course of a year, never mind several, isn’t going to be that much.
So, if price isn’t a concern, it also isn’t a huge barrier to jumping up to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s hardly any barrier this year. Especially not if you’ve already decided to go Pro.
The real barrier — and enticement — as always, is the size.
Take the iPhone 12 Pro, make the screen bigger — more than ever before — and make the cameras better — in ways Apple has simply never done before — and you have the iPhone 12 Pro Max. A hybrid of the previous two Max models, where there was no difference other than size, and the old Plus models, where the bigger phones also had slightly better cameras.
And it’s like, switching from a car to a jeep or an SUV. One that’s… a lot to handle and park around town, but is also absolutely and exactly what you want when going off-roading or on long trips. When you gotta just work. Less a phone and more a tiny tablet, a primary computing device that you can do almost anything on from almost anywhere you need to.
Now, this year’s Max isn’t that much more Max. Not really. The display has gone from 6.5 to 6.7-inches, but some of that is thanks to the new design and slightly thinner bezels.
It’s a bit taller, a bit heavier, but negligibly wider and actually slightly thinner than previous Max models. It does feel more substantial, though, because of the new, more squared off design, but somehow less dense, probably because of the surface to depth ratio.
All this to say, if you’ve been fine with other Max or Plus iPhones, or any of the similar or even larger sized Android phones, you’ll be just fine with the iPhone 12 version.
There’s also less of a difference between the regular Pro and the Pro Max this year, because instead of 5.8-inches like the X, XS, and 11 Pro, the 12 Pro has gone up to 6.1-inches like the XR and 11.
If you’ve been using a non-Max or Plus iPhone, the difference between a 6.1-inch iPhone XR or 11, — even 12 if you’re trying to decide between the two — isn’t trivial but also isn’t as extreme as it is from the older, smaller iPhone flagships.
Still, while I can hold an iPhone 12 Pro Max one handed, especially if I balance it on my pinky, and phone-jitsu some basic things with it that way, to use it quickly, to use it effectively, to hit all the interface elements in all the corners, I really do need to use two hands. To me — for me — it’s absolutely less of a phone and more of a tiny tablet.
For that extra size though, you get a ton of extra screen real estate.
The difference isn’t so much in pixel count. An extra 246 vertical and 114 horizontal between the Pro and Pro Max. And only 10 and 6 more than the 11 Pro Max.
The difference is mostly physical size. In some cases, depending on the app, that translates into more text on screen and more items in lists. In other cases the same, sometimes even less if the app goes for bigger instead of more.
That’s what makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max a great choice for anyone who doesn’t just want but needs a bigger display. Because, if the default size isn’t enough, Display Zoom lets you blow up the regular iPhone 12 interface to a much easier to see size, and Accessibility lets you increase text even further while still keeping a good amount on the screen at any given time.
And yeah, things like videos and games are just always bigger. Not the same as an iPad, even the 7.9-inch iPad mini, because iPads have a much taller aspect ratio of 4 by 3 where modern iPhones are closer to 2 by 1. So, iPads remain better at multicolumn, old school TV, books, and comic books, and iPhones at single column, cinematic video, lists, and messaging.
Like previous Plus and Max sizes, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will try to give you a little bit of that iPad feeling in landscape mode, popping up an iPad style split view with a list on the left and details on the right, but it’s not always consistent — like where is the old Plus landscape Home screen… unemployed in Greenland? — and because of the aspect ratio, not always that helpful.
iOS 14 picture-in-picture works terrifically well on the big screen, of course, and makes me long for… not side-by-side apps, because aspect ratio, but maybe top and bottom apps. Come on iOS 15. You know you want to.
Overall, it comes down to practicality versus productivity. If you find the iPhone 12 Pro Max size to just be too cumbersome to use, you won’t enjoy it no matter how useful it may be. If it’s no problem to handle, then it’ll let you handle more than ever.
It’s funny. Computer Twitter has been annoyed by the highest-end iPhone pricing or a while. Complaining a Max costs the same as a… Mac. At least a MacBook Air.
Photography Twitter, though, has a totally different perspective. That the iPhone, especially the Pro and now extra especially the Max, have really good cameras, and really, really good video cameras, and they cost only a fraction of the price of most of the new, dedicated cameras coming out this summer. Sometimes less than a single lens for one of those cameras. And the iPhone comes with three.
And I know they’re not at all the same thing, not at all, not even remotely. But… kinda? Increasingly the iPhone Pro is finding its way into pro video workflows, not because it can do everything a DSLR or mirrorless or cinecam can do… but because it can do some things they can’t, more easily, and yes, less expensively.
Now, when it comes to the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera specifically, you get the same 13mm f/2.4 120º ultra wide as you do on all the other iPhone 12 models, all the way down to the mini. With Smart HDR3, which lets you capture detail in shadows and highlights beyond what even most big sensors and glass can easily capture, because big compute, and also Deep Fusion for better texture in low light, and Night Mode for when there’s almost no light. And those features are across all cameras now, even the front.
Same LiDAR Scanner as on the regular Pro as well, the one that allows for fast auto-focus and portrait mode in low-light, and much faster augmented reality surface acquisition in day light.
Also, new with iOS 14.2, People Detection in the Magnifier app. It’s from Apple’s supremely genius Accessibility team and will help those with no and low vision avoid collisions and maintain safe physical distancing in lines and other public spaces, which is just critical during a pandemic. Such a great team, such a great feature. I want it on my face.
The 26mm f/1.6 wide angle camera is where the differences start on the Pro Max. It’s got bigger, 1.7 micron pixels compared to the 1.4 micron pixels on the regular Pro. Which means it can take in more light. The OIS, or optical image stabilization is also sensor-shift on the Max, like the IBIS or in-body image stabilization you find in higher end dedicated cameras. Basically, instead of the lens floating to cancel out sensor movement, the sensor itself floats, which is mechanically simpler and, yeah, optically better.
It combines to make the iPhone 12 Pro Max just a low-light monster. It’s not something you’ll need or appreciate all the time. I mean, in daytime, it doesn’t really matter. A potato can take a good photo in the daytime. But when it’s not quite Night Mode, that’s where the Max shines.
Apple has also announced a ProRAW format for later in the year, which promises the flexibility of RAW with the power of computational photography. Basically, letting you step through and tweak the process. I can’t wait to test it out and see what it can really do in a follow-up review.
The 52mm telephoto is, well, not 52mm on the Max. It’s 65mm now. Which means it has even more compression and less distortion, which can be really nice for portraits and product shots. The downside is, instead of an f/2.0 aperture, it’s an f/2.2 aperture, which means it’s not as good in low light.
Still, I love the way it frames. Because of the length, it steps up to 2.5x, not just 2x like on Apple’s previous telephoto camera system. And it’s kinda surprising and delightful how much difference that actually makes. It’s still way closer to a 50 than 80, but it’s getting there.
And yeah, even though Apple’s doing a much better job with Smart HDR and Deep Fusion on digital zoom, I’m still really missing much better optical zoom on iPhones. I’m not saying periscope lens me, but something.
I do love, just all-caps love, the natural bokeh you can get off the 65mm though. I mean, Portrait Mode is fine and computational photography never ceases to fascinate me, but there’s just nothing that matches what you get off glass, and when you have enough light this glass is great.
And all the same thing apply to video as well. Including the new 4K60 Dolby Vision HDR mode. I really, truly, intensely wish Apple had a button on the main camera app to toggle it on and off, like they recently added for the resolution and frame rate, and I’m still waiting on proper Final Cut Pro X support like Judge Judy slapping her watch dot JIF KIF. But the 10-bit dynamic range is just gorgeous.
And the 6.7-inch display makes for a terrific view-finder. I mean, camera nerds like me pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to slap a SmalHD or similar, bigger display on our cameras. This one is OLED HDR, does real-time preview for computational modes, so what you see is what you shoot, and it comes built-in. Which is just one more thing that helps explain the difference in perceived value.
Videography is where the bigger size really doesn’t matter either, because most cameras a way bigger, some enormously bigger, and by comparison even the iPhone 12 Pro Max is ridiculously light, and combined with its dynamic range, makes it incredibly easy to get into any space and do almost any type of shot. Especially when you use a gimbal or just the IBIS and stabilize in post. It’s not just slick, it’s sick.
Now, none of these are major differences. They’re small, interesting things that appeal to me because I love exactly these kinds of small, interesting things. They’re fresh. They’re fun. They let me stretch my creative potential.
But, if nothing I said here interests you in the slightest, then you can just scratch camera off your Max list and decide based on size alone. For me, though, it is the decision.
I need to shoot a lot more with this camera. I want to shoot a lot more with this camera. But so far, I like the telephoto even if it is a real tradeoff between length and speed. The wide angle though… that’s pure win. At least when it comes to delivering on the promise of more better photos under more wider conditions.
Apple’s using the same A14 Bionic chipset, with its quad ice storm efficiency cores, dual firestorm performance cores, custom quad-core GPU, deca-hexa… 16 core neural engine, and more controller, accelerator, and special purpose IP than you can shake a benchmark at, in all the iPhone 12s, from mini to Pro Max.
Like the Pro, the Pro Max has it with 6GB of memory, which is terrific. iPhones don’t have to deal with interpreters or garbage collection or the lack of optimization that comes from having to support a wide and eclectic range of software, so they just don’t need as much RAM as other phones. But they do have to deal with cross-platform, cross-compiled games and sloppy social media apps, and that’s where the 6GB shines. Everything from Twitter and Instagram to Pokemon Go just stay in-memory longer and resume without restart far more often. It’s only a few seconds difference per app switch, but those seconds add up. And, I think special relatively has a sub-clause that says observing a relaunch makes seconds feel like minutes anyway. And when you’re in a hurry, basically forever.
In terms of performance, the iPhone 12 Pro Max benchmarks and works the same as the non-Max and even the mini for me. Including video rendering from iMovie. It just doesn’t get as hot as the mini does while doing it. Probably because of its bigger thermal envelop.
Yes, I still use Pokemon Go as my stress test, because yes, it still hits the screen, processor, wireless, GPS — basically everything that radiates — harder than anything else anywhere nearly as fun.
And, after 5 hours, the iPhone 12 Pro Max was still at 75%. That compares to 70% for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and 50% for the iPhone 12 mini.
Apple rates it at 20 hours for local video, 12 for streaming, and 80 for audio. That’s 3 hours, 1 hour, and 15 hours more than the regular Pro, and 5, 2, and 30 hours more than the mini.
It’s also the same as Apple rated the iPhone 11 Pro Max, though in my tests so far, the iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn’t last quite a long. Part of that might be the extra efficiency of the A14 trading off against the smaller battery size necessitate a little by the new MagSafe system, and a lot by the new Qualcomm X55 modem, and the 5G that comes with it.
I only have FR1 where I live, the low and mid bands, but I get roughly 2x faster speeds than LTE, at the cost of slightly higher battery drain. If you’re one of the the few who have FR2 in the US, the high bands typically called mmWave, it’d likely be even… higher.
And, PSA, you can’t do 5G on Dual SIM yet. Qualcomm wrote the feature down on the spec sheet but hasn’t actually shipped it yet. Something iPhone users are discovering but Android users have been complaining about for months already. Apple is apparently pushing hard for it to be shipped and soon.
The Pro Max, like all the other iPhones 12, works with that new MagSafe magnetic inductive charging system and can also fast-charge up to 50% in 30 minutes with Apple’s new — but not included in the box — 20 watt AC adapter. Or any AC adapter than can push Power Delivery 3.0.
And yeah, I’d love a next gen MagSafe Smart Battery for the iPhone 12 Pro as well, because when I’m out shooting, there’s just never enough battery, not ever, and being able to slap on a pack rather than wire up a brick would heavier, sure, but still so much better for shooting.
But the bottom line is, bigger is just more. Especially with the regular Pro hurting a bit on battery life, thanks to the new build and especially 5G, the Max is really, truly Max.
Should you upgrade? If you’re on one of the previous Maxes, then no. You’re fine. The tech industry obsesses over, almost fetishizes year-over-year upgrades in a way the TV, appliance, and car industries simply don’t. But you should always wait as long as you can, buy only when you need, and then enjoy for a long as you can.
If you’re on an annual upgrade program, you sell every year to buy new, you’re a tech nerd who just wants the latest and greatest, money is simply no object, then you’re buying anyway. Apple had you at “good morning.”
If you’re on one of the older, Plus-sized iPhones, though, especially 6 or 6s but up to 7 and 8, or if you’re on a smaller iPhone but have wanted to go big, and the camera features are interesting enough to push you over the edge, then the iPhone 12 Pro Max is one hell of an upgrade.
As for me, it’s all about the camera. That’s why I’m personally going Max this year. It’s a little extra for me, but I really want the best camera, and the bigger battery, and I’ll take the bigger display as a bonus.
The iPhone 12 mini is just… a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
It’s like… For years… for years, you’re dreaming of this sports car, this little, convertible, hotter than hell sports car, super legere, that you’ve just always wanted but for so many reasons just never… just couldn’t have… couldn’t get.
That’s how small iPhone lovers have been feeling ever since Apple replaced the iPhone 5s with the big and bigger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. They just haven’t been able to get the phone they wanted in the size they loved.
Sure, the OG iPhone SE provided some temporary relief. The iPhone 5s with iPhone 6s internals. But then, just… nothing. Especially after the iPhone X with its full screen, modern design, and Face ID. And the XS and 11, just went Max instead of mini. Like giving them a paper cut and pouring lemon juice on it.
Even the second generation iPhone SE, released earlier this year, was based on the iPhone 8 with iPhone 11 internals. Same size as the 6, no smaller, and same classic design as well, not the not hotness.
So you hang onto your original SE, get iOS 14 but start worrying you might not make it to 15. And you start to wonder. You start to doubt. Will Apple ever make a smaller iPhone again? Could Apple? Would the OLED display even be legible or practical? Would the latest, greatest A-series processor be able to run without burning or browning out? Would a battery that small with a chipset and display that big even last more than an hour and change?
And, for small iPhone lovers, for years, the only answer has been nothing and more nothing.
Until now. Until the iPhone 12 mini.
I’ve already covered all the iPhone 12 basics in my mega review, everything from the new, squared off design and colors to the OLED displays to the camera systems, including Dolby Vision HDR recording, and MagSafe accessories, so I won’t waste your time recapitulating it here.
For right now, I’m going to hit all the iPhone 12 mini specifics.
SIM-free, the iPhone 12 mini kicks off at US$730 for 64GB, and goes to $780 for 128GB and $880 for 256GB. That’s exactly US$100 less than the iPhone 12 non-mini, or regular, the basic iPhone 12 no-adjective. You know what I’m talking about.
But, unless you stream everything, like full-on Spotify or Apple Music, Netflix or Disney+, I was going to say GamePass and Stadia but still waiting on Apple to get with the future on that, but photos and files on iCloud or Google Drive or whatever, unless you’re all about that streaming cloud life, you’re going to want to go for what I think is the sweet spot — 128GB.
Now, that makes the mini $130 more than the held-over-from-last year iPhone 11, $230 more than the held-over-from-2-years-ago iPhone XR, and $330 more than that second gen iPhone SE.
So, while it’s the least expensive iPhone 12, it’s by no means the least expensive iPhone in Apple’s current lineup, nor is it by any definition cheap.
And yes, it’s smaller, absolutely, but it’s got a much better build quality, much better display quality, better processor, better camera, and better cellular technology. And for some people, being small isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
So, if you’re looking at the iPhone 12 mini just to save $100, I’d look at trading in or selling your old phone, or the various installment and leasing plans first. Because if you don’t really want the mini because it’s the mini, you’ll be happier on one of the iPhones non-mini. The iPhones… median.
If you do want the mini, though, precisely because it’s mini, if you’ve been holding onto your original SE, just… abiding and hoping… or only begrudgingly using a X, XS, or 11 Pro, but all salty like, waiting on, wanting on something smaller… well, here’s what you’ll get… and what you’ll give up.
The iPhone 12 mini isn’t as small as the iPhone 5 or original SE but just slightly smaller than the current iPhone SE or iPhone 6s, 7, or 8. But unlike any of those, it’s a full-on modern iPhone. So if you’ve been cursing out the size of more recent iPhones, how hard they are to fit into your skinny hipster jeans or couture clutches, to walk and type with, to read or game on in bed with, then you’ll be super happy with the iPhone 12 mini.
It fits into pretty much any approaching adult-sized pants pocket or bag you can imagine. Even front pockets. Even, barely, into change pockets. Almost like it thinks it’s an iPhone nano.
For me, who has pockets more like D&D bags of holding, and can fit a Max up front, no problem, the mini just… disappears. Almost like I’m not carrying anything. In fact, going from the Max to the mini is like switching from a Costanza wallet a billfold. It goes from always feeling and knowing its there to not even realizing it’s barely there.
Now, that doesn’t mean you want to sit on it. It may not be projecting out like a Max, and it’s really, really hard to bend… not that… I’ve tried much.. leave it!… but I’d still avoid repetitive pressure and especially impact. Things like ballistic couch drops. I mean, do it, just put your phone in your front pocket first.
Or just take it out and hold it. Because that’s the other thing people who love small phones love about small phones — how much easier they are to use one handed. Like, legitimately one handed. Without having to perform any finger juggling or palm par-cours.
How close the iPhone 12 mini is to that for you will depend on your hand size. Because, as small as the mini is, it’s still just a bit bigger than the iPhone 5 or original iPhone SE was, and even though it’s just a touch smaller than the current SE or previous X-class and 6-or-8-class iPhones, the square edges do make it look and feel more substantial than the curves of the previous era.
The display is also much bigger than any of those. 5.4 rather than just 4 inches of the original SE or 4.7 inches of the current SE, because it’s full screen now. Which, yeah, makes it almost an iPhone Plus sized display crammed into an almost iPhone 5-sized chassis. Literally the dream.
But what that means is, whichever one-hand you try to use it with, the interface elements at the very top of the opposite side are a little further away than they were on the iPhone 5 or original SE. Likewise, the elements at the very bottom are a little further down, because the screen no longer stops at a Home button. It goes all the way down.
Either way, if the original SE was easy for you, the 12 mini should be fine. If the original SE was already a stretch for you, the 12 mini will be slightly more of a stretch… or slide. If the iPhone 6 through 8, or X through 11 Pro were fine, then you’re just laughing.
Partly because the iPhone 12 mini is just… just so much fun to use. It's basically the Baby Yoda phone. I mean, the original iPhone had the biggest display Apple could fit into a phone at the time, which was 3.5 inches. But now… that feels like a toy. The mini feels like the iPhone 5 or SE. It really does. Like when that toy first grew up, first really took shape. But in full, modern, final iPhone form.
It’s partially the squared off edges, sure, but it’s also partially the size. It doesn’t just look like that classic design, it feels like it.
Slicker and glossier, sure, like on my black review unit, which I’m not as big a fan of. I loved the rawness of the aluminum on the older models. And the black is really black. Not jet black like the iPhone 7, which is probably my favorite iPhone black of all time, but not space gray either, which has always been less opinionated than I’d like. It’s a proper Darth Vader black. And the glass gives us inductive charging, so I’ll deal.
Also, lightness. And, at this size, doesn’t just fit into my hand but almost folds into it, sharper edges and all. Just makes it compelling. I totally understand why some people love this size class so much.
Although… what you gain in one-handed usability, you do lose in legibility and information density.
Because the smaller display means smaller interface elements, like buttons and text, and also less, like fewer rows and lines, and smaller video and game size.
At least compared to the bigger iPhone 12 models. If you’re used to any of the 4-inch or 4.7-inch models, the full screen might even seem… big. Like an extra message and a half in your message list big.
And the pixels-per-inch is slightly higher than the other iPhones 12, which even on OLED with a diamond-type, Pentile sub-pixel layout, means you can the smaller phone slightly closer without losing that Retina effect.
If you’re coming down from one of the 10s or 11s, and your eyesight or just comfort level makes “small” a problem, you can bump up the entire interface size with Display Zoom, and… or… the text size with Accessibility settings, but then you’ll also be able to fit even less on the screen. So more text wrapping for apps, more swiping and scrolling for you.
But, if information density is really a priority, you’d be better off going with a 12 or even 12 Pro Max. The mini isn’t about working around the small. It’s about embracing it.
Like typing one handed. It’s super easy… yeah, barely an inconvenience. Pretty much the same as any 4- or 4.7 inch iPhone, even though it has that much bigger 5.4-inch display.
So, if you’re doing constant West Wing style walk and talks, only your version is walk and texts, coffee in one hand, Slack or messages in the other, than the mini is the dream.
But, at least for me, it does make the iPhone mini more of that traditional phone phone. What I mean by that is something that you use when you’re out and about, between iPads and MacBooks or PCs, to briefly dip into to stay in touch, to keep up to date.
Which is great if you don’t want to live on your phone, if you’re worried about screen time, and getting lost doomscrolling Twitter or Insta or League of Legends, or whatever it is the cool kids are playing since Tim Epic utterly abandoned the Apple portion of his player base.
I use an Apple Watch for that, but if you need more, just not too much more, the 12 mini is… less more.
If you need to work on your phone, though, if you need your phone to be basically a tiny tablet, a primary computer, if its your only computer, I think regular or even Max size will make things just that much easier and more productive for you.
Now, here’s where you all are expecting me to say — judge the iPhone 12 mini by it’s size do you? Then something about the it’s chipset being the A14 Bionic, and a powerful chipset it is. But I’m not going to. Because I basically just did.
It’s totally true though. The iPhone 12 mini uses the exact same system-on-a-chip as every other iPhone 12 in the lineup, all the way up to the Pro Max.
Which is, on one hand, is kinda all shades of awesome. In all of my tests, from the geekiest of benches to iMovie renders, to just daily use, it performs every bit as well and as fast as the Max. Which also means faster than any other small iPhone ever.
Even with the smaller thermal envelop of the mini and the smaller battery. Which, you know, if it gets too small leaves the device subject to things like brownouts if it can’t deliver on peak demand, or just excessive throttling if it can’t sustain higher workloads.
Now, it did get hotter than the Max for me when under load, like doing longer video renders, but it didn’t ramp down.
On the other hand, it does take a bigger battery hit, in large part because it just has a smaller battery compared to the regular 12 and 12 Pro, and much smaller compared to the 12 Max.
The mini mini could basically cut the Max open like a Tauntaun and use it to survive the night on Hoth. It’s that much smaller.
Some companies might try to mitigate that by using lower class processors. Ones that don’t hit the same performance levels but also don’t hit the battery anywhere nearly as hard. That’s what Google chose to do with the Pixel 5, where it lasts for days but also feels like it takes days for photos to process. Not, literally days, but 2020 days, like it’s just always March and Tuesday.
And that works for the Pixel because Google only promises 3 years of software updates and has only ever done the vast majority of computational photography as an after effect anyway.
Apple typically does 4-5 years of software updates and has staked it’s claim on real-time computational photography. Even in cases like Night Mode, where it has to image stack for seconds, it still prioritizes zero shutter lag and live preview before and while its stacking.
But, you know, some people love the Pixel 5 and would also maybe love a stepped down iPhone 12 mini with a stepped up battery life. That’s a totally fair perspective. It’s just not Apple’s, not right now.
In this case, with the A14, you get every ounce of performance you could want, but to get more battery, you have to either step up to a full-sized iPhone 12 or max out with an iPhone 12 Pro Max, or carry a battery pack when and if you’ll be out for an extended period of time.
And, yeah, all the fingers crossed Apple is working on a next-gen Smart Battery Case that just slaps on with the MagSafe system. That way you could keep the small, slim iPhone mini you love most times, but if you’ll ever be out for an extended time, just double up with the battery slap.
In my usual stress test, which is still Pokemon Go, because it keeps the display on, as well as data, GPS, the processors, and basically hits the system harder than anything this side of a badly coded social media app, after 5 hours of continuous play, the iPhone 12 mini was down to 50% battery.
That compares to the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, which were both around 70%, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max which was still at 75%.
So, if this wasn’t 2020, the… Note 7 battery of years, and I was traveling as much as usual, roaming as much as usual, working on my phone as much as usual, the 12 mini would just be a no go for me. I’d go regular, maybe even Max.
If I wasn’t traveling, but also wasn’t in a red-zone, basically lockdown light, and I was going out a lot more to see friends and family and to restaurants and shows — you know, everything we did before the world kept ending — it’d be fantastic. I’d live on my MacBook Pro or iPad Pro, and then just use the iPhone 12 for fun while I was out and about. Exactly like that little, convertible, hotter than hell sports car.
Stuck at home, never more than a few feet from a charger, but also doing reviews which hits batteries way harder than normal usage, it’ll take me a couple of weeks to get a better sense of day-to-day performance. So, seriously, make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss the follow up.
Meanwhile, if you want an iPhone 12 mini now, now, now, should you get one? If you’re one of those people who’ve been waiting on a new, full-on smaller iPhone, if small size is just the top feature on your list, especially if you’re still on an original SE, then yes, absolutely. This is literally, dimensionally, the iPhone you’ve been waiting for.
It’s just the purest expression of the iPhone as a phone, the utter opposite of iPhone as a mini tablet. I’m going iPhone 12 Pro, probably iPhone 12 Pro Max because of the camera, but if I wasn’t, in a strange way, if I had the luxury not too, I’d go iPhone 12 mini before anything else.
It’s just… like I said, a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
I'm unboxing the brand-new, brand-tiny iPhone 12 mini and the brand-newly embiggened iPhone 12 Pro Max — along with the Leather Sleeve, Leather Case, and... MagSafe Duo! Plus comparisons to all the previous small and big iPhones!
For half a decade now the iPhones have been big and bigger. This year, bigger and bigger-er than ever. But also this year, Apple is finally giving us something small again. Not an SE, or special edition, but a full on iPhone. Just… mini.
Some people will want it because it costs less, but others will want it because it is less. Easier to hold in the hand and type with on the go, easier to fit in the pocket or bag.
But… with a smaller phone comes a smaller display and, most importantly for some, a smaller battery.
So, if you’re having trouble deciding. If you’re still trying to figure out if the iPhone 12 mini is worth the trade offs, if finally having a small phone again is worth that smaller display and battery capacity, if you’re hoping the mini is just an even bigger flex than the Max, but worried it might not work for you IRL.
If Price is the most important spec on your sheet, the top feature on your list, then the iPhone 12 mini is $100 less than the iPhone 12… non-mini. Regular.
It starts at $730 Sim-free, with no trade-ins, or carrier or other incentives. That’s compared to $830 for the regular model.
Now, that’s still $330 more than the iPhone SE, which is essentially the modern iPhone 11 guts in the now-classing iPhone 8 shell. So, if you don’t care about things like the full screen design, OLED display, Face ID, or the dual camera system, you can save even more money by going with the SE instead of the mini.
Just remember, all of these are starting prices — what you pay for the base line 64GB configuration. If you like your content as small as your devices, if you stream everything on Spotify or Apple Music, Netflix or Disney+, and keep everything on the Dropbox or Google cloud, that might work out fine for you.
If not, you can go up to 128GB for all of them for $50 more, for the iPhone 12 mini, and for the iPhone 12.
So, if you’re intent on buying new, and price is a huge object, the iPhone SE will save you a ton of it. If you really do want full-screen, OLED, Face ID, and that dual-camera, but you just don’t want to pay a dime more for it than you have to, the mini will save you a c-note.
I know a lot of people say they don’t care about color because they’ll be using a case, but the color still pops out, so still make sure you get something you like.
Black is the most popular and the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, and iPhone SE all come in that color. Same with white. Also Product RED, though the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 have the newer, slightly more orang RED.
That’s it for the SE, but the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro also come in a deep blue and minty green, if that’s how you want to roll.
For some, the mini has nothing to do with price and everything to do with size. Apple tore the 4-inch iPhone 5 and original SE size from their cold, d-e-d dead hands, and left them with only 4.7- and 5.5-inch options. And they’ve always wanted their smaller, one-handed-ease-of-use phone back, but with modern specs, the latest processor and camera system.
And the mini is very much that. Finally. All the finally.
Physically, it’s even smaller and lighter than the current, second generation iPhone SE, but has a display almost as big as the old-school iPhones plus. 5.4-inches, just trouncing the 4.7-inches of the the current SE.
That 5.4-inches isn’t as big as the iPhone X, XS, or 11 Pro, which were all 5.8-inches, and nowhere nearly as big as the current 6.1-inch iPhones 12, let alone the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.
But for the mini, not being big is the whole entire point. The ability to easily hold and use it one-handed, to fit it into any pocket or bag, from front to back, from backpack to clutch.
And this is very much that. You get a full-on iPhone… just mini.
In terms of display, in every way but its smaller size, the iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12. But for 175 nits, it’s identical to the iPhone 12 Pro as well. 625 typical vs. 800. But same max 1200 nits.
That’s because Apple has gone all in on OLED across the line this year. So, same HDR, high dynamic range, deep blacks and bright whites, same 2 million to 1 contrast ratio for detail in the shadows and highlights. And, yeah, same notch smack up top. Even the same Ceramic Shield on the front which, combined with the new design, make the iPhone 12 models significantly more drop resistant.
The difference really is all in the size.
2340-by-1080-pixel resolution at 476 ppi, which isn’t quite as much as the 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi of the regular iPhone 12, but absolutely blows away the 1334-by-750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi of the iPhone SE.
Which is also an LCD display, not OLED. Still P3 wide gamut, but not HDR, though for people who are bothered by pulse width modulation on OLED at lower brightness levels, LCD could still be the better option.
Now, the difference in physical display size will mean everything is… smaller. Your videos, TV shows, movies, video games, all smaller. Same with the amount of information you can see on the screen at one time, and the size of things like text. You can absolutely boost that up, but then you get even less on the screen.
But it also means your thumb will be able to reach across the display to tap and swipe things far more easily, to type one handed far more easily, than any iPhone since the original SE.
So, what you give up in information density you may well make up in single-handed usability. And if you’re worried about things like screen time and doom scrolling and phone addiction, having less phone can very literally mean having less phone.
The best thing about the iPhone 12 mini is that, except for size — and… yeah, the consequences of that size that I’ll get to in a battery blasted minute — there really are few to no compromises.
The cameras system, for example, is exactly the same as on the regular iPhone 12.
And that means 12MP effective 26mm f/1.6 wide angle and 12MP effective 13mm f/2.4 120º ultra wide camera. With all of Apple’s computational modes, from Smart HDR to Deep Fusion, to Night Mode, not only on both those cameras, but the 12mp f/2.2 selfie camera as well.
The iPhone SE only has a single 12MP, slight slower f/1.8 wide angle, and no ultra wide. Also, only a 7MP f/2.2 selfie camera, with no depth sensing like on the iPhone 12 mini or regular.
You don’t get the extra LiDAR scanner and effective 52mm f/2.0 telephoto of the iPhone 12 Pro, never mind the effective 65mm f/2.2 telephoto of the iPhone 12 Pro Max… but that beast looks almost twice the size and twice the price, and the whole point of mini is… kinda the opposite of Max.
For video, both the iPhone 12 mini and regular go up to 4K60, or 4K30 with Dolby Vision HDR. With no HDR available on the SE, just EDR, extended dynamic range up to 4K30.
So, again, you can absolutely go iPhone 12 mini without giving anything up in the camera department, at least compared to the iPhone 12.
The A14 Bionic chipset is the same in both the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 regular. Same Qualcomm X55 modem for FR1 low and midband 5G globally and FR2 Highland, mmWave in the U.S. Also same 4GB of memory, which is less than the 6GB in the Pro models but more than the 3GB in the iPhone SE, which uses last year’s A13 Bionic chipset.
And, sure, the mini has more pixels to push around than the SE, though slightly less than the non-mini, and a smaller thermal envelop than either of them. Though, at 5nm, the A14 process is smaller and more efficient than the 7nm A13.
Honestly though, I think all of that will end up being more or less a wash. Just not enough difference for anyone to really notice day to day.
Because the iPhone 12 processor is a year newer, though, it’ll probably get updates for a year longer than the iPhone SE. With Apple typically doing 4-5 yars of updates these days, that means the iPhone 12 will probably take you at least to iOS 18 or 19 in 2024 or 2025, where the SE will likely tap out with iOS 17 or iOS 18 in 2023 or 2024. Factor that in as you will.
The mini, like the regular 12 and SE still has a Lightning Port and can fast-charge up to 50% in 30 minutes with Apple’s new — but not included in the box — 20 watt power adapter.
The mini and non-mini — but not the SE — also work with Apple’s new MagSafe magnetic inductive charging system but while the regular iPhone 12 can use it to charge at up to 15 watts, Apple rate limited the 12 mini to 12 watts. Likely because the smaller size means they have to be more careful about charging speeds and heat if they want to maintain battery health.
And, of course, the smaller battery is just smaller.
Apple does rate the iPhone 12 mini as better than the iPhone SE, which isn’t great, especially if you’re gaming or doing anything else that makes that A13 processor ramp up. But, if you’re doing something similar on the iPhone 12 mini, or using a lot of 5G, especially mmWave 5G, you’ll burn through battery as well.
A small phone is like a small sports car. A convertible. You’re getting it because you enjoy it, not because you need it to survive a weekend of off-roading. For that, there’s a max.
Anyway, for local video, Apple has the mini at 15, more than the 13 of the SE but less than the 17 of the regular 12. For streaming, 10 hours, so more than 8 but less than 11. And for video, 50 hours, more than 40 but less than 65.
And if you’re curious, that’s 5, 2, and 30 hours less than the Pro Max. Which has a battery probably bigger than the mini’s whole body.
So, if battery is important to you, especially if you are or expect to be out of the house a lot, gaming a lot, using the camera a lot, traveling a lot, you’re either going to want a bigger iPhone with a bigger battery, or if you just love the mini size so much, a battery pack or, fingers crossed, an updated, MagSafe version of the Smart Battery Case from Apple at some point.
Because that’s really the best of both worlds, super light, super slim iPhone for fun, with a big old battery pack you can slap on the back when it’s time to work.
But, seriously, balance what you want with what you need. The usability of a smaller phone with the convenience of a bigger built-in battery. And remember, whatever you try, if you just end up hating it, you have a period of time where you can exchange it.
Never fails. I do an Apple Silicon event preview, Apple sends out invitations to the event. I do an analysis on the invitations, Mark Gurman and Debby Wu post a bunch of spoilers about a new 13-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and even 16-inch MacBook Pro. All Apple Silicon MacBooks. All of them. Never. Fails.
But I’m on lockdown. I can keep making these videos all week. I don’t even have to read your rumors first, I can just react to them live, right here, right now, right for all of you.
Literally hit publish on my Apple Silicon November Event preview and then a couple hours later, boom, like Steve Jobs-style boom! Apple sends out the events, puts up the website, teases the YouTube stream. And now… yeah, it’s on.
Another Apple Event. Third one this fall. Following up on September’s Apple Watch and iPad… and October’s HomePod mini and iPhone. Because you know what’s next.
Apple Silicon. And I’m going to tell you all about it, right now.
The lights go dark. The music pauses. The Apple Logo hits the screen. Tim Cook. “Good morning!” Or… wait… “Hello and welcome back to Apple Park.” I mean, it’s like we can’t depend on anything anymore. Not anything. Not in 2020, the “drop test” of years.
We’ve already had the September event, not for iPhone and Apple Watch but… Apple Watch and iPad.
And the October event, not for iPad and Mac but for… HomePod mini and iPhone.
And that just leaves lucky number three, for the already teased… Apple Silicon and…
Well, we all know the drill by now.
Drone shot. Speed ramp. Transition. Steady cam. And then… Apple TV or AirPods Studio, or AirTags, maybe iPad Pro, or maybe, just maybe… one more thing.
Well, sit back, slap that subscribe bell or I’ll switch you back to Intel, and get ready to break it all down, all of it, again, right now.
Sponsored by Curiosity Stream… with Nebula.
Zoom in, like mass-driver from space zoom, all the way down onto Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook. He’s on the stage, he’s in the theater, he’s followed Lisa Jackson onto the roof, he’s in the secret BlackBird launch bay under the basketball hoop, he’s… at Apple Park and he’s ready to talk… Maybe Apple TV 4K+, finally?
Apple TV 4K+
Could be Tim stays on camera or maybe we cut across to Eddy Cue, senior Vice President of services, or someone on the hardware team.
And I know the rumors are saying this won’t happen until next year but, gorramit, I want it this year, so I’m going to try and will-and-the-word into being anyway.
We start with an Apple TV remote, which still needs a makeover. Something a little more asymmetrical. Maybe with the Home button centered at the bottom like iPhones have had size Year Zero.
Also, with a U1 spatial positioning chip in it, so we can Find My the stuffing out of it from in the cushions or under the sofa just every damn day. And fingers crossed for inductive charging. Just, MagSafe all the things now, pretty please.
The 4K box itself will no doubt look the same, of course, but has a beefed up A12X processor — or thereabouts — to not only better handle things like HDR compositing and the next generation of games, please let them including Gamepass and Stadia, but also connected experiences like Fitness+ as well.
And maybe, just maybe, there’s an Apple TV+ with an A14X processor, something that would just clobbering time Triple-A games. Especially if some of the more outlandish rumors are true about Apple sniffing around the big studios Sony and Microsoft haven’t bought yet.
Yes, Apple has never shown an interest in hard core gaming… but that’s never going t stop the rumors or dreams.
Cut back to Tim.
iPad Pro 2020 — Part Deux
Just like 2012, when Apple announced the iPad 3 in March and then came back in October and announced the iPhone 4, what if, just what if, Tim Cook wants to tell us that they’re once again not taking their foot off electric accelerator pedal again?
Maybe Laura Legros or John Ternus, one of the VPs of hardware engineering, come out with a second big iPad Pro for 2020, this one having everything the last one didn’t?
Rumors are saying next spring is more likely, but nothing makes sense this year anyway, so I’m including it for the sake of completionism.
Maybe it just gets 5G with a new X55 modem. Maybe it gets 5G and an A14X processor, so it’s just all of Apple’s major products, all on the same IP generation. Maybe it goes all the way and gets that new mini LED display.
My guess is, nothing, but wow would that be something.
Smooth transition pan back to Tim.
Look, I know you want your Apple Silicon already, but the accessories come first. I don’t make the rules, I just report on them. Apple Watch and iPad. HomePod mini and iPhone. Not the other way around.
So, maybe AirTags? Finally AirTags? And, I’m honestly not sure who comes out to tell us more about them. If they were done last month, Kaiann Drance, Vice President of iPhone Marketing, could have handled it same as she did MagSafe. Or, with an even smaller Bond case, same as she did iPhone mini. So could Greg Joswiak, Joz, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. But they didn’t… so it’s just kinda wide open now.
Anyway, someone comes out to tell us more about these tiny little Apple-emblazoned disks you can stick on your keys and wallets, in your gym bags and gear bags, hell in your kids clothes and your pets collars.
They have U1 chips in them and they work with Apple’s Find my Network, so you can locate anything you lost, stolen, or misplaced, with like down to the inch AR guided precision.
Apple addresses privacy concerns, because even though Tile’s been on the market for years, Apple’s all the headlines are going to care about.
Then we cut to Craig Federighi, senior Vice President of software engineering to demo Find My on the AirTags, maybe some 3rd party versions, along with any other new, hardware-specific features coming to iOS 14.3.
We get the two sizes, the ring and the carrier, we get everything. At last.
And blur drop back to Tim.
Now maybe it’s time to talk headphones. Maybe not. Most recent rumors suggest the over-the-ear ones, the AirPods Studio, have been pushed to next March. But if they haven’t, if they’re in fact ready, Tim shows them to us and then…
Well, I don’t know if we’ll ever see Phil Schiller presenting again. We haven’t so far, not since he left his old post anchoring events to become the Apple Fellow in charge of running events. But he still loves audio gear as much as cameras, so who knows?
Either way, any way, the new AirPods Studio take everything great about the in-ear Pro and just hulk serum them out into full-on over-the-ear studio cans. Like two HomePods mini strapped to your head like Princess Leia hair… it’s computational, spatial audio on the go. And we get the full demo, from silicon to streaming.
You can even swap out the earpieces like watch bands, so you can mix up the colors and patterns.
Then cut back to Tim and it’s time for the main event.
Apple Silicon Macs
Apple Silicon Macs. They were pre-announced back at WWDC 2020 in June. The Mac, but instead of Intel CPUs and embedded GPUs, or Intel CPUs and AMD discrete GPUs, they’d be running custom Apple systems-on-a-chip, like iPads have been doing for years and years already.
We’ve seen the developer test system, basically a Mac mini chassis stuffed with an iPad Pro chipset, the A12Z. But now we get to see the first real Apple Silicon Mac — if Apple doesn’t have a fancier brand name ready to debut for the event.
Rumors have been mixed, with everything from a new 12-inch MacBook, basically an iPad Pro in Mac clothing that would kick things off with something… familiar. To a new 13- or 14-inch MacBook Pro that would go a little further in showing us what Apple Silicon can really do in the Mac, especially when the power and thermal constraints are relaxed just a little.
There are also rumors of a 24-inch iMac with an all new, all also iPad inspired design making the rounds.
Even a 16-inch MacBook Pro still using Intel parts, just put a cap in that lineup. You pick the meaning you want for that.
Either way, we could see Johny Srouji, senior Vice President of platform technologies to talk us through the new silicon again, or Sri Santhanam, Vice President of silicon engineering, who showed off the A13 last year, or Tim Millet, Vice President of Platform architecture who introduced the A14 back in September. But really, it’s an open field, with Joz always a possibility, Tom Boger who runs Mac Product Marketing, or the aforementioned John or Laura from hardware engineering who’ve traded off iPad and Mac duties as of late.
And, of course, Craig Federighi, to show off macOS Big Sur on the new machine or machines.
Safe bet is we get an A14 that either has some unique Apple Silicon accelerators discussed for the first time, something that, like the iPhone and iPad share the same chip but optimize for it in different ways, so too does now the Mac, or we get a whole new letter in the alphabet to make it even more distinct, and maybe some IP uniquely its own.
Either way, it just runs macOS and Final Cut and Logic Pro faster than anything else on the planet, virtual machines and emulators faster than it has any right too, and even iOS and iPadOS apps as fast as anyone would want them run.
And the new era has become.
One more thing…
Now, with Apple silicon, do we even need one more thing? In 2020 of all years?
I’d love it, we probably all could use it. But I doubt it.
Biggest outside chance is a first glimpse of Apple Glasses, like Apple Watch got back in September of 2014. But Apple probably doesn’t want to distract too much from the Mac this month, and it seems way too early still for the technology that would make the Apple Glasses really a consumer ready product yet.
So, my guess is that’s a 2021 or 2022 thing, when Apple can show them off and demo them in person. When they’re 100% certain they’re going to ship. Because, especially with everything else going on, I just don’t see Apple setting themselves up for any more delays.
But if there’s any year we could use a bonus, that we need extras, it’s this one.
I hear you, I feel you. For the last couple of years, the Pro and Pro Max iPhones have been identical except for the Max part. The size part. But this year… this 2020 of years… the cameras are different and even the size differences… are different.
So, if you still can’t decide between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. If you’re still on the fence. If you prefer the regular Pro size but want that Pro Max camera or battery. If you don’t mind big phones but worry the new Max is just too big. But if you also worry that if you don’t get it, you might just regret it. If you’ve got full on FOMO YOLO, but worry Pro Max price is just a no-go…
Then wow but do I have the iMore weekly column for you!