What innovations has the iPhone introduced?

New iPhones: There haven't been so many innovations for a long time

The 12th generation of the smartphone sets the bar high for computer performance and camera technology. The display is provided with a hard protective layer.

There have not been so many innovations in an iPhone for a long time. The breath of fresh air starts with the look. For years, iPhones could hardly be distinguished from Android phones on the outside, but now Apple is back to individual design: the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, as well as the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, have a flat frame with edges like the iPhone 4 once again. The frame of the cheaper models is made of aluminum, the Pro devices are made of stainless steel.

The iPhone 12 wants to improve a weak point in all cell phones with a new solution developed with the manufacturer Corning Glass. A layer of glass called Ceramic Shield is said to be the best protection ever built, which is supposed to withstand impacts up to four times better. Initial laboratory tests were positive. The iPhone is also more robust when diving accidentally: it now holds tight for half an hour up to a depth of six meters. The parting of the Lightning connector in favor of USB-C, as Apple has already done with the iPad, has not materialized.

For this, Apple is using 5G for the first time in the entire quartet. The radio chip supports multiple bands as well as ultra wideband (mmWave). However, only a few providers rely on the 5G variant, which is fast and error-prone with a download rate of 4 GBit / s. To save the battery, the iPhone 5G only switches on when data-hungry apps are active.

The OLED display has been significantly improved. The pixel density is doubled (minimum 458 ppi) and the maximum brightness is 1200 nits. In terms of color space, the display supports the standards HDR 10 and HLG as well as Dolby Vision.

Powerful camera

There are many innovations in camera technology. All models have an ultra-wide-angle and a wide-angle camera (12 MP). The standard lens (wide angle) has been renewed. With an aperture of f / 1.6 it is much more powerful and with 7 lenses it promises more sharpness. The night mode introduced last year is now available in all cameras. The third generation of Smart HDR is used to master the dynamic range in photo and video mode (4K / 60p).

Apple proudly announces that the iPhone 12 will be the first camera to record videos with the Dolby Vision format used in movies. Their HDR color space should be 60 times larger. That sounds like a lot, but in our comparison of identical recordings with and without Dolby Vision (iPhone 11) the difference is not obvious.

In contrast, the development in the photo sector shows clear differences. In our test shots, the iPhone 12 beats last year's more expensive flagship iPhone 11 Pro Max. His pictures deliver more brilliance, a touch more sharpness and less noise. This is not only due to the new lens, but also to Deep Fusion. This technology shoots a large number of photos with one click, analyzes the image elements and combines them again into one image for the optimal display of shadows and lights.

Details make the difference

All of this requires a lot of computing power, which is provided by the new Apple A14 Bionic chip. The predecessor was already the fastest processor on the market, now the A14 is still growing. The first chip built with 5 nanometer technology delivers 50 percent more power than any other smartphone chip, according to Apple. Machine learning performance has also increased. The department responsible for this has 16 cores and handles 11 trillion operations per second. The muscle man also supplies the basis of the new M1 chip, which Apple announced this week and is using in new Mac computers.

The most important model differences can be seen in the size and in some details. The successor to the iPhone 11 - the world's best-selling smartphone in 2020 - surprises with its weight: with the same display size, the iPhone 12 is smaller, thinner and, at 162 grams, significantly lighter. It has everything for a success story, but has a rival with the 12 mini: The Mini offers identical technology, is cheaper and will win many fans with its compact 5.4 "display.

The Pro models also have a telecamera, and Apple is also integrating a lidar scanner for distance measurements for the first time. This optimizes spatial location in AR applications and helps focus when the contrast measurement fails. The ProRAW option is interesting for photo enthusiasts and professionals: This function, available later via update, allows you to edit images captured with the Pro models in raw format (RAW).

The flagship 12 Pro Max is made for photo fans. At 6.7 "it is the largest iPhone ever built and has the largest battery. The Max Pro achieves five times the zoom range, but has to admit defeat by top models from the Android camp. Apple sets different priorities. The Pro Max is the only model equipped with a larger image sensor (47 percent). It has larger pixels, which improves the light output and the image quality. The wide-angle camera of the Pro Max also comes up with professional technology: Instead of image stabilization in the lens, it uses a movable sensor that stabilizes vibrations in two axes.

And how do these innovations affect image quality? At first glance, surprisingly little, as our tests with various subjects and light scenarios show. The Pro Max switches to night mode less quickly in low light or requires less exposure time, which is an advantage. However, if you zoom in on an image section to 100 percent, the greater sharpness of the larger sensor can be clearly seen. Above all, the comparison shows that the iPhone 12's camera also does an excellent job.

The power supply unit is missing

Apple is introducing a novelty with the MagSafe wireless charging system. On the back of the iPhone, around the charging coil, there is a magnet that optimally aligns and fixes the cell phone on the charging station. The idea is not new: The Swiss company Tecflower has been offering magnetic chargers under the Andi be free brand for a long time, but these require a special case. MagSafe is based on the Qi standard and doubles the charging capacity.

The iPhone 12 can be charged halfway in thirty minutes. Apple has a charging station with a diameter of 55 millimeters and a duo charger that also charges the Apple Watch. Many manufacturers have already announced magnetic cases and MagSafe charging stations. The magnet enables new solutions to magnetically connect the iPhone to a tripod, LED light source or microphone.

The purchase decision for four models is not an easy one. Since the core technology (display, chip, 5G, wide and ultra wide angle cameras) is identical, the two cheaper models are likely to be in demand. Photo fans are more likely to flirt with a pro model. At the most, you have to add 25 francs for a power supply to the price, because the package only includes a charging cable (USB-C to Lightning). Apple cites environmental protection reasons and points out that billions of such power supplies are already in households.