Hi, Speed — Impressions

Apple held its online-only iPhone 12 event earlier this week, and there’s quite a bit to talk about. There were 4 new models announced, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the iPhone mini. Apple also announced a new HomePod mini.

All 4 new iPhones this year feature 5G. They really spent a great deal of time talking about it. While 5G might be great in a couple of years, it doesn’t seem like a major reason to upgrade right now. In Canada, we have very little, if any 5G coverage. Also only US iPhones will be cable of using the super-fast version of 5G (mmWave.)

All the phones also get the new A14 chip, which seems to be about 20-25% faster than the previous A13 chip in the iPhone 11. At the time of writing, the A13 is still the fastest mobile CPU available, and the new chip is impressively fast based on online benchmarks.

The biggest change to the base (non Pro) models this year is the inclusion of OLED screens. Also, all versions this year have a new glass coating (ceramic shield) that supposedly makes them 4x stronger. I’m sure we’ll know more when the drop-test videos start surfacing.

Another big improvement across all models this year, is a new camera lens that allows in 27% more light. This should improve all photos, especially those taken in lower light conditions.


Apple has brought back the MagSafe name this year, but to iPhones. It’s basically a puck charger very similar to the charger for the Apple Watch, but bigger. It magnetically connects to the back of the phone to perform a wireless charge. It also allows MagSafe compatible cases to connect to the phone via magnets, so they don’t have to grip the phone from the front, allowing you to more easily install/remove the case.

These MagSafe chargers do not come with the new phones however, you’ll have to buy them separately. They sell for $55 CAD, so they’re not cheap either. I’m not sure I need one, as I charge my phone nightly on a 3rd-party wireless dock, and I’ve never once had it fail to line up with the coils.

This move may be the precursor to Apple removing the charging port altogether. I also wonder how hard it will be to disconnect the puck from the phone, will it be a mandatory two-hand operation?

The MagSafe charger has a fixed USB-C power cord but does not come with an A/C adapter.

Chargers and Earphones

Apple has decided to no longer include A/C adapters or earphones with the iPhones. The rational being that it is better for the environment, and that everyone already has a bunch of AC adapters hanging around the house.

While that is likely true, I think they made a mistake when stating it. They mentioned that you could use your old chargers, which you can, but not with the new USB-C to lightning cable included. I think they should have specified that you could continue to use your old cables and chargers, as any lightning cable will work. (This would have quelled a lot of comments/questions I’ve seen on various sites.)

EarPods are no longer being included in the box either, for the same environmental benefits. I’m personally ok with this, as I pretty much only use bluetooth ear/headphones, and the EarPods never stayed in my ears anyway.

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 is made from aluminum and comes in the usual white and black. It also comes in (PRODUCT)RED and a pastel green. The coolest and most showcased new colour is a beautiful blue.

These phones feature the wide angle (regular) camera lens and the ultra-wide camera lens configuration from the previous generation, but the lenses themselves have been improved. This base model is probably the perfect phone for most people.

iPhone 12 mini

This new mini model has the exact same specs and colour options as the regular iPhone 12, only it’s smaller, and cheaper. If you’ve been longing for a smaller iPhone since the original SE, this is the phone for you.  It’s a bit bigger than the original SE, but smaller than the SE2.

iPhone 12 Pro

The Pro models this year come in the usual white (silver), gold and black (this time it’s called graphite). They’ve also added a pacific blue option. I personally prefer the look of the non-pro blue, but it’s still pretty nice. The Pro models replace the aluminum with a very shiny stainless steel. It looks very nice in photos and videos, but I wonder how it will handle fingerprints.

The Pro models add the telephoto camera lens, which I find much more useful than the ultra-wide lens. They also feature the new LIDAR sensor for improved AR experiences. Apple states that this sensor will also be used by the camera when taking photos to improve the speed of auto-focus in low-light modes, as much as 6x faster. This sounds really interesting, and I can’t wait to try it out.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

This year the Max (largest) version of the phone also ups the specs on the cameras. The telephoto lens is upped from 2x to 2.5x, but most significantly, the actual sensor is 47% larger than on the non-Max. This will make a big difference in photo quality in general and especially so in low-light settings. The Max also gets a new image stabilization technique, called sensor-shift, where the image sensor is stabilized rather than the lens. I don’t know how much difference that will make in practice, but Apple states that it allows you to take a hand-held 2-second long exposure. If thats true, and it’s not blurry, that would be both impressive and useful.

I’m a bit annoyed that these features are only offered on the Max model. Not due to price, the price increase for these features seems reasonable, but I’ve never been a fan of the larger form factor phones. However, due to the benefits of these camera features, I’m personally going to get the Max this year, as I use my phone a lot for photos.

HomePod mini

Apple also announced a new HomePod that is smaller than the original, and about 1/3 of the price. It’s impossible to know how it sounds without hearing it in person, but I assume it’s pretty good sound for the size of the device. The power cable on the HomePod mini is fixed, so you can’t replace it with a longer or shorter cord but it comes with an A/C power adapter.

My problem is, I don’t see why I would need one. I use Apple Music all the time, in my car, on my phone, on my laptop, on my iPad, and with my Apple TV. I also use Siri quite a bit, mostly to play music, but also for general questions, reminders and text messages. I also appreciate really good sound, so if it doesn’t appeal to me, then who does it appeal to?

I have an Amazon Echo Dot in the kitchen, connected to Apple Music, and it’s perfect for playing the odd tune in the kitchen. Anywhere else in my house that I want to listen to music, I have a proper sound setup with an amplifier and speakers.

Also, in my limited, yet entertaining testing comparing Alexa to Siri, Alexa almost always provides better answers.

Final Thoughts

  • I’m curious to see what happens if/when they remove the charging port altogether, will they include the MagSafe puck in the box, or just remove the cable as well.
  • A lot of products are now coming with a USB power cord, but no adapter. This is most likely to save on costs, but it’s not a new idea. A lot of people have installed USB power outlets in their homes with the standard A/C receptacles. I wonder if we’ll need to upgrade those soon to use USB-C, and what replaces USB-C?