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iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Which iPhone should you buy?

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 pro
(Image credit: Apple)

An iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro comparison will help you figure out which iPhone to buy, whether you're upgrading from an older model or switching from Android. Just keep in mind that with the iPhone 13 reportedly on the way this September, you may want to wait to see what Apple has in store for its new iPhones. 

Don't want to wait? Our iPhone 12 review and iPhone 12 Pro review are both quite positive, and both versions of Apple's flagship phone benefit from 5G, fast A14 Bionic processors and gorgeous OLED displays. 

But there are some key differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro — especially when it comes to price and the cameras. 

The iPhone 12 lineup consists of four phones. Apple's iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have more affordable prices and more vibrant color options, including a new purple color. The pricier iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have more advanced cameras, more premium designs and a largest display on the Max.

If you're in the market for a new iPhone right now, use this iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro guide to compare. 

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro: Cheat sheet

  • The regular iPhone 12 ($799) is the best iPhone for most people with an excellent 6.1-inch OLED display and very capable cameras. 
  • While very powerful for a compact phone, the $699 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini may be too small for some buyers. 
  • The iPhone 12 Pro delivers a telephoto lens for zooming in and more RAM than the regular iPhone 12, along with a more premium stainless steel design.
  • Apple's iPhone 12 Pro Max is our top pick, offering a huge 6.7-inch display, a LiDAR sensor for faster autofocus and the longest battery life.

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Specs

iPhone 12 mini iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 Pro Max
Display5.4 inches OLED (2340 x1080)6.1 inches OLED (2532 x 1170)6.1 inches OLED (2532 x 1170)6.7 inches (2778 x 1284)
ColorsBlack, White, Red, Green, Blue, PurpleBlack, White, Red, Green, Blue, PurpleSilver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific BlueSilver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific Blue
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear camera12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide f/2.4)(12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide f/2.4)(12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.0)12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.2)
Front camera12MP TrueDepth (f/2.2)12MP TrueDepth (f/2.2)12MP TrueDepth (f/2.2)12MP TrueDepth (f/2.2)
5Gsub-6Ghz, mmWavesub-6Ghz, mmWavesub-6Ghz, mmWavesub-6Ghz, mmWave
Battery life7:28 (5G)8:25 (5G)9:06 (5G)10:53 (5G)
Size5.18 x 2.53 x 0.29 inches5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 inches5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 inches6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
Weight4.76 ounces5.78 ounces6.66 ounches8.03 ounces

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Prices

  • iPhone 12 mini: $699
  • iPhone 12: $799
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099

The iPhone 12 mini starts at $699. The iPhone 12 is $100 more at $799. Note that those are the prices for models tied to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Buy an unlocked iPhone 12 at Apple, for example, and you'll pay $829; unlocked iPhone 12 minis are also subject to that $30 price hike.

The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max retain their prices from last year's iterations, starting at $999 and $1,099, respectively. Fortunately, the starting storage on these models has been doubled to 128GB.

Be sure to check our iPhone 12 deals page for the latest sales and discounts. 

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Sizes and design

iPhone 12 Apple Event

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 12 comes in two sizes: the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini and 6.1-inch iPhone 12. The iPhone 12 Pro features a 6.1-inch display, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a fairly huge 6.7 inches.

In terms of design, all four iPhone 12 models sport smaller notches up front, as well as flatter sides that are reminiscent of the iPhone 5. Every iPhone 12 is thinner across the board, too.

As far as differences go, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 have aluminum and glass designs, while Apple continues to reserve the stainless steel body for the iPhone 12 Pro phones. 

iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Another key difference is in the colors. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini come in a variety of vibrant hues including blue, green, red, white, black and purple. Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pro series comes in silver, graphite, gold and a new pacific blue. 

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Displays

iPhone 12 Apple Event

(Image credit: Apple)

One of the biggest differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models comes down to display size. Naturally, the iPhone 12 mini is the smallest of the bunch, with a 5.4-inch, 2340 x 1080 screen. 

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro both feature 6.1-inch, 2532 x 1170 displays, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the biggest iPhone display yet at a massive 6.7 inches and 2778 x 1284 resolution. Every new iPhone display is OLED, featuring Apple's Super Retina XDR technology.

Unfortunately, the iPhone 12 Pro models don't feature 120Hz displays for extra smooth motion as was previously rumored. You'll still be getting a 60Hz screen on every version of the iPhone 12. 

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Cameras

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro concept design (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 continue to feature dual cameras in the back, including a wide angle lens and an ultra wide-angle lens. New features include Night Mode for both the front and rear cameras, as well as Night Mode Time Lapse for putting together slick nighttime videos.

If you're serious about smartphone photography, though, you'll want to go for the iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max. These phones have a triple-camera array with improved lenses, as well as an advanced LiDAR sensor for better augmented reality and greater depth sensing for photos and videos. 

You'll also enjoy advanced features such as Apple ProRAW, which blends Apple's own computational photography with the typical benefits of editing in the RAW photo format. You'll be able to fine tune things such as white balance and color, while taking advantage of existing iPhone features such as Smart HDR. The iPhone 12 Pro is also the first phone to let you shoot and edit video using Dolby Vision HDR.

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: 5G

Fortunately, every new iPhone 12 model supports 5G speeds. Better yet, they all support both sub-6GHz and mmWave frequencies, meaning you'll be equipped for the fastest 5G experiences no matter where you are. Every iPhone 12 also benefits from Smart Data Mode, which can automatically adapt between 4G and 5G based on your location to save you data and power.

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Performance

Despite the different prices and other features you'll find across the iPhone 12 lineup, performance is pretty consistent. That's because all four iPhones run on Apple's new A14 Bionic processor, which just happens to produce the best results we've ever seen in benchmark tests.

You can read our full report on iPhone 12 benchmarks, but the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro turned in nearly identical numbers on tests like Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, and 3DMark's Wild Life test for graphics performance. In our real-world test — where we transcode a 4K video into 1080p — only a second separated the iPhone 12's time from the iPhone 12 Pro's.

PhoneProcessorAdobe Premiere Rush encoding time (Mins:Secs)
iPhone 12A14 Bionic0:26
iPhone 12 ProA14 Bionic0:27
iPhone 11 Pro MaxA13 Bionic0:45
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 UltraSnapdragon 865 Plus1:16
Samsung Galaxy S20 PlusSnapdragon 8651:13
OnePlus 8TSnapdragon 8651:38
ROG Phone 3Snapdragon 865 Plus1:35
Google Pixel 5Snapdragon 765G2:52

More significantly, both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro outperformed their predecessors. On that video encoding test, the new models were nearly 20 seconds faster than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which previously set the pace. And the respective 26- and 27-second times turned in by the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro dusted top Android phones of recent vintage, with none of the models able to complete the task in less than a minute.

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Battery life

The iPhone 12 models have some slight differences in terms of rated battery life, but all of them should get you through most of the day. The iPhone 12 mini is rated for up to 10 hours of video streaming, while the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is expected to last 11 hours. The iPhone 12 Pro Max should get you the best endurance of the bunch, rated for up to 12 hours of streaming.

On our web surfing battery test, the iPhone 12 mini lasted a relatively short 7 hours and 28 minutes over 5G, and the iPhone 12 had a longer runtime of 8 hours and 25 minutes. The iPhone 12 Pro lasted 9:06, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max endured the longest at 10:53. 

iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Bottom line

Apple Event iPhone 12

(Image credit: Apple)

It's hard to go wrong with Apple's latest iPhone lineup, as every version of the iPhone 12 gets you fast 5G performance, a zippy A14 chip and an immersive OLED screen. So it really comes down to your needs and preferences when it comes to size, price and cameras.

The $699 iPhone 12 mini is the most affordable, but it may be too small for you. The $799 iPhone 12 and its 6.1-inch display is a better bet for most shoppers. If you're serious about shooting photos and videos on your phone, the $999 iPhone 12 Pro is a great choice. But if you want all that with the biggest iPhone screen ever, along with the longest battery life, we recommend  the $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

Some shoppers may want to hold off until the iPhone 13 launches this September. It's expected to pack an even faster A15 Bionic chip, improved 5G, enhanced cameras and a smaller notch. Plus, the iPhone 13 Pro models should finally get 120Hz displays. However, if you want an iPhone right now the iPhone 12 Pro Max is our top pick, followed by the regular iPhone 12. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.