Tech

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max vs. iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max: The verdict in 2021


Let’s say you already know you want an iPhone, specifically the Pro version, and let’s say you’re not interested in waiting around for the iPhone 13. (Apple’s next flagship lineup should be here very soon, and it’s starting to look very cool but once we find out the price, Apple’s previous lineups will likely go on sale.) For those who have their eye on a Pro or Pro Max, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 are still two great options.

Read more: Is it still worth it to buy an iPhone 12? How about an iPhone 11?   

Or maybe you already have an iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max and are trying to decide whether to trade it in for something from Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup. The iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at a cool $1,099. Apple discontinued the 11 Pro and Pro Max when the iPhone 12 line was announced, but you can still find the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max at a discount at various retailers, sometimes as low as $625.  

For reference, here are CNET’s reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max. And here’s how the iPhone 12 compares to the iPhone 11

Trading in to Apple will bring the price of an iPhone 12 down considerably — as much as $500 in savings for an 11 Pro trade-in, or $540 for a Pro Max — but then again, keeping your old phone for another year is free. Apple made several improvements to its iPhone 12 lineup, (most notably adding 5G — oh, and it also comes in purple) but are the phone’s newer tricks worth the cash? The answer depends on what’s important to you. Let’s compare Apple’s 2019 and 2020 Pro flagships on design, camera, performance and more.

Read more: Deciding between iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 instead? Here’s what we know so far.

Angela Lang/CNET

In 2019, we gave the iPhone 11 the coveted Editors’ Choice Award and called the Pro version “simply the best iPhone ever.” That designation was challenged with the release of the iPhone 12, but the fact remains that Apple’s previous year’s flagship is still an excellent phone, with a high-resolution OLED display, three-camera array (with Deep Fusion technology) and a sleek matte-glass finish.

Read our Apple iPhone 11 Pro review..

 

James Martin/CNET

 

Design

The most obvious aesthetic difference between the iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max is the latter’s flattened sides. Apple brought back the squared-off edges look from the iPhone 5 and wrapped the iPhone 12 Pro line in a modern stainless steel frame. 

16-iphone-12-pro-2020

The squared-off edges of the iPhone 5 are back.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Size

Compared with 2019’s flagship, the iPhone 12 lineup features slimmer bezels that accommodate a larger screen without greatly increasing the phone’s overall size and weight. The 11 Pro’s 5.8-inch screen becomes 6.1 inches in the iPhone 12 Pro. And the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 6.5-inch screen is now 6.7 inches in the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone 11 Pro and 12 Pro dimensions

iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Display size 6.1 in 6.7 in 5.8 in 6.5 in
Dimensions (Inches) 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in 6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 in 5.67×2.81×0.32 in 6.22×3.06×0.32 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm 144×71.4×8.1 mm 158×77.8×8.1 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.66 oz; 189g 8.03 oz; 228g 6.63 oz; 188g 7.97 oz; 226g

Ceramic shield vs. Gorilla Glass

Another notable difference is the screen glass. Apple unveiled its new “ceramic shield” technology with the iPhone 12 lineup, which it says gives the phone a 4x better drop performance than the Gorilla Glass screen on iPhone 11. We haven’t conducted drop or scratch tests for the iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max, but we put ceramic shield to the test on the baseline iPhone 12 and also drop-tested the iPhone 12 Mini, and it seems virtually indestructible. The iPhone 11 Pro fared incredibly well in our drop testing, though we did find some damaged pixels on its screen. 

Colors

If these drop test results have convinced you to forgo a phone case, phone colors are probably going to play at least a small role in your decision. Apple introduced some new colors with the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max (including a super-shiny, C-3PO-style gold hue), giving the phones a premium look.

iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max colors:

  • Midnight green
  • Silver
  • Space gray
  • Gold

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max colors:

  • Silver
  • Graphite
  • Gold
  • Pacific blue
iphone 11 Pro and 12 Pro color options

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max colors: silver, graphite, gold, Pacific blue (left); iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max colors: midnight green, silver, space gray, gold (right).


Apple

5G, processor, battery and performance

The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max come with Apple’s A14 Bionic chip, which is a successor to the iPhone 11’s A13 processor. All four phones, the iPhone 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, feature a 60Hz display.

5G

No discussion of the iPhone 12 is complete without a mention of 5G. If your area has 5G coverage and your carrier offers it, the iPhone 12 is capable of delivering much higher speeds than the iPhone 11, which lacks 5G capability. However, your mileage with the next generation cellular connectivity may vary, especially as coverage continues to roll out. The results of our 5G speed tests with the iPhone 12 were not exactly earth shattering. Right now, 5G connectivity is probably not a compelling reason to trade in an iPhone 11 Pro for a 12 Pro, but if you’re choosing between the two phones, the latter will be more future-proofed.


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Battery

Apple doesn’t release battery specs, but it says the iPhone 11 Pro’s battery will last up to 18 hours, compared with 17 hours for the iPhone 12 Pro. Apple says the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max batteries will both last for up to 20 hours. One hour of potential difference is not significant enough to sway your decision, but it’s worth noting that 5G usage does tend to drain phone batteries. To combat this, Apple introduced with the iPhone 12 lineup a feature called Smart Data Mode, which toggles between 5G and 4G, or even between different bands of 5G, balancing performance with battery life.

Cameras

In the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, Apple introduced both hardware and software upgrades to its camera setup. CNET’s Patrick Holland calls it “the best overall camera system you can find.” One new feature, visible in the camera array on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, is a sensor technology called lidar. Lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging, uses lasers to assess depth, improving portrait mode effects and low-light focus.

Another camera feature that made pro photographers excited about the iPhone 12 Pro is what Apple calls ProRaw, which combines Apple’s computational photography abilities with a raw image format, giving photo geeks the best of both worlds. Here’s everything you need to know about ProRaw, and here’s our ProRaw review after trying it out.

Apple gave the iPhone 12 Pro the same ultrawide camera as the iPhone 11 Pro — a camera we loved when we reviewed it in 2019. Apple improved upon an already-great camera with software enhancements in the iPhone 12 to correct lens distortion. Check out the way the iPhone 12 Pro corrects the lines of this brick wall image taken by CNET’s Patrick Holland.

Software also makes the iPhone 12 Pro’s low-light Night Mode photography even better — CNET’s James Martin called the iPhone 12 Pro’s Night Mode images “nothing short of amazing.” Apple added Night Mode to the iPhone 12 Pro’s selfie and ultrawide cameras, whereas Night Mode on the iPhone 11 Pro only functions on the standard wide lens. Night Mode portraits on the iPhone 12 Pro are now also a thing. As far as hardware goes, iPhone 12 Pro’s wide lens has been upgraded from an f/1.8 to a wider f/1.6 aperture, improving its low-light capabilities by 27%, according to Apple.

11-12-iphone-side-by-side.jpg

An iPhone 12 Pro 30-second Night Mode exposure on the left, and the iPhone 11 Pro without Night Mode on the right.


James Martin/CNET

There’s a lot more to explore when it comes to the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max’s cameras, but suffice it to say that amateur and pro photographers alike are very excited about them. But the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max inspired similar enthusiasm. If the camera is the most important factor in your phone-buying decision, read more on the iPhone 11 Pro and 12 Pro’s individual camera specs to see what these phones can do:

What’s the same?

Both the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro charge wirelessly and by Lightning port (and the 11 comes with a charger in the box, unlike the 12). The iPhone 12 lineup also works with Apple’s new MagSafe chargers. Neither flagship supports reverse wireless charging — though the iPhone 12 might secretly have the ability to charge a future Apple accessory, likely a new version of AirPods. In lieu of a Touch ID button, both phones feature Face ID technology for unlocking your screen. Neither model allows for expandable storage but the iPhone 12 Pro line starts at 128GB compared with the iPhone 11 Pro’s 64GB.

Storage capacity: iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
128GB 128GB 64GB 64GB
256GB 256GB 256GB 256GB
512GB 512GB 512GB 512GB

If the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max continue to go on sale at third-party vendors, your decision will likely come down to whether saving that money is worth the now-outshined cameras and lack of 5G connectivity. If money is a concern, the iPhone SE is another great option, currently priced at $399 unlocked (there could be an iPhone SE 3 coming, too). And there’s always the regular iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, or the previous year’s iPhone 11, any of which you can get starting at $800 or less.

More iPhone comparisons

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max vs. iPhone 11 Pro vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Display size, resolution 6.1-inch OLED; 2,532×1,170 pixels 6.7-inch OLED; 2,778×1,284 pixels 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,436×1,125 pixels 6.5-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,688×1,242 pixels
Pixel density 460ppi 458ppi 458 ppi 458 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in 6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 in 5.67×2.81×0.32 in 6.22×3.06×0.32 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm 144×71.4×8.1 mm 158×77.8×8.1 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.66 oz; 189g 8.03 oz; 228g 6.63 oz; 188g 7.97 oz; 226g
Mobile software iOS 14 iOS 14 iOS 13 iOS 13
Camera 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Apple Bionic 14 Apple Bionic 14 Apple A13 Bionic Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM Undisclosed Undisclosed Undisclosed Undisclosed
Expandable storage None None None None
Battery Undisclosed; Apple lists 17 hours of video playback Undisclosed; Apple lists 20 hours of video playback Undisclosed; Apple lists 18 hours of video playback Undisclosed; Apple lists 20 hours of video playback
Fingerprint sensor No (FaceID) No (FaceID) None (Face ID) None (Face ID)
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No No No No
Special features Lidar scanner; 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Lidar scanner; 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $999 (128GB), $1,099 (256GB), $1,299 (512GB) $1,099 (128GB), $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB) $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £999 (128GB), £1,099 (256GB), £1,299 (512GB) £1,099 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,399 (512GB) £1,049 (64GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,399 (512GB) £1,149 (64GB), £1,299 (256GB), £1,499 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,699 (128GB), AU$1,869 (256GB), AU$2,219 (512GB) AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$2,019 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB) AU$1,749 (64GB), AU$1,999 (256GB), AU$2,349 (512GB) AU$1,899 (64GB), AU$2,149 (256GB), AU$2,499 (512GB)

All prices noted in chart are at launch.



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