iPhone 12 says Hi
Mac Life|December 2020
iPhone 12 says Hi
Apple ushers in the era of the 5G smartphone
GRAHAM BARLOW

APPLE GRACED US with not one but four different versions of its new 5G–compatible iPhone 12 at this year’s “Hi, Speed” event. The iPhone 12 has a 6.1–inch screen, and there’s also a smaller 5.4–inch iPhone 12 mini, as well as a 6.1–inch iPhone 12 Pro and finally the largest member of the family, a 6.7–inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

All versions of the iPhone 12 come with 5G connectivity, the super–fast A14 Bionic processor that debuted in last month’s new iPad Air, an edge–to–edge OLED screen with a Super Retina XDR display and a new toughened glass called Ceramic Shield, which is 4x more resistant to drops than the previous iPhone 11.

While the Ceramic Shield is certainly a welcome addition for anybody who’s ever dropped their iPhone and been too scared to look at the screen afterwards in case it’s cracked, there was no word from Apple on whether Ceramic Shield is also more scratch–resistant than previous models.

The main feature for the iPhone 12 is of course 5G, which has the potential to revolutionize what’s possible with a smartphone. Apple is reporting 3.5 Gbps download speeds in “ideal conditions” and up to 4.0 Gbps download speeds using millimeter wave, the higher frequency version of 5G.

The other big innovation in the iPhone 12 series is Apple’s A14 Bionic processor, the fastest processor in any smartphone on the market. While the A14 Bionic debuted last month in the new iPad Air, its specs are certainly impressive, with a 50% faster CPU containing six cores, a four–core GPU that delivers 50% faster graphics compared to the iPhone 11. The A14 also includes impressive improvements to the Neural Engine, which is 80% faster than the iPhone 11. The neural engine runs Face ID and Siri, so Apple will continue to make advancements in the more customer–friendly areas of the iPhone experience. But while rivals like Samsung and Qualcomm will probably catch up with the A14 Bionic’s speed in time, Apple’s ability to match its chips to underlying technology like the new LiDAR scanner in the rear–facing cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are what will set it apart from the competition.

Before Apple got a hold on it, originally in the iPad Pro, LiDAR was used by aircraft and the military to build an accurate 3D representation of your surroundings, but now it’s in a device that can fit in your hand and your pocket. The LiDAR scanner on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max can rapidly scan a room’s depth. The implications are many, but the most obvious are in the field of augmented reality (AR). Virtual objects will be able to instantly “sit” in the correct place in the landscape around you to deliver the most authentic experience possible. At the moment there has been no killer app that proves the usefulness of AR, but with a LiDAR scanner coming to Apple’s leading iPhone, that could all change.

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December 2020