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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: which should you buy?

We compare all four iPhone 12 models to help you decide. Will it be the iPhone 12, mini, Pro or Pro Max?

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max compared

There are a whopping four phones in the iPhone 12 line-up.

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These are the standard iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s enough to make the decision tricky. We’re going to clear up the confusion.

The iPhone 12 is the phone we tend to recommend most often. It offers the best balance of features, battery life and value for money.

An iPhone 12 mini is one of the few truly small phones, perfect if you long for the days when smartphones didn’t want to be mini computers.

The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max cost a fair bit more but offer zoom cameras. And the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best battery life and the largest screen of the lot. It’s the obvious choice for the tech fan willing to splash out. But it is not cheap.

Read on for an in-depth comparison of specs, price, battery life and more.

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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: key differences at a glance

  • The iPhone 12 mini is tiny, perfect if you want a great camera but have little interest in gaming or movie streaming
  • The standard iPhone 12 is probably the best fit for many people
  • All the iPhone 12 phones have 5G
  • All the iPhone 12 phones use the brilliant, ultra-fast Apple A14 Bionic processor
  • The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the biggest screen, the best zoom camera
  • The iPhone 12 Pro is a pricey upgrade but nets you a tougher build and a more versatile camera
iPhone 12 size comparison

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: in detail

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: specs and features

Apple approaches its phone families in its own way. You might expect cuts to almost all features as you drop down in price, but some parts are the same throughout.

All iPhone 12s, from the mini to the Pro Max, have the Apple A14 Bionic processor. This means they all have the same amount of computing power, and games should run on the cheapest iPhone 12 as well as they do on the top-end iPhone 12 Pro Max.

There are slight differences in RAM through the range. This is a kind of memory that acts as grease in the phones’ cogs, but you don’t need to think about that much as all four have enough to run well. It means the iPhone 12 mini is a crazy-powerful micro phone.

They all have Face ID, which lets you unlock the phone with your face. They all use a Lightning connector.

And all four models have IP68 water resistance. This means they can survive being dunked in water, but don’t test this yourself. iPhones have water damage indicators that will affect the phone’s resale value if triggered.

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: price and storage

Apple makes multiple versions of the four iPhone 12 lines. The amount of space they have for games, apps and photos is the key difference. You need to consider this one carefully as, unlike some Android phones, iPhones don’t have a slot for a memory card.

The iPhone 12 mini is the cheapest current-gen iPhone. It starts at £699, with 64GB storage. The 128GB version costs £749 and the 256GB one is £849.

The iPhone 12 is £100 more, at £799 (64GB), £849 (128GB) and £949 (256GB)

iPhone 12 Pros start at £200 more, £999. However, the starting capacity is 128GB, so it’s fairer to say this line is £150 more than the iPhone 12. The 256GB iPhone 12 Pro costs £1,099, the 512GB one £1,299.

You’ll pay another hundred pounds for the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It costs £1,099 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB) or £1,399 (512GB).

Thanks to the relatively high cost of Apple’s storage upgrades, there’s a massive £700 gap between the cheapest iPhone 12 and the most expensive one.

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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: battery life

The iPhone 12 series’ battery life splits into three categories, passable, decent and very good.

Apple’s smallest one, the iPhone 12 mini, has the shortest battery life. Moderate to heavy users like us may find it fairly easy to drain down in the space of a day, giving you little security buffer if you go for a night out without giving it a quick charge beforehand.

However, the iPhone 12 mini is not really meant for phone addicts. It’s a great choice if you want to cut back on how much you use your phone, but don’t want a mobile with a rubbish camera.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro sit in the “decent” category. They should last a full day for just about everyone,  and those who don’t hammer their phone every day should have a decent amount left in the tank by the end.

Oddly, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro don’t last as long as their iPhone 11-series counterparts, something to consider if you have a last-generation iPhone. However, this seems to be in part thanks to their 5G mobile internet, which you can disable if you like.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the largest battery, a full 30% bigger. This more than compensates for the larger screen, meaning longer real-world run time. Excellent. It’s a bit of a workhorse, with a battery big enough to cope with heavy use.

All four phones support wireless charging, and you can use almost all third-party charge pads as iPhones use the most common Qi standard.

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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: camera

iPhone 12 camera

Here’s where things heat up. Camera differences are the obvious reason to jump from a ‘normal’ iPhone 12 to one of the Pro models.

That said, the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro all have the same 12-megapixel primary camera. And the ultra-wide is the same across all four.

The main camera is a joy to use. It takes fantastic photos day or night, and Apple made noticeable improvements to night shots for this generation.

Apple’s iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 only get these two rear cameras, a ‘normal’ camera and one with an ultra-wide view. The iPhone 12 Pro adds a great 2x zoom, a ‘depth’ camera and the ProRAW feature. This is a mode for the enthusiast crowd who want to open up their photos in a professional photo editing app to choose exactly how they want the darkest and lightest areas to look.

The zoom is the most important upgrade for just about everyone. We love a zoom, but is it worth an extra £150-200? That is up to you.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max gains an even better 2.5x zoom and a completely different primary camera. It has a better sensor, one with sensor shift stabilisation.

This means the camera sensor, the main component inside, can move up to thousands of times a second to compensate for motion. It lets you shoot much smoother video when there’s a lot of juddery movements, such as if you strap the phone to your bike handlebars or a remote control car.

If you’re willing to do that to a £1,000 phone, you are braver than us. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s camera is excellent.

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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: display

There are three display sizes in the iPhone 12 family. The iPhone 12 mini has a tiny-for-2021 5.4-inch screen.

While its image quality is excellent, with great contrast, brightness and colour, we think it’s too small to comfortably watch a long video on. We prefer a larger screen for console-style games too.

That’s why we tend to recommend the iPhone 12. It has a 6.1-inch screen, just like the iPhone 12 Pro. These screens are pin-sharp, and as far as we can tell, there’s no major difference in the hardware inside between iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

Apple calibrates the iPhone 12 Pro display to offer slightly higher power when maxing out the brightness slider. But both actually reach the same level if you take them outdoors on a bright day, suggesting Apple was looking for a way to make the Pro seem brighter and a more high-end phone as a result.

These days it’s tough for high-end phone displays to stand out because more affordable ones are often still brilliant anyway.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the only one with a truly large screen, a 6.7-inch panel. We love this thing for gaming, for Netflix and for reviewing photos. You pay for it in the actual size of the phone, of course, but it suits the Pro Max’s enthusiast angle down to the ground.

No iPhone has the kind of high refresh rate display common among Androids. This makes pages scroll more fluidly. Apple reportedly didn’t add the feature because the effect on battery life was too great, which is fair enough.

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: 5G capability and connectivity 

Apple finally added 5G to its phones in the iPhone 12 family. They all have it. And while there are reports Apple plans to release a 4G iPhone 12, it would likely be intended for countries where 5G isn’t around yet.

All other connectivity features are the same across the four phones too. They have Apple’s long-standing Lightning connector. None of them has a headphone jack, and there’s no place for a memory card in any.

iPhone 12 phones also have Apple Wideband, a wireless feature for communication between Apple devices.

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iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: design

design

A very distinctive style is used across all iPhone 12 phones. The main characteristics are aggressively squared-off metal sides, flat panes of glass on the front and back, and the display ‘notch’ Apple phones have had since 2017.

If you’ve read the ‘display’ part of this comparison, you know what to expect. The iPhone 12 mini is a tiny phone. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are mid-size phones, still smaller than most of the Android competition. And the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a giant, probably too large for some.

There’s another change you can’t appreciate from pictures alone too. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have aluminium sides, upgraded to stainless steel in the Pro phones.

Steel is much harder than aluminium, so it will pick up scratches and scrapes less easily. It’s heavier, too, though, which is one reason the iPhone 12 Pro is so much heavier than the iPhone 12. It weighs 189g, to the iPhone 12’s 164g. Still, neither is exactly the phone equivalent of an iron anchor.

All four phones have IP68 water resistance. But the colours you can get vary. Here’s the run-down:

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini colours:

  • White
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red
iPhone 12 colours

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max  colours:

  • Graphite
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Pacific Blue
iPhone 12 Pro colours

The lower-end iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini get the most fun colours, where the Pro shades are more subdued. Because ‘Pro’ phones have to be serious, of course. At the recent Apple Spring Loaded event, the brand also revealed a new purple colourway available for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.

iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max: which should you buy?

If you’re wondering which 12-series iPhone to buy, start with the plain iPhone 12. It does not sell at a too-terrifying price but still takes excellent photos, has as much gaming power as any iPhone, and lasts a reasonably long time off a charge.

We recommend the iPhone 12 mini to those who want to use their phone less, but the shorter battery life should be a bit of a turn-off for the rest.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most technically accomplished iPhone and the clear choice for the digital content fiends. You can’t beat a big screen, after all. But do consider whether you actually want to live with an XL-size phone every day.

Where to buy the iPhone 12 mini – from £699

Where to buy the iPhone 12 – from £799

Where to buy the iPhone 12 Pro – from £999

Where to buy the iPhone 12 Pro Max – from £1,099

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Want to stick it out this year’s release? Head to our iPhone 13 release date page for the latest news. Comparing to other flagships? Read our iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 guide.