After using as many phones as I have over the last 12 months you begin to see things a little differently to just swopping your sim out once a year. While it's easy to get complacent and just move to the next phone, I simply can’t do that and have to give each phone at least a couple of weeks try whatever my initial feelings are. Some I love and then fall away from quickly like the Galaxy Fold 2, some I love all the way through like the Note 20 Ultra, and some leave me perplexed from the very start.

Unfortunately my beloved iPhone does that to me this year, so I feel compelled to share some initial thoughts on the iPhone 12 Pro — but this is far from a review.

Design

There are no words I can say to sum up this design change that do anything other that tell you how much I hate it! I love the look of the square sides and am all for bringing the design in line with the iPad Pro because that also looks great. However, there is a reason every other thing you hold is as curved as possible, your hand doesn’t like it any other way.

I love the iPhone 5 design, its boxes neatness is one I still keep around in the form of an SE, and sometimes just look at it and appreciate it. Times have changed though, phones no longer feature 4-inch displays and weigh 113g. They contain 6.1” screens and are built of premium materials weighing 182g and frankly it hurts a little.

Granted it is early days, and things sometimes take a little getting used to but I really don’t like it at all. The boxy design looks great but functions terribly to a point where I don’t think I want to use it any longer. I can’t get behind a design that makes the phone feel much thinker than the iPhone 11 Pro, when in fact it isn’t!

Usability

Outside of this the iPhone 12 Pro retains everything else that is great about an iPhone. Featuring the same matt back that the iPhone 11 had, meaning that going caseless doesn’t mean you need a polishing rag with you at all times — at least not for the back. The Pacific Blue version I have has a polished band around the sides that is one of the hardest things to keep clean I have ever come across! The white iPhones have struggled with this issue much longer, but unfortunately, there is more surface area on the sides now, or they are easier to see, whatever the reason it’s a fingerprint magnet.

Battery life seems to be OK, sitting here on Wi-Fi 90% of the time, but is noticeably worse in current usage. It's never going to run out on me given my more limited usage, but I am using it much more in this ‘getting to know you’ phase of my testing. Those venturing out and even more so when using 5G may have an issue on their hands, but we will see how this goes. I have noticed it getting hot a few times, so this may just be things settling down and syncing from the cloud still. I can't see an issue with 6+hours of screen on time though.

Camera

Unfortunately due to being isolated, I haven’t had much chance to really try the camera out other than wandering around my house and snapping a few shots. In good light it is great, as was the iPhone 11 Pro, so this comes as little surprise. Images retain loads of detail, great dynamic range and the new HDR processing is a big leap forward.

In terms of the camera as a whole, this isn’t a huge improvement, but you are hardly going to get this given that last years iPhone 11 Pro is easily the best smartphone camera on the market. Others do well, with the Note 20 a delight to use, but the iPhone just gets it right so often with little work. The biggest improvement is in the fine detail captured, deep fusion works on all cameras this year and you can really see this at work.

The post-processing at work on the iPhone 12 Pro seems to take it easier than ever before. I don’t see nearly as much grain from iOS trying to lighten things up too much, and it keeps shadows much darker. I much prefer the look of the more natural colours in iOS photos, and I am glad to say nothing changes in this years phone — no weird skin smoothing either.

It is impossible for me to say for sure at this stage, but portrait shots seem much easier to shoot than ever before, no doubt helped by the LIDAR sensor. Night mode portraits are great unless there is too much backlight, but only work with the wide sense and not the usual 2x.

Conclusion

I am conflicted. I have bought the new iPhone every year since the iPhone 6 and used them all the way through. Not because better phones don’t exist, but because iPhone suits me much better than anything else. I am not a ‘power user’ which is a euphemism for use your phone far too much, so I do not need top of the line everything. For the last few months I have been using an iPhone SE as my ‘home’ phone and it is one of the best phones I have ever bought.

Undoubtably the iPhone 12 Pro is much better than anything else available, but I just don't enjoy using it. The camera is indeed great, but it was great last year too. I am so disappointed by the feel of the phone in my hand that I am considering returning it pretty much straight away. The only thing stopping me is my desire to give the phone real usage, and my thoughts may change…perhaps.