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Which New iPhone Is Right for You? All 4 of Apple’s iPhone 12 Models Compared

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October 14, 2020 5 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

If you’re in the market for a smartphone, Apple has four new options. The iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max all feature a new design, updated color offerings, and 5G connectivity. But starting at $699 for the iPhone 12 mini, up to $1,099 for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, each new model requires a substantial investment. Wondering which one is right for you? We’ve collected the most important specs in the table below and have some additional info to help you decide.

iPhone 12 comparison table

Size

Front and back of iPhone 12 Mini

 

Apple iPhone 12 mini

$699.00 at Apple.com

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The iPhone 12 lineup offers a size for everyone. It’s probably no surprise that the iPhone 12 Mini is the smallest of the bunch at 5.2 by 2.5 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and just 4.8 ounces.

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro measure 5.8 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD). The iPhone 12 is a little lighter at 5.8 ounces, while the iPhone 12 Pro comes in at 6.7 ounces. 

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest of the bunch. It measures 6.3 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and tips the scales at 8 ounces. 

If you prefer a phone that easily fits in a pocket without weighing it down, the iPhone 12 Mini is the way to go. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro look like nice middle ground options, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is ideal for hard-core gamers and media streamers.

Display

iPhone 12 Pro Max display

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

$1,099.00 at Apple.com

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Last year, one of the main differences between the entry-level iPhone 11 and the high-end iPhone 11 Pro was display technology. Apple reserved its Super Retina XDR OLED display for its Pro lineup and used a less expensive LCD for the iPhone 11. This year, however, things have changed. 

The entire iPhone 12 lineup now features Apple’s Super Retina XDR OLED display and the main difference is size. The iPhone 12 Mini features a 5.4-inch display, while the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro have 6.1-inch screens. The 6.7-inch panel on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest ever for an iPhone. 

Side view of iPhone 12 Pro

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

$999.00 at Apple.com

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And while all the new iPhone 12 models have a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits in HDR, typical maximum brightness varies a bit on the Pro series. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini have a maximum typical brightness of 625 nits, while the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max offer a typical maximum brightness of 800 nits.

All four iPhones should be more than bright enough to use in direct sunlight without issue. The main difference here is panel size, so you’ll need to consider the size of your hands and your individual preferences. 

Cameras

iPhone 12 camera module

Apple iPhone 12

$799.00 at Apple.com

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Cameras are the most important differentiator between iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models. On the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini, you’ll find dual 12-megapixel wide and ultrawide cameras on the back, and a 12MP selfie sensor on the front. Both phones support 2x optical zoom. While that may sound the same as last year’s iPhone 11, there’s one major difference: The primary (wide) sensor on the iPhone 12 uses a wider f/1.6 aperture that should perform better in low light.

On the iPhone 12 Pro, you get a triple camera stack with 12MP sensors, along with a LiDAR Scanner. There’s a primary wide-angle lens, an ultrawide lens with a 120-degree field of view, and a telephoto lens with a 4x optical zoom range as well as 10x digital zoom. Again, the main difference between the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro is a wider f/1.6 aperture for improved low-light performance. The selfie cam is 12MP.

iPhone 12 Pro Max camera moduleiPhone 12 Pro Max

While the iPhone 12 Pro Max appears to have similar specs to the 12 Pro’s three lenses and LiDAR Scanner, its telephoto sensor is a little different. It’s also 12MP, but it has a narrower f/2.4 aperture than the iPhone 12 Pro, and it supports 5x optical zoom and 12x digital zoom.

In addition to hardware differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models, there are also some notable software differences. The Pro series are the only iPhones to support the new Apple ProRAW mode. The Pro models also support Dolby Vision HDR at 60fps, while the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini max out at 30fps. 

If you’re a mobile photographer or videographer, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will likely be your top choice, though the iPhone 12 Pro is also a strong option that can save you some money. For everyone else, the iPhone 12 or 12 Mini have the same primary lens with a wider aperture than their more expensive siblings, and should take solid photos in most lighting scenarios. 

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Price and Availability

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini front and back iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 Mini is the least expensive of bunch, starting at $699 for the 64GB model. If you want to double your storage space, add an extra $50. For 256GB of storage, you’ll have to shell out $849. 

The iPhone 12 at $799 for 64GB of storage, and goes up to $849 for 128GB and $949 for 256GB.

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro MaxiPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro comes with 128GB of storage for $999, while the 256GB model sells for $1,099 and the 512GB version will set you back $1,299. 

The iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099 for 128GB, goes to $1,199 for 256GB, and maxes out at $1,399 for 512GB.

The new iPhones will become available at different times. Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro start October 16, for delivery October 23. The iPhone 12 pre-order starts on November 6, for delivery November 13, and the iPhone 12 Max goes on pre-order November 13, delivering on November 20.

Check back in the coming weeks for full tested reviews of all four iPhone 12 models.

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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