My iPhone journey started with the 3GS in 2009. I upgraded every few generations at first, then every year after the iPhone X was released:

  • 5S
  • 7 Plus
  • X
  • XS Max
  • 11 Pro Max

Since the 7 Plus, I had been mostly a faithful member of the “Plus/Max” club (X is debatable). As a tech enthusiast, I always wanted the very best iPhone possible. In almost all cases, the larger iPhone had things the smaller versions didn’t; nicer screen, bigger battery, better cameras, more cameras …

The upgrade to the 7 Plus also started my required use of cases. The rounded edge design and materials made this (and my 3 suceeding iPhones) extremely slippery. Cases helped with the sheer the size of the phone, but most importantly just kept it from slipping out of my hand.

Changing My Perception

After I got my 11 Pro Max, I found that this phone in particular negatively changed my perception of what I would have previously called the best iPhone:

  • It just got too big
  • It still felt slippery like a bar of soap without the case.
  • I felt like it was tipping out of my hand because of the weight.
  • I needed my case’s built-in kickstand extended just to keep it stable when using it one handed.
  • Navigating to apps at the top of the screen and getting to Control Center was basically impossible one handed.


The Big Reveal and Decision

Then the new iPhone rumors started. They sounded too good to be true. Then Apple’s October 2020 event happened and we got introduced to the new retro design of the iPhone 12!

Notice I said iPhone 12 and not iPhone 12 Pro.

I’d chosen to live with boring color palets in the Pro models forever. I wanted COLOR!

I wanted a phone that didn’t need a case because it wasn’t silppery, or heavy, or too big for my hand, or all of those reasons.

I wanted a less expensive phone with reasonable storage that cost under $1000.

So I scoured the Internet and read any article or watched any video about the iPhone 12 after the event. Then I saw Becky Worley’s segment on GMA and I was sold; I was downgrading to the regular iPhone 12, 256GB in blue.

But was I really downgrading? No, not really…

First Impressions

COLOR 8/10
The back color blue is rich and quite shiny, with a mirrored Apple logo. However, the color does change somewhat depending on how light hits it. The frame on the other hand is a dark matte blue and is gorgeous. A lot of people talk about the lack of fingerprints on the matte frame. While true, I just think it looks better. After a week of use, I realized I really don’t notice the back as much as I do the frame.

SIZE & GRIP 9/10
Coming from the iPhone 11 Pro Max, any phone will feel smaller in the hand. While not as small as I expected, it does feel very comfortable to hold. I can reach the top row of apps much easier than the bigger phone, but it’s still too tall to easily pull down Control Center one handed. As other reviews have noted, the matte frame and the shiny back combination does seem to provide ample resistance to prevent it from slipping out of the hand. The smaller size also:

  • Puts the Sleep/wake button in a lower position, so activating Apple Pay and Siri seems less awkward.
  • The Up Volume button is also lower, so using it for camera burst mode is less cumbersome.

I also noticed that I’m not taking accidental screen shots like I did with the 11 Pro Max.

WEIGHT 10/10
My biggest surprise was the weight. It is incredibly light, but not so much that it feels like a toy. While I expected it to be much lighter than my 11 Pro Max, I was surprised that it was significantly lighter than my wife’s iPhone 11 Pro. The balance and weight seem perfect, and it doesn’t feel like it wants to tip out of my hand after prolonged use.

CAMERA 7/10
The reduced camera package was a known factor when I decided on this phone. While I don’t really miss (too much) my occasional need of the telephoto lens, I did notice that Portrait Mode shots need a bit more light than my previous phone to get the bokeh effect to work. I’ve never considered myself even an amateur photographer, so this camera package is more than sufficient for my needs, and still takes great pictures.

Final Thoughts

While my favorite iPhone was the 5S, the iPhone 12 is a really close second.

Up until the iPhone 6, we only had one phone with all the goodies inside. Then Apple decided to diversify the product line and (in some ways) introduced the FOMO factor if you didn’t get the Pro models. The release of the iPhone 12 seems to have reduced that delineation, and positions it in the upper end of the product line as a “go to” phone for people that want premium features at a lower cost.

I am still case-less after a week of normal use, and plan to continue. I think the value per dollar is good and enabled me to reduce my monthly cost. I don’t feel like I got a cheaper phone, just a high quality less expensive one.

Your key phone characteristics may be completely different than mine. I hope however, that this provides a bit of useful information if you haven’t decided on your next upgrade or new purchase.