One Day With iPhone 12 Pro

I have had the iPhone 12 Pro now for one day, and I have to say, I am unimpressed, leaving me wondering if I should return it.

Rough Edges

Sure, the next generation of iPhone brings with it minor speed improvements and eliminates some “rough edges” of my previous version, the iPhone X. It introduces some rough edges of its own, including the straight edges reminiscent of the old iPhone 4. Cyclical innovation, anyone?

I upgraded to the new iPhone mainly because most photography on method41 is my own, and I was hoping to improve the image quality on the website. Given the glorious reviews by many iPhone review websites, the camera is supposed to rival DSLR cameras. The reality is, not by a long shot.

Camera Exposed

The bokeh (the shape of out of focus objects) of the first images I shot of flowers in bright daylight is outright mediocre. Edges look blurry, and it appears some fractal algorithm takes over from actual optical accuracy. I suspect processing power is crucial in feigning optical accuracy. As a long time amateur photographer, I feel duped.

Full image, cropped to 1920×1080, no edits.
Same image, bokeh and edges, no edits.

My frame of reference is my go-to real camera, a 10-year-old Canon DSLR 5D Mark 3 with a 70-200mm 2.8L lens, still producing crisp images at a higher resolution costing twice as much (not including the lens) than an iPhone.

Internet Experts

The comparison between cameras is obviously out-of-whack, but it is one many iPhone fresh-off-the-boat image enthusiasts dare to entertain. It does not help; I know too much as I am an award-winning photographer and the former CEO of LightCrafts, the maker of digital imaging editing software LightZone.

It is cute how every kid with a camera and access to the internet can now review products. Yet, many lack the depth needed to go beyond merely regurgitating the product spec sheets created by the company behind the product. Or really know nothing about photography to accurately weigh the true pluses and minuses.

The iPhone 12 Pro produces a fast-food version of photography, sufficient for occasional feasting, not good enough for photography that deserves a prime spot on any website, let alone reprint.

Camera Burana

The other “improvements” to the iPhone are also touch and go.

The squarish sides’ shape makes the phone harder to grab off a flat surface, like a table. The camera extrusion, making the naked phone wobble on a flat surface, unintentionally helping slightly.

Location accuracy appears better and faster. Antenna performance does not appear to have improved at all. Bluetooth problems that have plagued Apple for over 20 years still appear on occasion, perhaps inherent to the protocol.

The MagSafe charger is odd, to say the least. Sticking a metal plate to the back of the iPhone that won’t come off until you tear them apart with two hands seems like a user-experience snafu. As weird as having the on-and-off button opposite the volume controls (and sadly no longer up-top), evidence Steve Jobs’ arbitrage is sorely missed. The Magsafe also requires new magnetic car mounts, if you had any.

FaceID showed a few hiccups and appears a little faster. Perhaps still in learning mode, the first couple of times not recognizing me in my glasses in darker scenarios.

The iPhone -cute- recognizes the Apple transparent cover, but that appears where the value of that recognition ends. The cover adds significant weight and size to the iPhone, and with its lego-ish appearance diminishes the looks and allure of the iPhone.

Speed

Do not even waste your time buying this iPhone 12 Pro for the promise of faster internet on AT&T. Not unless you live and work in parts of the twelve cities that actually deploy real 5G today (Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco).

The 5Ge moniker AT&T uses is outright deceptive and offers, in my test, no improved performance over LTE, the previous standard, as depicted in the screenshots.

Conclusion

Apart from a few minor improvements, some related to the latest software tuned to the latest hardware, on day 1, I cannot see any major improvements to the iPhone that warrants spending $1,000 if you already own a recent iPhone.

Next September, it will be ten years since Steve Jobs’ passing, and it shows.

Steve’s vision for Apple has carried the company very far. Under the auspices of Tim Cook, with a board too posh to push, Apple has failed to renew itself around a higher-normalization of value creation to enhance humanity truly.

The largest company in the world must be expected to improve human adaptability to nature’s entropy.

Short of that, Apple will continue to sell purported innovation to greater-fools as the new-born snake-oil to human solipsism, ignorant to the dependence on nature’s first-principles to prolong the life of the human species.

Update Dec 16th, 2020: the new RAW capture mode on just released iOS 14.3 makes images appear clearer while at the same time demonstrating the physical constraints of a tiny optical lens and sensor have been reached. Expect more imaging gimmickry to follow in upcoming releases, not more image accuracy.

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