We compared Apple's older iPhone models by design, screen size, refresh rate, cameras, battery life, processing speed and price. Plus, what about 5G?
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
ExpertiseHome Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacksCredentials
National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
The iPhone 12 (and its higher-end iPhone 12 Pro counterpart) received one of our highest review ratings ever. It features the powerful and fast A14 Bionic processor, dual rear cameras, 5G and a MagSafe feature that allows it to connect to other mobile accessories magnetically.
There are some key differences, however, when it comes to each phone's design. Both are IP68 rated for water-resistance, have no headphone jack, and have wireless charging capabilities. But the iPhone 12 also has an OLED display (compared to the iPhone 11's LCD), a magnetic backing that works with new MagSafe chargers and accessories, and a more durable screen strengthened by ceramic. The 12 also has a completely flat design along the edges, with no raised buttons, as the iPhone 11 has.
Though there was speculation that the iPhone 12 Pro's display may have a 120Hz refresh rate and a ProMotion display (like the iPad Pro), this ended up being just a rumor. Both the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 12 refresh at 60 frames per second, or 60Hz. Most phones are the same. But some, like the Galaxy S20 and the OnePlus 8 Pro, refresh at 120Hz. The higher the refresh rate, the faster and smoother a phone feels when you're scrolling through apps and websites.
As is typically the case with newer iPhones, the iPhone 12 has upgraded camera capabilities over the iPhone 11 -- especially the iPhone 12 Pro models. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini largely stick with the iPhone 11's camera design, with regular, ultrawide and selfie cameras. But they also offer Night Mode photos that now work on the ultrawide and selfie cameras, too, and an improved HDR mode for challenging scenes with bright and dark elements.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max get major photography improvements, including a larger image sensor and a fourth telephoto camera for more distant subjects, too. The iPhone 12 Pro has the same 2x zoom telephoto reach as earlier iPhones -- a 52mm equivalent focal length -- but the Pro Max's extends to 2.5x zoom, or a 65mm equivalent lens.
The iPhone 11 does not offer 5G connectivity, though many people seem to believe it does.
Winner: iPhone 12
Battery life and processing speed
The iPhone 11 includes Apple's A13 Bionic processor, while the iPhone 12 includes Apple's A14 Bionic processor, offering faster speeds that improve the camera and browsing experience. While it's tough to see the increased speed over the A13 chip, it's also meant to future-proof your phone, so that it can handle later versions of iOS.
Though Apple doesn't disclose the battery capacity of its phones, in CNET's preliminary battery test (running continuous video playback in Airplane mode), the iPhone 12 battery lasted more than 17 hours. The iPhone 11 lasted about 14 hours.
Winner: iPhone 12
The 2019 iPhone 11's base model cost $699, which was $50 less than the 2018
. Now, with the addition of the iPhone 13, the iPhone 11's price has dropped to $499.