iPhone 8 vs. iPhone 12: What you'll get if you upgrade
Here's how to decide whether you should upgrade to the brand-new iPhone 12 or hang on to your iPhone 8.
Sareena DayaramSenior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
Watch this: Our in-depth review of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro
iPhone 8's single rear camera vs. the iPhone 12's two
The camera systems on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 12 are one of the biggest differences between the two devices, and it's something that will noticeably affect your experience and buying decision. During the nearly four years since Apple launched the iPhone 8, the company has made impressive strides in improving camera technology
With the iPhone 12, you'll see big gains in image quality and more flexibility around the kinds of photographs you can capture. For instance, the iPhone 8 only has one camera. It doesn't have Portrait Mode nor does it feature a second, ultrawide camera, which is for capturing sweeping landscapes. Both those things are found in all four iPhone 12 models.
The iPhone 12 models are the first iPhones to offer next-generation 5G cellular connectivity. Carriers have claimed that 5G speeds are almost twice as fast as 4G, and Apple spent a considerable amount of time during its launch event hyping up the new tech. But 5G coverage is patchy across the US, and your experience will vary depending on where you live. Some areas have absolutely zero coverage, while other parts (mainly big cities) have 5G networks from all major US carriers. The bottom line is: There is no universal 5G experience, so it's important to research the 5G coverage in your area. If you do upgrade, at the very least you can take comfort in knowing your device is future-proof as 5G continues to expand this year and the next.
Decidedly different displays
The displays of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 8 are very different -- they vary in size, type, resolution and even material. The iPhone 12 line has one of the best displays you can get on a phone today. All four
use a premium OLED panel, while the iPhone 8 has an LCD display. OLED panels usually have better contrast and deeper black levels than their LCD counterparts.
The iPhone 8 has a 4.7-inch screen, while the iPhone 12 has a 6.1-inch display. Because there are several iPhone 12 models, you can also choose the smaller 5.4-inch
iPhone 12 Mini
and the larger 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.
New to the iPhone line is the iPhone 12's ceramic-hardened glass known as Ceramic Shield, which Apple says offers four times more drop protection. During our Phone 12 drop test (and subsequent iPhone 12 Mini drop test), CNET's former editor Vanessa Hand Orellana concluded that the Ceramic Shield seems indestructible. The iPhone 12's screen survived without a crack after it was dropped six times on a sidewalk, including three back-to-back drops from a height of nine feet.
The iPhone 8 uses a type of glass made specifically for Apple by
, but it's not Gorilla Glass. When we conducted drop tests, we discovered that at 3 feet (0.9 meters), it survived. At 5 feet (1.5 meters), however, the iPhone 8 shattered.
Bring your own charger with the iPhone 12
Apple confirmed the fears of some iPhone fans when it announced that the iPhone 12 box wouldn't come with either a wall adapter or wired earphones. The company is betting most people already own these accessories, but if you do need them you'll have to buy them separately.
Apple's reasoning to leave behind the wall adapter may also have something to do with its introduction of MagSafe. It's a proprietary wireless charging system on the iPhone 12 that uses magnets. In addition to charging pads though, other nifty accessories can snap onto the back of the device too, and are sold separately. As for the iPhone 8, it comes with a Lightning cable and plug, and it also works with the existing Qi wireless charging standard.
With every next-gen iPhone, also comes next-gen processors. All four iPhone 12 phones use the same A14 Bionic processor seen in the iPad Air. The benchmark tests conducted by CNET's Patrick Holland concluded that the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro were the most powerful phones we've ever tested. It'll definitely be snappier than the A11 chip on the iPhone 8, but the average person will likely be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
Apple doesn't release battery capacity numbers. But for battery life, our preliminary tests show that the iPhone 12 lasted 17 hours, 14 minutes with looped video playing at half brightness in airplane mode. The iPhone 8 meanwhile lasted 13 and a half hours.
Design and other differences
The iPhone 12 has a revamped design that, while reminiscent of the
, still feels modern and premium. It also marks one of the biggest design changes since the
. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, has an old-school iPhone design with a home button and thick bezels. As such, you do not get that expansive, largely unobstructed screen that is the hallmark of a modern smartphone. Check out our iPhone 12 and iPhone 8 photo galleries to see for yourself.
Also, the iPhone 12 has several features that the iPhone 8 doesn't. The iPhone 12 has a third storage option (128GB), and Wi-Fi 6 and UWB are notable for "future-proofing" your phone. (Here's our Wi-Fi 6 explainer in case you want more info, and some speculation on what UWB will be used for.) And although this might not be a top priority at the moment, the dual-SIM feature on the iPhone 12 is useful for when you're traveling or if you have a working SIM from another country that you want to store and use for your next trip. The iPhone 8 takes only one SIM.
For a spec-by-spec comparison between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 8, take a look at our chart below.
iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 8
Apple iPhone 12
Display size, resolution
6.1-inch OLED; 2,532x1,170 pixels
4.7-inch LCD; 1,334x750 pixels
Weight (Ounces, Grams)
5.78 oz; 164 g
5.22 oz; 148 g
12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)
Apple Bionic 14
Apple A11 Bionic
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Undisclosed; Apple lists 15 hours of video playback
1,821 mAh (Apple doesn't confirm this)
No (Face ID)
Home button (Touch ID)
5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)
Water resistant (IP67), wireless Qi charge compatible