iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11: What's the difference and should you upgrade?

Iphone 12 Dummy
Iphone 12 Dummy (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)

While the iPhone 12 is the latest and greatest from Apple, it still has a relatively high price point for a lot of folks, so the iPhone 11 may be more appealing. And while the iPhone 11 isn't a bad phone, it's still last year's tech, so it will have some shortcomings when compared to the new iPhone 12.

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11: The breakdown

When it comes to iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11, the real question you should ask yourself is whether or not you need the latest and greatest, or if you would be OK with a phone that is already over one year old. For most people, the idea of a cheaper iPhone is a big draw, but keep in mind that you'll be missing out on a few things, especially 5G and MagSafe, which you get with the iPhone 12 line (including iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max).

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone 12iPhone 11
CostFrom $799From $599
5G NetworkYesNo
ProcessorA14 BionicA13 Bionic
DisplaySuper Retina XDR OLED DisplayLiquid Retina HD LCD Display
ColorsBlue, Green, PRODUCT(RED), White, and BlackPurple, Yellow, Green, Black, White, PRODUCT(RED)
Face IDYesYes
Touch IDNoNo
Battery17 hours17 hours
Water resistantYes, up to 6 meters for 30 minutesYes, up to 2 meters for 30 minutes
ChargingLightning, Qi, and MagSafe Wireless ChargingLightning and Qi Wireless Charging
Fast ChargeYesYes
Camera Lenses12MP Ultra Wide and Wide12MP Ultra Wide and Wide
Night ModeYes, both rear and TrueDepth CameraOnly rear cameras
Deep FusionYes, both rear and TrueDepth CameraOnly rear cameras
4K VideoYesYes
Night Mode Time-lapseYesNo
Dolby Vision video recordingYes, up to 30fpsNo

If you must choose one between the iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11, we're going to go with the iPhone 12. This will be the first iPhone that will be able to use 5G networks across all major carriers, which means blazing fast download speeds (as long as 5G is in your area). However, with the addition of 5G, the battery life for the iPhone 12 won't be much better than the iPhone 11 because Apple rates both at 17 hours. The 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display also means you get a screen that is capable of true blacks and vivid colors like never before, which you simply just don't get with LCD. And of course, the A14 Bionic means that the iPhone 12 will be faster and zippier over the iPhone 11.

With the debut of MagSafe for iPhone 12, you're also going to have more options when it comes to charging and accessories. The iPhone 12 will still charge via a Lightning cable and Qi wireless chargers, but MagSafe takes it to a whole other level. With MagSafe, the iPhone 12 devices have a ring of magnets on the back that serve as the backbone for the MagSafe ecosystem. Because of this ring, accessories and MagSafe chargers easily line up and attach to the back of your iPhone 12. MagSafe chargers can do up to 15W output and cases and accessories like wallets can snap on. There will also be plenty of third-party MagSafe accessories that will change how you accessorize and charge.

The iPhone 12 also has many notable camera improvements, such as bigger sensors, ProRAW, and even Night Mode Time-lapse. The TrueDepth camera on the front of the iPhone 12 can now do Night Mode and Deep Fusion as well, unlike the iPhone 11. And for video recording, the iPhone 12 can do Dolby Vision videos at 30FPS.

iPhone 11 at event

iPhone 11 at event (Image credit: iMore)

However, the iPhone 11 is still a very good device that can run iOS 14, and it's $200 less than the iPhone 12, so it's a good option to pick up if you're on a budget. Despite being last-gen, the A13 Bionic is a very capable processor, and the cameras are not too shabby — you still get the Ultra Wide lens, along with Night Mode and Deep Fusion.

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11: Should you upgrade?

If you have an iPhone 11 right now, then I don't think you should upgrade to the iPhone 12 for marginal spec bumps. The iPhone 11 is still a great phone with iOS 14, and the specs are still powerful, all things considered. Honestly, if you're on an iPhone 11, then perhaps the better upgrade would be to an iPhone 12 Pro, but that's entirely up to you. Sometimes just grabbing a new iPhone 11 case could make your phone feel fresh and new.

However, if you are still on an iPhone XS or earlier, then i believe the iPhone 12 would be a significant upgrade. You'll be getting a slightly bigger screen with the Ultra Wide lens, Night Mode, 5G, MagSafe, and more.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.