iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 – How Do They Compare?

By Michael Grothaus •  Updated: 02/02/21 •  8 min read

It’s 2021 and you need a new iPhone. But should you buy the iPhone 11 or the iPhone 12? Let’s compare the two models and find out…


Apple has now announced the all-new iPhone 13. But what you’re probably wondering about is the iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12. That’s understandable, because though the iPhone 13 is the newest in the iPhone lineup, the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 12 are still FANTASTIC phones – and can be had for much cheaper now that the iPhone 13 is out.

This past year, the iPhone 11 was the most popular smartphone in the world. And that’s no surprise really. The iPhone 11 was the “middle of the road” option in the iPhone lineup. It had the same processor the Pro model iPhone had, while sporting just a dual-lens camera setup. But with that lower-grade camera, came cost savings–which made the iPhone 11 the most attractive iPhone for many people.

With Apple’s iPhone 11, you’re missing out on a couple of things compared to the iPhone 12.

The first is OLED screens. The iPhone 11 did not have one; instead, it used LCD like the iPhone XR and pretty much every other iPhone release before it.

The second thing is 5G. Until 2020, no iPhones supported 5G, so if you want a phone with 5G, so you’re future-proofed for the next several years, the iPhone 12 is where you want to be looking. Or at one of these Android phones.

Don’t get me wrong, though: the iPhone 11 is still a massively impressive phone. If you can live without OLED screens and 5G connectivity, you’ll save $200 on your phone – the iPhone 11 retails for $599 while the iPhone 12 starts at $799. And that is a pretty big saving.

But there are some pretty impressive updates inside the iPhone 12. And we’ll get stuck into those now…

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 Quick Comparison


Design

Physically, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 are very similar looking. Apple has made some slight changes to the physical design of the iPhone 12; its sides are now flat and squared off which gives it a more refined, smart look. All iPhone 12 models come with OLED screens too, but with the iPhone 11, if you want an OLED panel, you have to go with either the iPhone 11 Pro or the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Is this a deal-breaker? Not really. But OLED displays are better than LCD. They use less power and produce much better looking visuals, with deep blacks and more natural color productions.

With the iPhone 12, you don’t actually get anything in the box either; just a phone. There is no charger, no earbuds, no adapters. Nothing. With the iPhone 11, it’s much the same deal – except you get a charger cable. This change in policy is claimed to be about the environment, but many view it as a cash-grab by Apple, forcing new users to buy additional cables and accessories. Fortunately, Amazon sells a bunch of cheap iPhone chargers, so you can just use these instead.

Winner? iPhone 12 – It’s physically smaller and lighter than the iPhone 11, and has that strong Ceramic Shield glass–great for the clumsy among us.

MORE: A “Portless” iPhone WILL Happen – It’s Just A Matter of Time…

What Color iPhone 11 Should I Buy?
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Displays

Winner? iPhone 12 – Both are 6.1in displays, but the iPhone 12’s is OLED, not LCD. It’s 2 million-to-1 contrast ratio blows the iPhone 11’s 1400-to-1 out of the park.

CPU/Processor

Winner? iPhone 12 – The A14 is up to 25% faster than the A13.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 Camera Test

On paper, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12’s camera setups look identical. And in some ways they are: they’re both 12MP dual-lens camera modules. But the iPhone 12 features a wider aperture and also benefits from Apple’s new seven-element lens design which ensures less noise and better quality shots.

The iPhone 12 also has Night Mode on the front-facing camera, so you can now take selfies and video-call in the dark. Dark Mode is only available on the iPhone 11’s main camera module on its rear. These changes, while minor, do add up to some pretty significant changes in overall photo quality, so if imaging is important to you, the iPhone 12 has this one in the bag.

Winner? iPhone 12 – While the camera systems on both phones are very similar, the iPhone 12 technically beats the iPhone 11 because the wide lens has a better aperture and the selfie camera is capable of night mode.

Storage Options

MORE: iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2nd generation) – Which Tiny iPhone Is Best?

Battery Life

With battery life, things get a little more interesting. Because the iPhone 12 runs 5G, and 5G is very power intensive, and Apple, for some unknown reason, decided to use a smaller battery in the iPhone 12, performance has taken a hit.

The iPhone 11 will last around four hours longer than the iPhone 12. And the reason for this is two fold:

The first reason is that it has a larger battery than the iPhone 12 – 3110mAh vs 2815mAH.

The second reason is that the iPhone 12 runs 5G and, as you probably well know, running 5G can and does effect battery life. This is a problem that will likely be addressed on the iPhone 13, either through sheer battery size or better 5G management via a new, advanced modem.

Either way, right now, the iPhone 11 has the better battery performance of the two.

Winner? iPhone 12 – The new MagSafe connector is a game-changer–not just for the iPhone 12, but for its accessories too.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 - How Do They Compare?
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Price

Verdict?

There is no question about it: the iPhone 12 beats the iPhone 11 on all fronts. Apple really did a great job of making the new iPhone 12 a true “must-have” from a value proposition standpoint. The big standouts of the iPhone 12 over the iPhone 11 is its far-improved, superior display, and the much speedier A14 Bionic chipset. You also have 5G support and a slightly smarter-looking design.

Now, should you run out and upgrade to an iPhone 12 if you bought an iPhone 11 last year? That’s a harder call. I mean, if you have the money, why not? However, if you don’t think you’d take advantage of the faster processor or really notice the better display, it’s a tougher call.

Similarly, the iPhone 11 is now A LOT cheaper than it was in 2019. You can pick up the iPhone 11 on some really great deals right now – or, buy it outright for $599. And that is a saving of $200, compared to the $799 iPhone 12.

With respect to value for money, the iPhone 11 is looking like the better option here – $200 is a lot of money, money that could be better spent elsewhere, so if you’re on a budget, I’d go with the iPhone 11. It’s still a great phone.

But one thing is for sure, if you’re deciding between buying the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 is worth the extra $200 for the new design and display – not to mention other cool tech like the Ceramic Shield, MagSafe charging, and camera tweaks – oh, and 5G support.

You can also get some pretty sweet deals on Apple’s latest flagship too.

And don’t forget to check out our iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 11 comparison here!

MORE: Which iPhones Have OLED Screens? A Quick Guide…

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12: Specs

iphone 12 camera
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Here are the specs for the iPhone 11:

And here are the specs for the iPhone 12:

Still looking for more? Check out our iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 11 Pro comparison here! Also, be sure to check out our iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11 Pro!

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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