Apple recently announced its iPhone 12 lineup, promising a wider range of iPhone devices at different price points. With mobile hardware quickly catching up to the previous-generation consoles, iPhones (and high-end Android devices, for that matter), are an increasingly viable alternative to pure play handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch. But with prices for the iPhone 12 Pro Max starting at $1099, should you buy into the Apple ecosystem gaming? Here are 15 facts that gamers should know before buying an iPhone 12 series device.
All four iPhone 12 series devices will be powered by the Apple A14, the fastest mobile SoC on the market
For users looking at pure gaming performance, here’s some good news. All four Apple iPhone 12 devices will feature the A14 SoC. This five-nanometer chip developed by Apple in-house is the fastest mobile chipset on the market. This is one of the benefits of moving to the Apple ecosystem: budget devices like the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 still sport the same powerful internals, so you won’t have to compromise on the gaming experience.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max will likely deliver the best sustained gaming experience, though
If all iPhone 12 models feature the same A14 chipset, why would this be? It has to do with thermal management and this is something we saw with the A13-powered iPhone 11 Pro Max, too. The substantially larger chassis on the iPhone 12 Pro Max allows it to dissipate heat better. This keeps temperatures under control for a longer period of time, allowing the A14’s CPU and GPU to hit and sustain higher clock speeds while gaming. This can matter during longer sessions of popular titles: the iPhone 12 Pro Max should be able to maintain higher framerates with top-end visuals for longer, without throttling.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max features the best camera hardware
This time around, screen size and batter capacity aren’t the only differentiators between the two top-end iPhone Pro models. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the first phone on the market to feature sensor-shift image stabilisation, which uses a floating sensor to stabilize images in motion across all the camera modules, not just the primary. The wide camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max also features a larger sensor. If you’re serious about photography, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will offer the best experience out of these four devices.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have higher base storage
While they do cost more, both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max now feature 128 GB of storage as the baseline. This is great news for gamers since a number of high-end iOS titles, especially those on the Apple Arcade can take up 3 GB of storage or even more. The 64 GB baseline iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max models always felt just a bit constrained because of the lack of storage space. If you want to run Genshin Impact, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, and the upcoming XCOM 2 collection at top-end settings, you’ll want all the storage you can get
The iPhone 12 Pro Max features the largest-ever screen on an iPhone
The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s gargantuan 6.67-inch display is even bigger than the display on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. While a handful of Android devices out there sport larger displays, this is the most screen real estate you’ll get on an iPhone. The bigger screen should translate into a more immersive gaming and video experience. This does come at a price, though: the iPhone 12 Pro Max weighs in at a hefty 228 grams.
All 4 iPhone 12 models feature Dolby Vision HDR
This is great news, especially considering the increased amount of HDR content on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. While Dolby Vision support doesn’t matter in the here and now for gamers, it’s very likely that developers will include HDR support in upcoming games, just like they do on PC and console. Dolby Vision leverages the high max brightness of the OLED panels on the iPhone 12 lineup together with a higher color depth to produce video and graphics content that pops. The Dolby Vision compliant displays are great even when handling standard SDR content: you still get those rich OLED blacks and the high max brightness.
All iPhone 12 models use OLED displays, but the Pro models have higher brightness
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature a higher 800-nit max brightness compared to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini. In practice, this can be hard to discern. However, the higher top-end brightness will make it easier to game under bright lighting conditions (if you’re outdoors, for instance). It’s also worth pointing out here that, while all iPhone 12 models use OLED panels, the Pro and Pro Max panels are sourced from a different vendor and will likely feature better picture quality in terms of white levels, uniformity, and more.
All iPhone 12 models are stuck with 60 Hz panels
While the faster A14 chip and a great OLED display are definite advantages, gamers will be disappointed to hear that none of the iPhone 12 models, including the Pro and Pro Max, will feature a high refresh rate. Apple likely made this decision factoring concerns about battery life. The iPhone 12 lineup features 5G connectivity, which is a huge drain on battery life. Adding a 120 Hz display into the mix would likely have led to battery life regression relative to the iPhone 11 series. 60 Hz isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it’s plenty fluid. And the A14 should have an easier time running games at a locked 60 FPS than some Android flagships manage at 120 FPS.
All iPhone 12 models feature 5G connectivity
This is a major plus for gamers on the go. All models, including the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, feature ultra high-speed 5G connectivity. With game streaming services like xCloud set to arrive soon on iPhone (probably in the form of web apps), 5G speeds and latency make it possible for gamers to run full-fledge console and PC titles on their iPhones. The higher peak bandwidth and lower latency enabled by 5G will help deliver a streaming experience that’s closer to local. You will need to make sure that your area has 5G connectivity though, or you’ll be stuck at 4G speeds.
All iPhone 12 users will get a three-month Apple Arcade subscription for free
Apple is offering all iPhone 12 series owners three months of access to its Apple Arcade platform, on the house. Apple Arcade normally costs $4.99 per month, so this isn’t exactly spectacular value. However, this will give new iPhone 12 owners access to a wide range of full-fat, premium titles to test their devices on. Games like Samurai Jack: Back Through Time and the upcoming The Pathless are full-fledged console and PC experiences that have been ported over to iOS on the Apple Arcade.
Apart from these, titles like The Bradwell Conspiracy and Manifold Garden also come for free with the subscription, adding considerable value. Rumors indicate that Apple’s investing considerably towards building and publishing high-end AAA experiences on Apple Arcade, with A13 devices as the minimum spec. If this turns out to be the case, iPhone 12 users could get access to genuine, AAA console experiences not available on other platforms, running at their best.
iOS features enhanced controller support out of the box
iPhone 12 users won’t have to struggle with controller connectivity since iOS 14 supports a number of popular controllers right out of the box. Running on the latest iOS version, iPhone 12 users can connect Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controllers to their phones with no hassle. We expect support to soon extend to DualSense and Xbox Series X controllers, too.
There is lots to love about the new iPhone 12 series in terms of gaming capabilities. The faster A14 Bionic SoC and gorgeous OLED displays across the lineup promise a smooth, premium experience. Controller connectivity and the addition of a three-month Apple Arcade subscription show that Apple is serious about drawing mobile gamers from other platforms, including the Nintendo Switch and Android.
There are however, a few trade-offs potential iPhone 12 buyers need to be aware of. For starters, these devices cost a lot! The “budget” iPhone 12 mini starts at $699, while the top-end iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1099. In contrast, the Nintendo Switch, a dedicated gaming handheld that runs AAA console ports, comes in at a fraction of the price. And while 60 Hz gaming isn’t bad, gaming-oriented Android flagships with a high refresh rate definitely have the edge in terms of fluidity.
The ongoing Epic-Apple legal war is another factor to look out for. Fortnite is one of the most popular games on the planet and, as of right now, it’s no longer accessible to iOS users. If you’re big on Fortnite, this might be a dealbreaker. We expect the game to return to the platform at some point of time, once Apple and Epic reach a settlement, but you might have to hold on for a bit.
If these trade-offs don’t deter you and you’re able to get your hands on an iPhone 12 series device at launch, you’ll have an excellent, premium mobile gaming experience. We’re really looking forward to what developers can squeeze out of A14 hardware and to Apple’s future plans with the Apple Arcade platform.
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