iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro: what has Apple changed in three years?

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iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro

Intro


The iPhone 15 Pro arrives three years after the iPhone 12 Pro, and considering that most people hold on to their phones for around three years exactly, this would be the time to upgrade.

So are the improvements in the iPhone 15 Pro really worth it? And what has changed in these three years?

While these two phones mostly share a similar design styling, the new iPhone 15 Pro model brings quite the big list of other improvements: a new Apple A17 Pro chip is the world's first mobile chip built on a 3nm technology, and then you have a much improved camera system, new titanium material, brand new USB-C port, Action Button and then some.

So how does that and all the rest compare to the iPhone 12 Pro? Let's find out!

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iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro differences:
  • Same 6.1" screen size, but 15 Pro supports 120Hz ProMotion
  • New A17 Pro chip is more powerful
  • 8GB of RAM vs 6GB
  • Triple camera system but main camera has larger sensor on 15 Pro
  • 3X zoom on 15 Pro vs 2X zoom on 12 Pro
  • Improved battery life
  • Very similar charging speeds
  • 15 Pro has satellite connectivity
  • 15 Pro is eSIM only in the US

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

The 120Hz ProMotion screen is a huge improvement


Both the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro look fairly similar from afar: the size is roughly the same and both have flat sides.

However, Apple has made some slight tweaks to the dimensions of the phone and that camera system on the back is far bigger on the 15 Pro, so that means that your old iPhone 12 Pro cases will not fit on the new 15 Pro.


In terms of materials, both use glass and metal, however there are differences. First, the iPhone 15 Pro uses a more durable type of hardened glass, and second, instead of stainless steel, it has a titanium frame, which is more resistant to all sorts of damage and has the benefit of not being an absolute fingerprint magnet.

Another big change is on the bottom of the phones, where the 15 Pro uses USB-C, the same port as your laptop and most other modern gadgets, and a welcome change from the aging Lightning port on the 12 Pro. Keep in mind that you get a USB-C cable in the box with the iPhone 15 Pro, but no charger.

Buttons on both phones are mostly the same: you have a large physical power key on the right and volume buttons on the left, but instead of a mute switch like all other iPhones, the 15 Pro uses a new so called Action Button. This button is programmable, so you can set it to mute the phone or... do pretty much anything else like start the camera for example. Cool!

Both phones have the same IP68 water and dust protection, and both lack a 3.5mm headphone jack.

In terms of colors, we have a matte glass finish on the back of both and four color options. You have the standard graphite and silver, as well as gold and blue on the 12 Pro, and below you can see the new iPhone 15 Pro color options:



  • Titanium Black
  • Titanium White
  • Titanium Blue
  • Titanium Gray

Both the 15 Pro and 12 Pro come with a 6.1-inch screen size, and both use OLED technology so you get similar contrast and lush, deep blacks.

However, the iPhone 12 Pro lacks the key feature that makes modern phones run smoothly: a fast refresh rate. The 12 Pro only runs at 60Hz, while the 15 Pro supports 120Hz ProMotion and this is a massive change as it helps make scrolling and swiping feel buttery smooth.

The 15 Pro also has much slimmer bezels around that screen for a more modern look.

Oh yes, and that pill-shaped thing you see on the iPhone 15 Pro is the Dynamic Island that Apple introduced a year prior, which replaces the notch on the iPhone 12 Pro. You get to see a waveform when you play music there, as well as quick shortcuts and status updates, it's a neat little feature.

Screen quality has also improved overall with slightly better calibration and the 15 Pro gets a lot brighter, which makes it easier to use outdoors on a sunny day.

No changes in biometrics, though, as both phones rely on Face ID for fast and secure 3D face recognition.

Performance and Software

New A17 Pro chip, more and faster RAM

The big change with the iPhone 15 Pro has got to be the new A17 Pro chip, which leads the industry with 3nm manufacturing.

Compared to the A14 Bionic on the 12 Pro this chip is not only faster, but more power efficient too.

The 15 Pro also comes with 8GB of faster LPDDR5 RAM compared to the 6GB of slower LPDDR4 RAM on the 12 Pro. 

Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro2920
Apple iPhone 12 Pro2053
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro7447
Apple iPhone 12 Pro4442
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro3628
Apple iPhone 12 Pro2257
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro2801
Apple iPhone 12 Pro1767

Average folks probably won't notice that difference all that much since for daily tasks both phone tend to do a solid job, but for more intense apps or for gaming, the 15 Pro is a big upgrade.

Gamers, however, will definitely be much happier with the iPhone 15 Pro which delivers big gains in GPU speeds, as you can see in the 3D Mark graphics benchmark above.

One area Apple excels in is software updates, so that's why you should not be surprised to know that the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro are expected to run on the same iOS 17 software, with no differences.

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New features in iOS 17 include updated Phone, Messages and FaceTime apps, and finally autocorrect is getting a major update that will make it far more useful.

First, the Phone app is where changes are most noticeable. Contact Poster is a picture you set for yourself and others see when they get a call from you. Then you have NameDrop, another new trick where you just bring two iPhones close to exchange contacts. The Messages app also gets a bunch of new tweaks, but the one you would notice the most has got to be the new stickers and live stickers, which you can easily create from your own Live Photos, adding a personal touch to the chats.

Other iOS 17 news include Standby Mode, which turns your iPhone into a mini home hub while it’s charging, but keep in mind that if you want to be able to always see that feature you need an iPhone 15 Pro with its Always-on lock screen function.

Do keep in mind that Apple usually keeps its iPhones up to date for 5 or 6 years, which means the iPhone 12 Pro (which launched with iOS 14) will probably also get iOS 18 and iOS 19 in the future.

In terms of connectivity, both phones support 5G, so that's good, but one cool new feature that only the 15 Pro has is Emergency SOS via satellite. This allows you to send an emergency message in areas where you don't have cellular coverage and it could be a life-saver.

Another peculiarity of the iPhone 15 Pro is that it's eSIM only in the US, which means that you won't be able to just insert your current physical SIM card like you can on the iPhone 12 Pro. International models of the 15 Pro suppot both eSIM and physical SIM.

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Camera

Larger sensors, new focal lengths and features like Cinematic Mode


While both the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro come with three rear cameras, it's evident from the gigantic size of the 15 Pro camera system that it has undergone big changes.

Main Camera




It all starts with the main camera which is 48 megapixels on the 15 Pro. It now shoots 24-megapixel Super High Res photos by default, and that name might sound silly but it is very true. The level of detail of a 24MP shot is indeed higher than a 12MP photo from the 12 Pro. And you can also shoot full-res 48MP photos on the 15 Pro if you prefer and can deal with the larger file size.

The newer model also has some cool new tricks: you can shoot at 1.2X (28mm) or 1.5X (35mm), and thanks to the higher resolution sensor the quality looks plenty good at those focal lengths. Having a 28mm and especially a 35mm lens is great for street and everyday photography!

Ultra-wide


You also have an improved ultra-wide camera on the 15 Pro, and while the resolution is the same at 12MP, the quality is better and you can use it to take macro shots, something that you cannot do on the 12 Pro.

Zoom Quality


The third zoom camera is also different. Apple uses a 3X zoom lens on the 15 Pro, longer than the 2X zoom on the 12 Pro. And just in case you are worried about losing that 2X quality, you should know that the 15 Pro has sensor cropping which helps get nearly optical-grade quality at 2X zoom level and you have a 2X portrait mode on the 15 Pro as well. And of course, at 3X and beyond, the newer iPhones produces much more details shots.

Selfies



Images with the front camera have also improved with better processing and more detail on the newer model.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

All of these improvements translate into video as well with better quality and lower noise at night.

The iPhone 15 Pro has Cinematic Mode, a cool feature that allows you to blur the background much like Portrait mode, but just for video.

The 15 Pro also supports new Spatial Video, which basically combined footage from the ultra-wide and main cameras to create a video file with depth information. You can then relive this moment and play back the video on the Apple Vision Pro headset for a very immersive experience.

Audio Quality and Haptics


Both these Pro iPhones come with a dual speaker system consisting of a main, bottom-firing speaker and a secondary one in the earpiece, but the iPhone 12 Pro lacks the impressive low frequencies of recent iPhones and expectations are that the 15 Pro will be quite a noticeable upgrade for audio quality.

Neither phone has the 3.5mm headphone jack in case you were wondering, but it should be noted that you can use the USB-C port on the 15 Pro and the Lightning port on the 12 Pro to connect wired headphones.

We don't have any changes in the quality of the haptics. Apple has been using the same Taptic Engine for years, and it's been excellent throughout.

Battery Life and Charging

Some good gains with the new model


The iPhone 15 Pro is a noticeable improvement in battery life over the 12 Pro.

First because the battery size is bigger. The iPhone 15 Pro features a 3,274 mAh battery, some 16% larger than the 2,815 mAh battery used on the 12 Pro.

Below, you can find the official iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro battery life numbers by Apple:


Despite these improved numbers, don't expect miracles. The 15 Pro is still a one-day affair and you'd still need to charge overnight, it's a relatively compact phone after all.

If you are not content with just seeing the official Apple battery numbers, we have run a few tests of our own and here are the battery life results we got:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro14h 54 min
Apple iPhone 12 Pro12h 35 min
Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro6h 54 min
Apple iPhone 12 Pro6h 48 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro8h 51 min
Apple iPhone 12 Pro6h 46 min

As you can see, the new iPhone 15 Pro scores noticeably better in the web browsing department, but actually not much has changed in YouTube video streaming battery life.

In terms of charging, you get the new USB-C port on the 15 Pro, but charging speeds remain the same at just 20W on both. A full charge takes just a bit more than one hour and a half.

Both the 15 Pro and 12 Pro also come with the same MagSafe wireless charging at speeds of up to 15W, and that should take you more than 2 hours and a half for a full top-up on both.

Specs Comparison


And here is an overview of the specs differences between the iPhone 15 Pro and the 12 Pro:


Also remember to check out our in-depth iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro specs comparison to see all the hardware differences in a lot more detail.

Summary and Final Verdict



So... has the time come for iPhone 12 Pro users to upgrade?

If you ask most people, they would probably agree that the iPhone 12 Pro was not among the best Apple releases and those who still hold on to it, have many reasons to upgrade.

The new iPhone 15 Pro delivers that smooth 120Hz ProMotion goodness, which makes for smoother scrolling, but not just this. You get an improved camera system, faster processor, the fancy Dynamic Island, a more elegant look with slimmer bezels, a USB-C port, new Action Button and all of that in a phone that is not too heavy. 

The iPhone 15 Pro indeed seems like a good time to upgrade, unless... well, unless you can wait! Next year's iPhone 16 Pro is rumored to come with a larger 6.3-inch screen and with a more noticeable boost in battery life, as well as a 5X zoom camera. So are you upgrading to the iPhone 15 Pro or would you rather wait some more?

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