Apple iPhone 12: A Few Concerns

Posted on October 28, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Mobile with 45 Comments

I wasn’t expecting to write more about the iPhone 12 ahead of my review, but there are several issues that I feel require more discussion.

Standard vs. Zoom

First and most obviously, I wanted to readdress the strange issue I discussed in Apple iPhone 12 Follow-Up, where several of the apps I use the most frequently were not displaying full-screen but instead appeared smaller in the center of the screen with large black borders at the top and bottom. I also asked about this issue on Twitter, and there were two leading theories: That these apps needed to be rewritten for the unique resolution and aspect ratio of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, or that it was caused by me configuring the device to use the Zoomed (as opposed to Standard) display zoom.

I gotta be honest here: Neither one of these is acceptable. If it was the former, then I’m curious why Apple’s mobile app development environment isn’t sophisticated enough by this point to support arbitrary resolutions and aspect ratios. And if it’s the latter, come on: When you configure the display to be zoomed, you are literally telling it that you want on-screen items to be bigger. Why on earth would iOS then cut off about 1/3 of the display to the app? Neither choice makes any sense.

But as it turns out, my issue was triggered by my use of Zoomed. I thought I had disabled this setting, and so I had said—perhaps here and/or on Twitter—that I wasn’t using this setting. But in my defense, the UI is confusing: If you navigate to Settings > Display & Brightness > Display Zoom (View), you’ll see a simple enough UI in which you can choose between Standard and Zoomed.

What I had done in the past was select Standard and then Back. But the change doesn’t “stick” unless you tap “Set” (up in the upper right of the screen, a typically nonsensical and oh-so-Apple location) first. So, my bad, I guess. But still. Why the F would this literally make much of the screen unavailable in some apps? That’s stupid.

Spam calls and texts

Given Apple’s stance on privacy, one would assume that this company does an exemplary job of protecting its customers against spam text and phone calls. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and I’m surprised to report that Android does a much better job of this than does iOS.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about all of those “get out and vote” texts and phone calls we’re all getting because of this incredible upcoming election (a situation that is only exacerbated, in my case, because I live in a swing state). No, I’m talking about the run-of-the-mill spam texts that I honestly didn’t even know existed, plus the spam calls that Android always marks as spam, helping you easily avoid them.

Well, iOS lets both of them through. I’ve gotten several spam text messages about skin-care products, “instaheaters” for the winter, and other nonsense since switching to the iPhone 12 last week. I never once got a text message like that on Android. I’ve also received an incredible amount of spam calls, both election and non-election related. And the problem there is that there’s no obvious way to mark them as spam and report them to Apple. What you can do, and I had to look this up because it’s so non-obvious, is block the number, which is borderline pointless since they come from robo-dialers. That’s it. Ditto for spam texts. Useless.

Missing texts

Speaking of texts, I noticed during a group chat with our neighbors this week that I’m missing text messages randomly: You can tell from the context of some messages (“Laughed at [some message I never got]” and so on. Since my wife is on these conversations, I asked to look at her phone and saw that I had actually missed most messages, including several replies to messages I had sent. This is a huge problem. And given that I have two kids, it’s a potential safety issue. I’m still looking into this.


This is a big issue for me. Like the 2019-era iPhones, the iPhone 12 takes decent snapshots overall, but the inconsistent shot quality is disconcerting. For example, I’m unsatisfied with how dull some of the daytime pictures are, with no way to force HDR+ on, and how terrible the night/low-light shots can be; plus, you can’t “configure” or manually trigger/turn-off night mode on the iPhone. That’s dumb.

Frustrated by this, I was actually ready to give up on the iPhone 12, but then I remembered that I’d had this same issue in the past, and that I had tried some third-party camera apps to overcome them. Looking through my previous app purchases, I found one called ProCamera that I bought last year, along with an in-app purchase that enables “vivid HDR.” The app was recently optimized for iPhone 12, so I decided to give it a shot.

Aside from not liking the icon very much, and some confusion in the UI, this may solve the problem, though I don’t like that it creates a normal and vivid HDR version of each shot and then asks me whether I want to save the latter each time. But the results look promising. Consider this “normal” shot (which is curiously blurry, probably my hand movement) of the two Xbox consoles as a decent example.

And then the vivid HDR version, which I prefer, though it’s still grainy.

I need to test this more. And it’s important to look at the resulting photos off of the camera—like on a computer—since the real quality of each isn’t always obvious unless you can really see it well, and zoom in properly. I feel like when it comes to photographic quality, some elements are objective, while others—like my preference for a little HDR pop—are subjective. But objectively speaking, the shots I’m seeing from the iPhone 12 so far are inconsistent. Sometimes it just nails the shot. Sometimes it’s just way off.

I mean, look at this crazy HDR pop. I do like it, honestly, but I have no idea why that happens sometimes and not others. (This was taken with the stock Camera app.)

More soon.

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Comments (45)

45 responses to “Apple iPhone 12: A Few Concerns”

  1. jimchamplin

    Another camera app to try is Halide, I’ve been using it for a couple of years now whenever I’m taking photos I care about. Paired with Pixelmator for editing, I find it a good workflow.

    Edit: Added more cool info.

  2. michael_babiuk

    Just one question, Paul. In the two pictures using the Xbox consoles, which more accurately depicts the color of the wood flooring?

    Oh, I suspect that if one manually sets the flash to remain on, the picture grain in those photos would be remarkably reduced or eliminated.

    • murray judy

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      The "picture grain" that you mention is usually called noise. When you see it in the shadows, it's due to insufficient light for the sensor. The tiny sensors in phones really struggle to get enough light. Flash would definitely help, but it introduces other problems, like harsh shadows. If you're shooting in manual, a longer shutter or wider aperture would help too.

    • Paul Thurrott

      The second one is more accurate. I would call it "accurate." The floor is not as light as you see in the first picture.
  3. minke

    I think Paul uses Project Fi phone service, and I have noticed that my father (who is also on Fi) has the same problem with Spam texts coming in. He is using a Pixel 3a. I am using a Pixel 4a on T-Mobile and have no such problem, and I only very rarely get a Spam phone call. Not sure who is responsible, but between T-Mobile and my Pixel they are doing a great job at blocking Spam. My wife is also on T-Mobile but uses an iPhone and she gets a lot more Spam calls than I do--not sure about texts. There is some relationship between phones, carrier, and Spam apparently.

    • sammyg

      In reply to Minke:

      iPhone with ATT and I have not gotten a SPAM text in years at least 5.

      I do get SPAM calls occasionally but most of the time the iPhone tells me and I do not answer. The ones that do get through are using local numbers on their caller ID. A prompt hang up and block fixes that.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I moved to Mint Mobile early this year.
  4. red.radar

    I believe the spam calls and text are influenced by the carrier. My spam calls are always identified by my carrier and labeled as such. Never got a spam text.

    perhaps you highlight an interesting edge case if you use MVNOs you should use android to augment some of the lost functionality from the big three

  5. yoshi

    I don't use zoomed mode, but just the fact that happens would be enough for me to return it. It doesn't happen on any of the 11/11 Pros my family has. There's no excuse for that to happen on the 12.

  6. murray judy

    Love the "Leaning Tower of Trexlertown" shot, lol.

    But seriously, there's a lot of left tilt in both the tower and XBox shots. I know these are throw-away demo shots, but you might want to work on in-camera composition until you do it automatically all the time. It really helped my photography.

  7. BigM72


    iOS has an API related to blocking nuisance calls. You can get apps (I think they require a subscription) that will supposedly provide your phone with a blacklist of numbers.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Thanks, I'll look into this. Kind of surprised this isn't the kind of thing Apple would take a solid stance on.
  8. duncanator

    In the iMessage app, make sure you have selected "All Messages" using the filter setting in the top left corner.

  9. wright_is

    I'm surprised that SMS spam is still a thing. Over here, the equivalent of the FCC banned it and robo-calling about 15 years ago and GDPR made it even more difficult, as you cannot sell people's contact information to third parties and you cannot send them marketing SMS/emails or call with marketing information them, unless you have specifically asked them to allow you to do so.

    The Information Commissioners usually place 6 or 7 figure fines on people breaking those rules.

  10. yologuy84

    Any updates on the missing texts? I'm having the same issue after upgrading from iPhone 11 Pro Max to iPhone 12 Pro...thanks!

    • fraXis

      In reply to yologuy84:

      I also just experienced this last night on my iPhone 12. I am in a group chat with my kids consisting of both Android and iPhone users, and my son asked me if I received his texts (he is team Android). I checked, and sure enough, I did NOT receive the two texts he sent me.

      Something is definitely wrong here. I tried to search for other people having this issue on the Apple support forums, but came up empty handed. I think this is a big problem, but I don't think a lot of people have realized it yet unless someone asks them, "Hey, why didn't you reply to my texts!". "What Texts?" Lol.

      • gauthier713

        In reply to fraXis
        I was having the same issue. I couldn’t get texts or MMS messages from my husband (Android). I did a network reset and seems to be working now, but not sure if this a true fix. But you could give it a try.
        General>Reset>Resent Network Settings.
    • albrst

      In reply to yologuy84:
      I am also wondering the same thing. Got the iPhone 12 a week ago and it is hit or miss with missing group texts and it's not just android users. We have a family group text (4 iPhones, 2 android). Just now I sent out a message and didn't get of of the iPhone messages back. Like mentioned above, this is bad when I need to get messages from my kids or work related messages.


    • fraXis

      In reply to yologuy84:

      There is now a thread going at Apple about this issue:

      Also MacRumors:

      Everyone needs to report this to Apple so we can get it fixed.

  11. ebraiter

    Speaking of spam, if you mark some robocaller or fake MS representative as spam, Android blocks you from getting the call but it sends the caller to voice mail. How dumb!

  12. youwerewarned


    I frequently experience delayed SMS message delivery on WP and iPhone, both on AT&T.

    That's because SMS is a fragile example of limited interoperability:

  13. jwpear

    I'm jealous of all you folks that don't get spam texts or robocalls. I'm on Verizon and get both. The bloodsuckers at Verizon allow the crap through and then want to charge extra to block them. It should be illegal, but our government leaders lack courage and the FCC is in bed with the carriers. STIR/SHAKEN has been worthless so far.

    I've even tried RoboKiller to help with the robocalls. Helps, but doesn't completely eliminate. I finally broke down and enabled iPhone's known caller feature. That's a pain when legitimate, but unknown callers go straight to voicemail.

  14. jlaubuchon

    Hi Paul, I’m on an iPhone XS Max using zoomed mode and haven’t encountered the issues you have, definitely odd to say the least and would have me wanting answers as well. Possibly a developer issue that was overlooked, but never know.

    If you’re still using ProCamera I suggest playing with the settings. You can select the HDR version you want to default to such as vivid and set auto save. You can also set it so it doesn’t save the standard photo as well. I’ve used ProCamera almost exclusively on my iPhones for the past five years and the amount of options and features do let you fine tune it how you want. I know it sounds unmanly, but read the user guide for it, lots and lots of tips and tricks and all the settings info you could hope for.

  15. retcable

    I have never received a spam text message at all on Verizon on my iPhone, no matter which model, and I am now on an iPhone 12. Maybe they are doing a good job at filtering out these messages. I really have no clue.

    I do receive spam calls, 2-3 every day usually "regarding your car's warranty", each call from a different number from some nearby town. Of course I have not owned the car in question for over 2 years, but I have gotten good at just ignoring the calls. It does no good to put them on any sort of ignore list because each time they come in, they show up as a different number from a different town. Very annoying but there's not much you can do about it.

  16. north of 49th

    Paul, I've found that the 'Silence unknown callers' in the settings for phone really helps with the robocalls. It conditionally requires that you have your phone book up-to-date and that unknown callers that really want to get a hold of you leave a message.

  17. lezmaka

    When using the Zoomed, I believe the OS basically tells the apps that it's on like an iPhone X/iPhone SE/iPhone 12 mini size screen. I remember when I think the iPhone X-style phones first came out, zoomed wasn't available on the smallest ones because there was no smaller phone with similar screen dimensions. I'm guessing it's a combination of something like that along with an app that's not designed/tested with display zoom. Or there's something funky with display zoom on iPhone 12 that'll hopefully eventually get fixed in iOS.

  18. lezmaka

    For text messages, the only thing built-in is an option to filter unkown senders into a separate list. I'm guessing Google has something in Android itself and/or the OEMs have stuff pre-installed for actual blocking. There are apps on the app store that you can install to get the equivalent.

  19. Chris_Kez

    Is there a way to report spam messages to your carrier, so they can be cut off at the source? I've been fortunate enough to avoid spam text messages but I do get at least one call a week from random numbers that leave a short message in Chinese; the message is usually cut-off. This has been happening for probably two years and was the initial impetus for me deciding that I would stop answering the phone. I'm tempted to just silence unknown callers but I never know when it will be some important child-related situation.

    +1 for Halide if you want to up your photography game on the iPhone.

    • prospero423

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Yes. Forward the message to 7726 (SPAM). Most carriers will handle this. They'll respond asking for the sender's phone number. Reply with the number and the carriers will try to research and shut it down.

  20. dcdevito

    I’m on T-Mobile and use their spam filtering which works great (on my iPhone).

    • north of 49th

      In reply to dcdevito:

      That makes me wonder if the issue with the messages not showing up and the lack of spam filtering by the carrier are related issues. Paul, if you reached out to your provider and told them you were testing an iPhone and are using iMessage instead of SMS - and aren't getting the spam filtering you expect, I wonder if there is something that needs a reset in the background?

  21. elessar25

    Question: Paul, does the Android prowess in blocking spam calls/SMS messages extend to non-Pixel Android devices? I am loving this feature in my Pixel 2XL and am very apprehensive about switching to a non-Google device

  22. nine54

    Regarding your missing messages, moving your SIM/phone number between Android and iOS--specifically on/off iMessage--can create some issues with other iMessage users. I'd recommend sending a message from your iPhone to the group. That might trigger the group to recognize you as another iMessage user instead of as an Android "green texter."

    Regarding the zooming issue, I would consider whether there was a theme with the apps that had the issue. One of them was a Galaxy Buds app. Well, it's safe to say that this app is a "port" of the Android app, so it's possible that Samsung didn't put in the effort to optimize it. Perhaps the iOS dev environment needs to do a better job of enforcing good UI behavior, but I wouldn't be so quick to "blame" the dev environment instead of the app developer.

  23. SyncMe

    To turn off Night Mode or configure it simply tap the icon at the top left of the camera app when it appears and then you can select the time of the exposure or turn it off.

  24. jwpear

    The zoom issue is interesting. I use display zoom on my iPhone 11 Pro Max and have never seen an app with bars above and below it. I also crank the text up a little. Is the 12 screen size just that different? I was sort of expecting the aspect ratio to be close and the screen to simply be a little bigger.

    As for spam messages, I feel like this is exactly due to Apple's privacy position. I've used RoboKiller some. It will filter and block spam texts if you enable it. iOS clearly tells you your texts will be available to the 3rd party app to support that feature. Could it be that Apple's stance is not to filter by default to protect privacy and Google's is to do that because, well, Google wants to see everything to improve their ad targeting?

    I've never enabled SMS filtering because I'm just not comfortable with the possibility that authorization codes or other personal information might be captured by a 3rd party.

  25. JerryH

    That Zoom thing - incredibly stupid design for it to then shrink the apps.

  26. proftheory

    I have a neighbor who misses messages when using a VPN.

  27. sammyg

    I pretty much consider all smartphone cameras just OK and the only feature I ever use is maybe cropping. If I want to take a good picture I use my DSLR.

    It has been years since I got a SPAM text. I think some cell providers are better at it. I do occasionally get SPAM calls but the iPhone gives me a heads up with some text about possible fraud or something like that.

    iMessage issues can happen with group texts when you have Android users. Some Android messaging apps can’t handle it. I get replies directly to me at times when an Android user replies to a group text. Luckily for me, probably 98% of the people I text are on iPhone or if on Android it’s one on one.

  28. phil_adcock

    I wonder how much of the text messaging issue could be carrier side. I have tmobile and rarely give spam messages. The messages that I receive that are marketing related are all for things I've signed up for. (K-Love Radio, Laserwash Car Wash, & IGA) To me I feel this may be your carrier not blocking spam at their level on this device. I'd also contact the carrier to see if a setting is off in the network. Possible trying to send messages through to the android instead of the iphone. Let us know if you get this fixed.

  29. jlaubuchon

    One more, the Spam issue, I’ve gotten a few here and there, but I had my number on the National do not call list which helped a lot. If you’re not registered or it’s been a while it’s worth trying.