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.
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.)