iPhone 12’s missing features: Expandable storage, a telephoto lens and more
The iPhone 12 has hugely impressed in our review and comes with some awesome features like 5G support, a fresh design and support for Apple’s new MagSafe chargers. But there are some things missing that in an ideal world we’d like to see. No, they’re not deal breakers, and aren’t even features we’d find on any iPhone, but they may be worth keeping in mind, particularly if you’re thinking of making the switch from Android.
1. Expandable storage
Apple has never allowed you to expand the storage with a microSD card on any of its phones and the new generation, including the iPhone 12 is no exception. While it may not be a problem for many of you, you will need to think hard in advance about how much space you’re likely to need, and how much built-in storage you can afford. Apple charges a premium for more storage space with the base 64GB iPhone 12 clocking in at $829, with the 256GB model costing $979.
If you’re switching from Android it may not have been something you’ll have considered much, as many Android phones let you pop in a microSD card to expand the base storage. If you plan on shooting a lot of 4K video or downloading a lot of large, graphically demanding games then you should look at the higher capacities.
2. Fingerprint scanner
Apple retired the classic home button with its built-in fingerprint scanner several generations ago (not counting the iPhone SE, of course) replacing it instead with FaceID, which uses facial recognition to secure your phone. For the most part it works well, and we haven’t really missed it. That is until the coronavirus pandemic hit, and wearing face masks became the norm when we’re out and about in public places. FaceID doesn’t work with face masks so we’re back to typing in PIN codes to access our phones.
While we wouldn’t want to see a return of a big button on the front of the phone, squashing the screen in, many Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and even affordable phones like the OnePlus Nord have built the fingerprint scanners into the display itself. They’re invisible and take up no additional space on the phone, making them an elegant solution to biometric security when face scanning is impossible.
3. 120Hz screen refresh rate
All iPhone 12 models have screen refresh rates of 60Hz, which was a disappointment to many who hoped Apple would up this to 120Hz. A faster refresh rate gives a smoother look and feel to the phone when you’re using it, with no motion blur as you’re moving between screens and everything feeling that bit snappier. It’s a feature that’s increasingly common on Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 and OnePlus Nord.
It’s likely that Apple opted to stay with 60Hz to help improve battery life, particularly as the addition of 5G makes the phones even more power-hungry. Does it matter? Personally, no. If you hold the iPhone 12 next to the OnePlus Nord with its 120Hz display (as I have done), you can maybe tell a bit of difference but I honestly don’t think it’s anything you’d ever notice in day to day use.
The powerful processors inside the iPhone 12 models means performance always feels snappy which makes for a smooth experience, despite the lower refresh rate and I’d take a better battery over a faster screen any day.
4. Telephoto lens
The iPhone 12’s camera can take some superb images with its default wide view and with the superwide lens. What it can’t do is zoom in with the telephoto lens found on the iPhone 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max or on previous generations like the iPhone 11 Pro.
Read more: iPhone 12 vs. Pro and Pro Max: The features that might convince you to go Pro
Whether that matters to you will depend on how seriously you take your photography and how often you find yourself needing to get closer in a scene, or whether you prefer to capture as much in front of you as possible.
For me, photography skills are my No. 1 priority in phones so I want to have that telephoto lens to give me additional shooting options when I’m out and about. If you’re a more casual shooter, you might not miss it and will be perfectly happy with the superb shots you can get from the other two lenses.
Apple’s upcoming ProRaw is an image format that uses some of the computational photography capabilities of the cameras (including HDR merging) but allows for deeper editing options, much like a raw image file taken on a professional DSLR. It’s potentially a great compromise between full raw and the standard JPEG the camera spits out, but it’s a feature reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max.
It’s arguably a pretty niche feature that’ll only appeal to the most dedicated of photographers (of which I count myself a proud member), so as with the telephoto lens, the more casual of shooters among you will likely never give its absence a second thought. There is a chance that Apple could bring the feature to phones beyond the Pro line, but it seems more likely that it’ll reserve it as a more elite feature to help justify the upgrade cost.