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Apple iPhone 12 vs 12 Pro Max in 2021: Is It Just Size?

author Luis Silva (November 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is more expensive than the iPhone 12, but considering its features, it is the one you should pick.

It gives you better battery life and more internal storage (128GB vs. 64GB).

What else stands out?

With the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you'll also get a larger (+0.6") display, a telephoto lens (+52 mm), and more RAM (6GB vs. 4GB). But the iPhone 12 will give you a lightweight body (64 g./2.26 oz less).

How much more are you willing to spend on the iPhone 12 Pro Max?

If you're considering a new and unlocked smartphone, you'll have to invest an additional amount close to $300.

Is the iPhone 12 still worth buying in 2021?

The iPhone 12 is still one of the best phones you can buy in 2021 (depending on your budget), even more so if you can find it with a great deal. Having said that, the iPhone 12 Pro has more storage and more RAM.

Is it still worth buying the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2021?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was indeed released in 2020, but it still stands out, thanks to its good performance, good cameras, and excellent glass protection. It holds up pretty well in 2021, although you can also check (again) the iPhone 12 Pro.

Read on so you can learn more about their differences, how they rival their competition, and how the tech industry is evaluating their specs.

Check prices on Amazon Check prices on Amazon
Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Apple iPhone 12, Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Photo by Nemanja .O. on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

Another day, another classic comparison. Should you go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, or should your stick with the popular iPhone 12?

Let's see where they differ.

Apple launched its iPhone 12 Pro Max in November 2020, while Apple's iPhone 12 arrived at stores one month sooner.

We've run down the specs, design, price, and much more in this guide to help you choose between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Release Date 2020, October 2020, November 0y.
OS Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.
Security Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

As for performance, Geekbench 5 scores the iPhone 12 Pro Max 4% ahead of its sibling in the multi-core ranking. Overall, you wouldn't feel that much of a difference between them.

These two also have their performance well above the average for their price range.

We can classify both of them as high-end.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
SoC Apple A14 Apple A14
Graphics Apple GPU Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 4067
4240
173
OS iOS 14.1 iOS 14.1
Tek-Score
8.8
9.1
0.3

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Apple iPhone 12 front transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max front transparent png

There isn't a winner here, so you have to decide for yourself.

If you're trying to keep your phone's display small, stop searching, and just pick the iPhone 12. Most phones from its price range don't even come close.

Very few rivals share this maximum brightness. Usually, they rarely stay far from 810 nits, but the iPhone 12 can only do 21% below that.

Considering the iPhone 12, 96% of its rivals can play HDR content and have an Always-On display. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 81% have Gorilla Glass 6 or better.

Considering the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as a reference, 92% of its rivals can play HDR content and have an Always-On display. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 77% offer you more than 60hz of refresh rate and have Gorilla Glass 6 or better.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 6.1
6.7
0.6
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED
Resolution (px) 1170x2532
1284x2778
604512
Refresh Rate 60hz 60hz 0
Dots per Inch 457.25
456.77
-0.48
Always-On-Display No No
Notch Wedge Wedge
Peak Brightness 639 nits
822 nits
183
HDR HDR10 HDR10
Sub Tek-Score
2.9
3.2
0.3
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Tek-Score
7.5
7.6
0.1

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Apple iPhone 12 back transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max back transparent png

If you value quality photos, you should know that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is about 50% above other smartphones at about this price tag. Nevertheless, these two have similar scores, so...

About the iPhone 12: This camera came out of DXOMARK's labs with a score of 132. By including its wide-angle lens, you'll end up with a score of 139. You can check their review if you click here.

Last (but not least), all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization. On the other hand, only 4% of them feature a macro lens.

About the iPhone 12 Pro Max: DXOMARK has rated this camera with a score of 138. And by adding the telephoto and wide-angle lenses, we end up with a score of 150 points. If you want to know more about every tidbit, check it here.

Furthermore, just so you know, just like the other device, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K, feature a telephoto lens, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization. Regardless, only 8% of them feature a macro lens.

One can place these two more as high-end.

Additionally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max telephoto lens is, on average, 45mm lower than what you'd get in its class.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 1.6
1.6
0.0
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 4 2 -2
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 2160 0
Score 139
150
11

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 2.4
2.2
-0.2
Lens 13mm 65mm (2x zoom)
52
Lens Type Ultra-wide-Angle Telephoto lens
Megapixels - 12
Aperture - 2.4
Lens - 13mm
Lens Type - Ultra-wide-Angle
Score 7 12 5
Selfie Camera iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 23mm 23mm 0
iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Tek-Score
8.2
8.8
0.6

Who has the best frame?

If you're still undecided about them, the iPhone 12 is a better choice based on its weight.

The iPhone 12 weighs 164 g. (5.78 oz), while its sibling is 64 g. (2.52 oz) heavier. But because screen size also matters, I've come up with an adapted "display size to phone weight ratio" score. The iPhone 12 got 6.9, and that's another way of saying a pretty nice weight for its screen size. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, has 2.1, which indicates it's oddly heavy.

The iPhone 12 is rated IP68, which means it's water-resistant in up to 1 to 3 meters, much like the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It should be for less than 30 minutes, and it's in standby mode only. So don't take photos underwater.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 146 x 71 x 7 mm
(5.15 x 2.50 x 0.25 in)
160 x 78 x 7 mm
(5.64 x 2.75 x 0.25 in)
14798
Weight 164 g. (5.78 oz)
228 g. (8.04 oz)
64
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Black, Red, White, Green, and Blue Silver, Gold, Graphite, and Pacific Blue
Screen To Body Ratio 88.18%
88.38%
0.19
Disp.Size To Weight Score 6.9 2.1 -4.8
Looks 10.0/10
10.0/10
0.0
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Tek-Score
8.6
6.4
-2.1

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

At 2815 mAh, the iPhone 12 is the owner of the smallest battery, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max features 3687 mAh. And by GSMArena's standards, the iPhone 12 Pro Max does have an advantage here.

The new iPhones also feature magnetic wireless charging. That's handy if you do have the charger nearby.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Capacity (mAh) 2815 3687 872
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 79% left
82% left
3
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 64% left
67% left
3
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 64% left
69% left
5
Bat. To Phone Size Score 6.4 2.6 -3.8
Sub Tek-Score
6.9
7.3
0.4
Fast Charging 20w
20w
0
Wireless Charging 15w
15w
0
Tek-Score
6.6
6.7
0.1

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max. Clearly.

The iPhone 12 has 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. Also, similarly priced adversaries usually deliver more RAM and more storage. They're closer to 150Gb of storage and 9GB of RAM.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max offers 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. Again, you can get more RAM and more storage from most of its opponents. 10Gb for RAM and 207Gb for storage, on average.

Most people should be OK with only 64 GB of internal storage. However, if you love to store 4k videos, 64 GB may be too short for you.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
RAM (GB) 4GB
6GB
2
Internal (GB) 64GB
128GB
64
Micro SD No No
Tek-Score
2.8
6.0
3.3

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

There isn't much to see here.

You can find these two in the (LTE and) 5G variant.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Network 5G 5G
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
4.6
4.6
0.0

Which is more affordable?

Here are the best prices that we've found:

Apple iPhone 12

Reference: $880

Apple iPhone 12

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Reference: $1,180

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max VS
Amazon - ! - ! -
eBay 0.76 0.58 -0.18
Best Buy 0.85 0.67 ! -
Walmart - - -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

Are you also considering other options? The global score can help. Let me point out the average of its competitors. They're at 7.3 (for the iPhone 12) and 7.7 (for the iPhone 12 Pro Max).

Verdict: What Makes the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Stand Out?

And that's it.

In a nutshell, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will give you the traditional full glass body, a decent telephoto lens, much better battery life (although it could be better), double the internal storage, and a couple more gigabytes of RAM.

The iPhone 12 has one single advantage, and it's its weight. You can add an aluminum back if it fits your preferences, but that's about it.

Size preferences aside, if 6.1 inches is big enough for you, perhaps you should consider the iPhone 12 Pro instead of its bigger sibling.

Pros iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED AMOLED
#3 Cameras Cameras
#4 Fast Charging Fast Charging
#5 Wireless Charging Wireless Charging
#6 Glass Protection Glass Protection
Cons iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Always-On-Display Always-On-Display
#2 MicroSD Slot MicroSD Slot
#3 3.5mm Jack Weight
#4 Price 3.5mm Jack
#5 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro Max
Gaming Score
6.3
6.9
0.6
Tek-Score
6.76
7.42
0.66
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

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About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Apple iPhone 12 Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Apple iPhone 12 
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $949
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $700
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ EX
    $749
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.EX
    $795
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.SD
    $949
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $749
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Ultra
    $809
  • HuaweirivalMate 30 Pro
    $849
  • HuaweirivalP40 Pro
    $799
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • OnePlusrival8 Pro
    $799
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.
    $949
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Ultra
    $846
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $682
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Ultra
    $949
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $658
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9 Pro
    $909
  • VivorivalX60 Pro
    $900

 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Pro
    $1050
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $949
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.SD
    $1049
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.EX
    $982
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.SD
    $949
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.
    $949
  • HuaweirivalMate 40 Pro
    $1065
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Ultra
    $949
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $1050
  • XiaomirivalMi 11 Ultra
    $1079
  • VivorivalX60 Pro Plus
    $1177
  • OpporivalFind X3 Pro
    $1149
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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