It’s been a few weeks since Apple announced and launched the latest iteration of its flagship phones, the iPhone 12 series. Apple went all out on this one with not just two models of the iPhone 12 but a total of four new devices ranging both in size as well as in pricing.
The lineup consists of the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max which are the familiar premium devices and are both straightforward upgrades to the 11 Pro series. There is also the regular iPhone 12 which is a more budget and mainstream option and an upgrade to the iPhone 11. The iPhone 12 mini was a “one more thing” phone from Apple at the launch event. It’s the smallest of the bunch. Apple says it’s the world’s smallest, thinnest, lightest 5G phone.
The announcement from Apple and the specs of these phones put them to be “next-gen” devices from Apple, marking a new era of Apple’s mobile phone development. The introduction of 5G, awesome new cameras, mag safe charging, and the introduction of new materials used in the phone’s manufacture proves this.
Using the big boy iPhone pro max as our focus, we are going to see how much stronger Apple made these iPhones to be. Are they durable enough to last three to five years of use?
iPhone 12 Pro Max Materials
Apple developed special new materials for the new iPhones. One of the most talked about is the new glass Apple calls ceramic shield. The phone maker says is the toughest glass ever on a smartphone. Every year Apple makes a similar claim about its glass, but this time may be different because this is no ordinary glass. It does however feel and look like ordinary glass but it is stronger than the previous glass materials apple has used for its devices.
Ceramic shield is a specialty hardened kind of glass that is infused with nano-ceramic crystals that dramatically improves toughness and is supposed to offer four times better drop protection for the screen. The ceramic shield glass was developed in conjunction with Corning Glass which claims to be 4x more shatter resistant than past generation Gorilla Glass implementations. It will make the screen less likely to shatter when dropped. This new tough glass technology is only used on the screen of the iPhone 12 Pro Max and its siblings.
This is great for the durability of these phones but there is a caveat. It will also be great if these phones can keep looking new with time, that means they have to have a high scratch resistance which is ironically inversely proportional to shatter resistance. That is, the softer something is the less likely it is to shatter but the easier it is to be scratched and vice versa. This is not to say that the iPhone Pro Max’s screen is soft. Rather the included ceramic crystals introduced plastic characteristics to the glass. Plastics are hard to break but they can easily be scratched. That is a little concerning to me. I care as much about my screen having irreparable scratches the same as it shattering. The iPhone 12 pro max being more shatter-resistant will be easier to scratch.
The easiest way to work around this is to use a screen protector on the iPhone 12. It is cheaper to replace a 10 dollar screen protector than replacing the display of the iPhone 12. Using a hard screen protector will give you the best of both worlds. It will offer better scratch resistance while the ceramic glass will provide better shatter resistance.
Stainless steel sides
Apple is using stainless steel instead of Aluminium for the sides of the new iPhone Pro and the Pro max while still using Aluminium for the cheaper models in the series. Steel is more durable and more resistant to scratches than aluminum which is softer. Jerry Rig Everything took a dab at the new iPhone in durability tests on his youtube channel. The bend test showed that the iPhone 12 was incredibly robust and showed no signs of bending, kinks nor cracks after incredible force was applied to the phone. This is because of the strong steel frame and the recessed display that sits inside the frame. This gives more durability assurance for the iPhone 12 series than the previous iterations of the iPhone. The iPhone 6 BendGate situation comes to mind.
Apple has upped the design of the iPhone 12 series several notches. The design is the best Apple has done for the iPhone so far and it plays a fundamental role in the durability of the phone.
The iPhone Pro max is wrapped around by a stainless steel frame which is stronger than aluminum. The boxy design allows the screen to seat in quite flushed with the stainless steel frame. The glass on the iPhone 12 lies flush with the metal frame rather than curved up like in previous models which left more of the glass exposed. Apple says that design choice alone will make the back and front twice as durable as older models. The stainless steel sides will absorb any force from drops before it reaches the glass on the screen.
Because the glass on the back of the iPhone 12 isn’t as tough as the ceramic shield on the front, it will be more prone to scratches or damage. This is a little concerning when you consider Apple’s new way of charging the iPhone, the MagSafe charger. The feature doubles the power throughput of standard Qi wireless charging on iPhones (15 watts verses 7.5 watts), and a magnetic snap to optimize placement on the phone’s back — similar to how the magnetic charger works on the Apple Watch. This magnetic snapping in place means the charger surface will touch the back of the phone on the same spot every time. It is not yet clear if such constant touches will aggravate the wear and tear of the phone on that particular area leaving round circle of more damage than the rest of the phone. This can only be seen with time.
The new materials and design of the iPhone 12 pro series make it to be the most durable phones Apple has made yet. It will be able to last three to five years of use with minor wear and tear if handled with care.