Apple has been using stainless steel for a premium finish on its products for a long time, and at the moment that includes the iPhone 12 Pro and Apple Watch Series 6. Apple uses steel to give these products a gleaming finish and a solid premium feel, and I absolutely love the effect… but in the case of the iPhone's case, I've reluctantly reached the conclusion that I'd rather it stuck with aluminium for all versions of the iPhone 13. Or something else similarly light, as I'll come to.
Apple says that its steel is 'surgical grade', which certainly sounds high-end, even if I don't really know what it means in practice, and am slightly intimidated by it. But what I do know is that it feels damn nice in the hand – it's hard to say exactly what feels different than an aluminium model, but the finger is a precision instrument, and it knows. It knows that stainless steel is a more perfectly smooth finish, and you know when you hold the iPhone 12 Pro that the frame is a higher quality than a 'lesser' metal.
But you also know that it's steel because it weighs a metric ton. In terms of real weight, the difference between the identically sized iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro doesn't look that big – the iPhone 12 is 164g and the iPhone 12 Pro is 189g – but that 25g makes a ridiculous amount of difference.
Switching from the Pro to the regular model makes the aluminium model feel like the more advanced version in some ways, because it's almost all the same parts, yet is much easier to balance and shift around in your hand. But it doesn't need to be made from some carbon composite or nanotube metamaterial to achieve this. It's just good ol' aluminium.
And though I've found the steel finish to be reasonably scratch resistant, if you want to guarantee that it'll stay that way, you need to add the weight of a case to that. And I've been using Apple's MagSafe power adapter, which also adds a lot of weight (far more than a cable – the biggest flaw of Apple's new connection system).
Of the two models, I was always going to end up sticking with the Pro because of the extra camera features, and because I really, really love the stainless steel gold finish. I decided the combination was worth a bit of extra weight. And with the Apple Watch, I'll stick with steel, because the weight difference makes less of a big deal there in my opinion, and I find getting the physical look of a wearable to your taste to be more important than with a phone.
But I'd be happiest if Apple were to give me the extra features of a Pro-level iPhone 13 in the lighter body. I nearly ended up not going Pro solely because of that weight difference, and this is an area where Apple could let me have the best of both worlds.
Although, there is a third option: titanium. This would again be borrowed from the Apple Watch, which offers this as a lighter-weight alternative to steel, but with a more premium feel than aluminium. I'd love it if Apple met me halfway with a titanium iPhone – especially since fans of classic Apple designs like me will also be happy to resurrect a nickname from Apple's laptop past: the TiPhone.