How does Apple’s iPhone 13 compare against the iPhone 12? It is worth upgrading from the iPhone 12? Or should you hold onto your phone for another year and wait for the iPhone 14?
As expected, Apple’s iPhone 13 was not a major update. Apple did make a few tweaks here and there, most notably in the camera module and battery department, but for anyone using the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 is probably one to miss.
Why? All the big changes will be coming next year with the release of the iPhone 14. The iPhone 14 will have a new(ish) design, new specs, new features, and they will look markedly different from the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. There will also be a new model in the form of the iPhone 14 Max which will replace the iPhone 14 Mini.
iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 – The Main Differences
On the surface, there isn’t really too much to separate the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13. They look more or less identical, come in the same models – standard, mini, Pro, and Pro Max – and they all have OLED displays and 5G connectivity.
But as you’ll see below, the differences, while subtle, do add up to some pretty big differences between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13. This is pretty standard for Apple, though – it doesn’t make HUGE changes, instead preferring to tweak and augment things.
And it is this approach that has made the company so successful. It also helps keep the development costs of its phones lower too. Apple focuses on changes that matter, changes that improve the usability of the phone and its core components – like the battery, its camera, and how it performs across the board.
Let’s now take a look at all the main differences between the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 12…
There are changes, though, and while they’re subtle, some are actually rather important. The most significant relates to battery life. Apple’s iPhone 12 was not great with battery life; the inclusion of 5G really hurt the phone’s battery stamina compared to the iPhone 11’s.
Apple set about fixing this with the iPhone 13 range by adding in larger batteries for all the models in the range. This resulted in markedly improved battery life. The iPhone 13 Mini, for instance, will last a full 90 minutes longer than the iPhone 12 mini – and 90 minutes extra juice is pretty significant.
If battery life is important to you, I would definitely advise that you go with any of the iPhone 13 models over those in the iPhone 12 range. The larger batteries and Apple’s A15 CPU do make a major difference to overall battery life and performance, even on the base and Mini model.
Apple uses the exact same OLED panels in its iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series of phones. But there are, again, subtle differences. The iPhone 13’s display, for instance, has been tweaked to deliver better brightness – around 28% more, to be exact. The iPhone 12, for instance, will deliver 569 nits, while the iPhone 13 will do 795 nits which is quite a big discrepancy. And it is something you will notice too.
On the more expensive models, Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, you also have ProMotion to consider. Apple’s ProMotion display tech is only available on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max and it will dynamically adjust the refresh rate on those phones from 10Hz all the way up to 120Hz. The iPhone 12 runs at 60Hz. And, again, once you’ve used a 120Hz display, you will notice the difference when it is gone.
The Camera Tech
On paper, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 camera look and sound much the same. But, again, the devil is in the details here. The iPhone 13 runs the same dual-lens 12MP rear-mounted camera as the iPhone 12. But the iPhone 13 uses a much larger sensor – the biggest ever fitted to a dual-lens camera module – and this sensor lets in a remarkable 47% more light than the iPhone 12’s.
The base model iPhone 13 also gets sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a Pro feature from the iPhone 12 Pro / Pro Max, as well as a newly minted ultra-wide lens that has vastly improved low-light performance abilities. Again, this is all subtle, understated stuff but when it is all combined it does add up to big changes to how the phone performs in the real world.
With Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, the changes and upgrades are even more pronounced. You have, again, much larger sensors than what was used on the iPhone 12 models and this, combined with the wider f/1.8 ultra-wide sensor, makes for dramatically improved performance in all lighting conditions, but notably lower light conditions.
The 77mm telephoto lens on the iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max now comes with the 3x optical zoom – the iPhone 12 Pro / Pro Max only had 2.5x optical zoom. You also get access to things like Apple’s new ProRes technology on the iPhone 13 Pro models which allows for Hollywood-grade film production on iPhone. It really is incredible what you can do with ProRes.
Apple’s iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 range all come in the same base, storage flavors. But with the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, you have the option to go with 1TB of storage, a truly huge amount of internal storage.
And while 1TB sounds ridiculous, if you’re using ProRes a lot – or filming movies on your iPhone – 1TB of storage will actually become really useful. This is why it is currently only available on Pro models.
A14 vs A15 CPU
Each new iPhone model gets a new CPU. The iPhone 12 ran on Apple’s A14 CPU, while the iPhone 13 runs on the company’s A15 platform. Both are exceptionally powerful CPUs, leading the market and Apple’s nearest competitor, Qualcomm, well and truly in its wake. Nothing can touch Apple’s A14 or A15 with respect to overall performance.
The A15 is made using the same 5nm process as the A14 – Apple uses TSMC for this – but Apple says the A15 will deliver around 20% more performance and is way more efficient than the A14 which, when combined with the larger batteries inside the iPhone 13 range, is why the battery life is so much improved.
For the average user, the difference between the A14 and the A15 is purely academic. Yes, the A15 is faster and more efficient. But if all you’re doing with your iPhone is running a few apps, playing the odd game, and using it to make calls and send texts, this alone would not make the iPhone 13 worth upgrading to. The iPhone 12 is still a very powerful phone – even by 2022 standards.
Is The iPhone 13 Worth Upgrading To?
Bottom line? If you’re using the iPhone 12 now, hold onto it for another 12 months and wait for the iPhone 14. The iPhone 13 is a solid update, fixing many of the issues that plagued the iPhone 12 but it is not a major update. If you’re running an iPhone 11 or older, sure, upgrade. The iPhone 13 is a massive step forwards from these older models.
But if you have an iPhone 12, I’d hold on to it for another few months and wait for the iPhone 14.
- Apple's iPhone 13 Mini
- Apple's iPhone 13 Pro
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
If you miss the days of small iPhones, the iPhone 13 Mini will be right up your street. With its extremely pocketable dimensions, the iPhone 13 Mini packs in all the same specs and features as the iPhone 13, just in a much smaller chassis.
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If you want more performance and improved imaging, the iPhone 13 Pro is what you should be looking at. Featuring the most advanced camera system on the market, Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro is the perfect phone for users that demand the absolute best from their phones.
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It has the best camera, the best battery, one of the best screens ever put in a production phone, and it has the fastest chip on the market. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is by far and away the best phone you can buy now. Yes, it is expensive. But keep in mind that you’ll be able to comfortably run this phone for at least the next six to seven years without issue.
Here’s the complete changelog and update list for Apple’s iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models:
iPhone 13 Updates List
- iPhone 13 gets trickle-down updates from iPhone 12 Pro; it now runs the same 12-megapixel lens with an f/1.6 aperture as 2020’s iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 13’s new ultrawide camera also has a faster f/2.4 lens and 120-degree field of view, as well as sensor-shift stabilization technology.
- All iPhone 13 models feature Cinematic Mode; this technology will automatically transition focus in real-time which will make all the phones in the range better for shooting video. Apple used a parody of Knives Out to demonstrate how Cinematic Mode works.
- The iPhone 13 range features a smaller notch. The notch on the iPhone 13 is 20% smaller than it was before.
- iPhone 13 has better 5G performance than the iPhone 12. The iPhone 13’s connection to 5G networks is faster, according to Apple, and it will support more than 200 carriers in over 60 countries by the end of 2021.
- The iPhone 13 features Apple’s new A15 CPU. Apple says the new A15 chipset, while still a 5nm SoC, is 50% faster than its nearest competitor (the Snapdragon 888), although these claims have not been tested yet.
- The A15 chipset features two new high-performance cores and four new high-efficiency cores.
iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone Pro Max Updates List
- All of Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro models feature new 120Hz Super Retina XDR screens with improved brightness (up to 1000nits).
- The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are available in the following colors: graphite, gold, silver, and a new light blue.
- All three cameras have been updated inside the iPhone 13 Pro lineup; you have better low light performance, thanks to larger sensors, a wider aperture for the ultra-wide lens, and 3x zoom for the telephoto lens. Night Mode is now supported on all three lenses too.
- The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max now feature a new macro lens that’ll let you shoot objects from just 2cm away. All of Apple’s Pro models now feature sensor-shift optical image stabilization.
- The Pro models also get Cinematic mode but will also benefit from Apple’s new ProRes technology. You can film in 4K up to 30fps with the iPhone 13 Pro models and, with ProRes, a higher quality video format, you can then edit in more detail after footage has been filmed.
- All iPhone 13 Pro models get an extra tier of storage, 1TB – this is likely down to its use of ProRes.
- Apple has improved the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro’s battery life; the iPhone 13 Pro will last 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max will last 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Over on PAGE 2, you’ll find all the prelaunch rumors about how the iPhone 13 compares to the iPhone 12…
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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