It‘s that time of year again. Apple has released their latest and greatest pair of flagship phones, the iPhone 13 series. Many consumers now face the decision – do I upgrade to the iPhone 13, or save some money and go with last year‘s iPhone 12?
Both phones represent two of the most advanced iPhones Apple has engineered to date. In this detailed guide, we‘ll compare every aspect of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 to help you decide which one best fits your needs and budget. Read on to see how they stack up!
How Does the iPhone 13 Compare to its Predecessor, the iPhone 12?
First, let‘s briefly summarize what‘s new and improved in the iPhone 13 versus the previous generation iPhone 12:
- Faster A15 Bionic processor
- Longer battery life
- Camera upgrades like Cinematic Video mode, Photographic Styles, larger sensors
- Brighter OLED display
- Base storage bumped up to 128GB
- New pink, Sierra blue and green colors
Take a look at this high-level comparison of features and specs:
|iPhone 12||iPhone 13|
|Release Date||October 2020||September 2021|
|Chip||A14 Bionic||A15 Bionic|
|RAM||4GB LPDDR4||4GB LPDDR4X|
|Size||5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in||5.78 x 2.81 x 0.30 in|
|Rear Cameras||12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide||12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide|
|Front Camera||12MP TrueDepth||12MP TrueDepth|
|Battery Life||Up to 17 hrs video playback||Up to 19 hrs video playback|
|Display||6.1" OLED, 460 ppi||6.1" OLED, 460 ppi|
|5G||Sub‐6GHz||More 5G bands|
|Colors||Black, White, Blue, Green, Red||New Sierra Blue, Starlight, Pink|
|OS||iOS 14||iOS 15|
Now that we‘ve seen the upgrades, let‘s do a deep dive into the key differences and how they impact real-world use.
Detailed Comparison of Key Features and Specs
Processing Power and Performance
The iPhone 13 is powered by Apple‘s latest A15 Bionic processor, which benchmarks around 15% faster than the iPhone 12‘s A14 chip. What does this mean in reality?
For routine tasks like web browsing, email, messaging etc, you likely won‘t feel a huge speed boost. But the A15 gives the iPhone 13 some headroom for more demanding apps and games.
Specifically, the A15 Bionic contains nearly 16 billion transistors, a 6-core CPU, and a 4-core GPU. By comparison, the A14 Bionic chip has 11.8 billion transistors, a 6-core CPU, and a 4-core GPU.
While both are extremely fast, the extra transistors and GPU core gives the A15 a performance edge. As apps continue adding advanced features and graphics over time, the A15 ensures the iPhone 13 will keep up.
When it comes to benchmarks, the iPhone 13 scored around 1720 on single-core tests and 4620 on multi-core in Geekbench 5. Comparatively, the iPhone 12 scored around 1585 and 4100 respectively. So about a 10-15% bump for the iPhone 13.
For gaming, the 5-core GPU in the iPhone 13 Pro models gives them a leg up compared to the standard 4-core GPU in the iPhone 12 lineup. Games can render more detailed graphics and visual effects.
So in summary, expect slightly snappier response from the iPhone 13 for demanding apps and games thanks to the improved A15 Bionic silicon. But both processors are extremely powerful and will handle just about anything you throw at them.
Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 use OLED display panels with a 6.1" screen size and 460 pixels per inch density. This produces crisp, vibrant images and videos.
The iPhone 13 does have some display enhancements though. First, it can reach a peak brightness of 1200 nits, compared to 800 nits on the iPhone 12. This allows better visibility in very bright sunlight when using HDR content.
Apple also reduced the size of the front-facing camera notch by 20% on the iPhone 13. This doesn‘t add any usable screen space, but makes the notch less noticeable.
Lastly, the iPhone 13 gains some display optimizations and a higher refresh rate when using Apple Pencil for drawing/writing. For general use however, both displays look fantastic thanks to OLED and similar size/resolution specs.
The iPhone 12 was the first iPhone generation to include 5G network support. However, it was limited to slower sub-6Ghz 5G. The iPhone 13 expands 5G support to include the faster mmWave frequencies up to 3 Gbps.
More importantly, Apple increased the number of 5G radio bands supported. The iPhone 13 is compatible with over 200 carriers across 60 countries, up from the roughly 100 carriers/30 countries the iPhone 12 supported.
What does this mean? Your chances of getting 5G access are higher with the iPhone 13 when traveling internationally. And you‘re more likely to experience the fast speeds 5G promises as the infrastructure matures.
While both phones offer 5G, the iPhone 13‘s expanded band coverage significantly improves access and performance. If you want to get the most from 5G networks now and into the future, the iPhone 13 is the better choice.
One of the biggest pain points for many iPhone users is battery life. The good news is that Apple made big improvements in this area with the iPhone 13 lineup.
Let‘s look at the specific battery capacities:
|Model||iPhone 12 Battery||iPhone 13 Battery|
|Mini||2,227 mAh||2,438 mAh|
|Pro||2,815 mAh||3,095 mAh|
|Pro Max||3,687 mAh||4,352 mAh|
As you can see, Apple increased the battery size by double digit percentages on every iPhone 13 model compared to it‘s iPhone 12 equivalent.
In real world usage, this translates to roughly 1.5 to 2.5 more hours of battery life per charge depending on model. For example, the iPhone 13 Pro Max lasted an incredible 29 hours in video playback tests, up from 20 hours for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The table below summarizes Apple‘s estimated battery life stats by model:
|Video Playback (hrs)||Audio Playback (hrs)|
|iPhone 12 Mini||Up to 15||Up to 50|
|iPhone 13 Mini||Up to 17||Up to 55|
|iPhone 12 / 12 Pro||Up to 17||Up to 65|
|iPhone 13 / 13 Pro||Up to 19||Up to 75|
|iPhone 12 Pro Max||Up to 20||Up to 80|
|iPhone 13 Pro Max||Up to 29||Up to 95|
Across the board, the iPhone 13 lineup delivers substantially better battery life compared to previous generation models. For power users especially, this can be the difference between needing to recharge mid-day versus lasting until bedtime.
The iPhone lineup has long been known for having some of the most advanced smartphone cameras on the market. The iPhone 13 continues this tradition with several upgrades over its predecessor.
At first glance, both phones have dual 12MP camera arrays with one wide angle and one ultra-wide lens. However, Apple upgraded the Wide camera on the iPhone 13 with a larger sensor and wider ƒ/1.6 aperture.
This enables the main camera to capture much more light (up to 47% more according to Apple), resulting in better low light performance.
For video, the iPhone 13 cameras gain some major new capabilities:
- Cinematic mode shoots in depth-of-field portrait style and can automatically shift focus between subjects
- 4K video at up to 60 fps (up from 30 fps on iPhone 12)
- Dolby Vision HDR captures up to 60X greater dynamic range
Apple also added Photographic Styles to the iPhone 13 – a feature that uses on-device intelligence to apply color/contrast filters to match personal taste. Styles customize the look while still preserving skin tones accurately.
While the iPhone 12 has excellent cameras, the iPhone 13 takes images and videos to the next level. Between the hardware sensor upgrades and new computational photography features, the iPhone 13 certainly outshines its predecessor when it comes to mobile creative capabilities.
With modern smartphone apps and media continually growing in file size, having enough built-in storage is important. Here‘s how the storage tiers compare between models:
- iPhone 12: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
- iPhone 13: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
The entry level storage got a healthy bump from 64GB on iPhone 12 to 128GB on the iPhone 13. Power users will appreciate the new 512GB option for storing tons of photos, videos, music and apps.
According to Apple, the average iOS app size is now around 150MB. So the higher 128GB base storage provides room for plenty more apps compared to 64GB. For many users, it reduces the need to pay for iCloud storage or delete apps/media to free space.
Pricing and Availability
One thing to consider – since the iPhone 13 is newer, deals and discounts are less common compared to the iPhone 12. Here‘s how pricing breaks down for the base models:
- iPhone 12 Mini – $599 (64GB)
- iPhone 12 – $699 (64GB)
- iPhone 13 Mini – $699 (128GB)
- iPhone 13 – $799 (128GB)
However, when you compare the 128GB variants, the price difference is only $50:
- iPhone 12 (128GB) – $749
- iPhone 13 (128GB) – $799
The iPhone 12 is a better value if you can find it brand new for around $599 (64GB). But expect to pay around the same price or slightly more than the iPhone 13 at 128GB, which most users will prefer for the added storage.
Availability can also come into play. Since Apple has discontinued the iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max, deals on the remaining iPhone 12/Mini stock are more likely. But supply is dwindling.
For the latest and greatest iPhone experience with the full warranty, the iPhone 13 models are recommended. But if you can get a great deal and don‘t mind the older model, iPhone 12 is still a strong option.
The Bottom Line – Which is the Best iPhone for You?
So in summary – should you opt for the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13? Here are some guidelines:
Get the iPhone 13 if:
- Battery life is your top priority – huge improvements here
- You take lots of photos/videos and want the latest camera hardware/features
- You care about having the fastest cellular speeds and broadest 5G coverage
- You want the most future-proofed iPhone that will last for 3+ years
The iPhone 12 is still a great choice if:
- You can find it substantially discounted/refurbished in good condition
- Don‘t need the extra camera capabilities or battery life
- You primarily use your phone for basic apps like social, web, messaging, maps
- Want to save some money – especially on lower 64GB capacity
For most buyers today, the iPhone 13 is worth the investment for the longer battery life, enhanced cameras and future-proofed performance. But bargain hunters can still do well with the iPhone 12 as long as they don‘t need the latest bells and whistles.
Hopefully this detailed breakdown has helped you decide whether to go with Apple‘s newest iPhone 13 or the previous generation iPhone 12. Either way, you have two excellent options for your next iPhone upgrade!