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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Updated 3 months ago
Published Jul 30th, 2022 1:34PM EDT
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best iPhone Apple has ever released, thanks to its upgraded camera system, huge screen, and excellent performance. It’s definitely a step up over the iPhone 12 Pro Max — that much is obvious. But just how much better is it? If you can find a discounted iPhone 12 Pro Max, should you get it instead of paying the extra cash for the iPhone 13 Pro Max?

We’ve put together this guide to help you make that decision. It’s the battle of the big-screen iPhones. Here are the real differences between the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max, along with which of those differences should actually matter to you.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max specs

iPhone 13 Pro MaxiPhone 12 Pro Max
Dimensions6.33 x 3.07 x 0.30 inches6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
Weight8.47 ounces8.04 ounces
Display size6.7 inches6.7 inches
Display typeSuper Retina XDR OLEDSuper Retina XDR OLED
Display resolution1,284 x 2,778 (458 pixels-per-inch)1,284 x 2,778 (458 pixels-per-inch)
Display refresh rate120Hz60Hz
Display brightness1200 nits peak1200 nits peak
ChipsetApple A15 BionicApple A14 Bionic
RAM6GB6GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear camera12MP f/1.5 main, 12MP f/2.8 telephoto, 12MP f/1.8 ultrawide12MP f/1.6 main, 12MP f/2.2 telephoto, 12MP f/2.4 ultrawide
Video4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 frames per second4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 frames per second
Front camera12MP f/2.212MP f/2.2
Battery4,352mAh3,687mAh
Charging27W fast charging, 15W MagSafe charging, 7.5W Qi wireless charging22W fast charging, 15W MagSafe charging, 7.5W Qi wireless charging
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
ColorsGraphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra BlueGraphite Gold, Silver, Pacific Blue

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max in a nutshell

Apple iPhone 13 ProImage source: Apple
  • Nearly identical design and styling,
  • Newer model is a bit thicker and heavier
  • Brighter screen on the newer model
  • Same 6.7″ screen size
  • 120Hz ProMotion display vs 60Hz
  • Notch is 20% smaller
  • Faster Apple A15 Bionic chip vs Apple A14 Bionic chip on older model
  • Big improvement in battery life: lasts 2.5 hours longer than older model on average
  • New cameras, bigger sensors, and faster aperture
  • 3X optical zoom on the iPhone 13 Pro Max vs 2.5X on 12 Pro Max
  • ProRes video recording on the newer model
  • New Sierra Blue color option

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max design

iPhone 13 Pro Front
iPhone 13 Pro Front Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

At first glance, it’s really hard to spot any differences between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. They both sport the same industrial, flat-edged design reminiscent of the iPhone 5 era.

They have almost the same dimensions, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max is slightly thicker by an almost unnoticeable 0.3mm. The dimensions of the iPhone 13 Pro Max are 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7 mm (6.33 x 3.07 x 0.30 in). The dimensions of the iPhone 12 Pro Max are 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm (6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 in).

The iPhone 13 Pro max is also heavier as it weighs 238g, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max weighs 226g. The iPhone 12 Pro Max was quite heavy at 226g, so this extra weight might be an issue for some users. Both phones are also made from surgical-grade stainless steel and use Apple’s Ceramic Shield toughened glass on the front. The iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max both have sapphire cover glass for the camera lenses for increased scratch protection.

A closer look reveals that the iPhone 13 Pro max has a notch that’s 20% smaller in size than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This provides a bit more screen real estate, but this doesn’t make that much of a difference for most apps.

Rear camera setup

iPhone 12 Pro and 13 ProImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Another difference here is that the rear camera setup on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is noticeably larger than that of its predecessor. The lenses on the iPhone 13 Pro Max are bigger, and the camera bump protrudes farther than that on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, the appearance of the rear cameras remains relatively unchanged. The problem is that phones tend to wobble haphazardly when placed on a flat surface.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max share an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. This means they are water resistant at a maximum depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes. Note that pool water doesn’t count as the chemicals used in treating the water might corrode the water-resistant seal around the phone.

iPhone 13 Pro Camera ComparisonImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The Pro models in the iPhone 13 lineup also come in an exciting new color — Sierra Blue. The other color options remain unchanged and are quite conservative. The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes in Alpine Green, Gold, Graphite, Silver, and Sierra Blue variants.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: display

An iPhone 13 Pro on a table next to Apple AirPodsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Although the iPhone 13 Pro Max features the same 6.7-inch screen and 1284 x 2778 resolution as its predecessor, there’s a significant display upgrade between both. Apple finally introduced 120Hz ProMotion for super smooth scrolling on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was rumored that the iPhone 12 lineup was going to have this feature, but we got a 60Hz screen instead.

Although the difference is subtle, scrolling on 120Hz displays feels smoother and more responsive. The iPhone 13 Pro Max display has variable refresh rates ranging from 10Hz to 120Hz. The variable refresh rates may also have a positive effect on battery life. ProMotion makes it possible to serve content in its native refresh rate for more accurate motion.

The newer model has a brighter display with a maximum ‘typical’ brightness of 1000 nits, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max could only go up to 800 nits. This makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max easier to use outdoors. The maximum brightness for HDR highlights remains unchanged at 1200 nits.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max specs and performance

Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the fastest iPhone ever made. Apple upgrades the chipset in the iPhone every year, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is no different. The Apple A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 Pro Max is extremely powerful, and frankly, more than enough for everything you can throw at it in 2022. The Apple A15 Bionic, however, is even more powerful. You won’t notice much of a difference now, but you may in five or six years when the phone starts to slow down, and Apple starts to end support for current-generation models. The Apple A15 bionic chip is well ahead of its counterparts. No non-Apple smartphone processor comes close to the A15 bionic when it comes to speed and power.

New chip, more power

Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The A15 bionic has a new 6-core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores. These are said to be 50 percent faster than competitors. The new GPU is reportedly 30 percent faster than competitors. The new 16-core neural engine enhances machine learning capabilities. Both chips are built on 5nm technology, but the A15 bionic features more transistors and a wider cache. It also gets improvements in CPU, GPU & AI performance and brings very crucial camera ISP enhancements.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max have the same RAM size of 6GB. That said, both phones will be more than powerful enough for gaming, productivity, and more. Perhaps the biggest difference in specifications comes in the form of storage. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max only offers up to 512GB of storage, the newer phone has up to 1TB. Most won’t buy the top storage option anyway, but power users should consider going for the 13 Pro Max.

Battery life and charging

iPhone 13 Pro Lightning Port Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is Apple’s biggest update to the iPhone’s battery life yet. Remember when we mentioned that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a little thicker than the 12 Pro Max? The result of that is that the device offers a much better battery life. This is thanks to a bigger battery, more efficient processor, and ProMotion display in the iPhone 13 Pro max.

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max offers up to 28 hours of video playback, 25 hours of video playback, and 95 hours of audio playback. In contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers 20 hours of video playback, 12 hours of streamed video playback, and 80 hours of audio playback.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max can charge that battery a little fast, too — but not much. The newer phone offers fast charging at up to 27W, which is a little faster than 22W on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Most won’t actually take advantage of that faster charging, and they both still charge wireless through Qi at up to 7.5W or MagSafe at up to 15W.

Cameras

iPhone 12 Pro and 13 Pro. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Then there’s the camera, and it’s perhaps the biggest difference between the two phones. To be clear, both phones offer excellent cameras — but the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera is that extra bit better.

Although the appearance of the rear camera setup seems the same on both iPhones, the cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro Max are bigger. This is due to larger sensors being used in the cameras of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Both phones have a triple camera array, with three 12-megapixel cameras, including one main camera, one ultrawide, and one telephoto camera. But the latest phone steps things up a little, thanks to the fact that it has a larger main sensor, a wider aperture on the main and ultrawide sensors, and better image processing.

iPhone 12 Pro Max camera

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The main wide camera on the iPhone 13 Pro Max has an f/1.5 aperture versus the f/1.8 aperture on it’s predecessor. The ultra-wide camera on the 13 Pro Max has an f/1.8 aperture versus the f/2.4 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. In contrast, the telephoto camera on the iPhone 13 Pro Max has 3x optical zoom, versus 2.5x on the 12 Pro Max.

Here’s the full list of iPhone 12 Pro Max camera features:

  • Pro 12MP camera system (Telephoto, Wide and Ultra Wide cameras)
  • Telephoto lens: ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Wide lens: ƒ/1.6 aperture
  • Ultra Wide lens: ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Night mode
  • Deep Fusion
  • Apple ProRAW
  • Sensor-shift optical image stabilization
  • 2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 5x optical zoom range
  • Digital zoom up to 12x
  • True Tone flash with slow sync
  • Night mode portraits
  • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
  • Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono and High‑Key Mono)
  • Smart HDR 3 for photos

iPhone 13 Pro Max

Here’s the full list of iPhone 13 Pro Max camera features:

  • Pro 12MP camera system (Telephoto, Wide and Ultra Wide cameras)
  • Telephoto lens: ƒ/2.8 aperture
  • Wide lens: ƒ/1.5 aperture
  • Ultra Wide lens: ƒ/1.8 aperture
  • Night mode
  • Deep Fusion
  • Apple ProRAW
  • Sensor-shift optical image stabilization
  • 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 6x optical zoom range
  • Digital zoom up to 15x
  • True Tone flash with slow sync
  • Night mode portraits
  • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
  • Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono and High‑Key Mono)
  • Smart HDR 4 for photos
  • Photographic Styles
  • Macro photography

Newer iPhone, better pictures

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s cameras house the largest sensor ever used in an iPhone. The main camera on the 13 Pro Max features a 1/1.65″ sensor vs a 1/1.9″ sensor on the 12 Pro Max. Thanks to this, the main camera now captures up to 2.2x more light for both photos and videos. The ultra-wide camera captures 92% more light. This means shots taken in low-light settings will come out better on the iPhone 13 Pro Max compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Users can now capture macro shots on the 13 Pro Max thanks to the new auto-focus system used in the ultra wide camera. This allows you take pictures of subjects as little as 2cm away. This feature is applicable to video recordings too.

Cinematic mode

The iPhone 13 Pro Max also has improved features when it comes to video recording. It features Cinematic mode for recording videos with shallow depth of field (1080p at 30 fps). Cinematic mode has a rack focus and manual focus feature that adds a more professional quality to your shots. You can also change the focus of a previous recording which is pretty impressive.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max features ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 128GB capacity). Another new feature is Photographic Styles. This feature allows you to work on edits in real time and see the results in the view finder. You can configure your iPhone to remember your personal preference and apply across all photos.

Both the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 Pro Max come with a LiDAR scanner. The main use of this is for Augmented Reality. It’s also useful in capturing Night Mode portraits faster. However, Apple is yet to maximize the full potential of this feature. If you care about camera quality, you’ll love either of these phones. But if you won’t settle for anything less than the best, then go for the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Price

In the U.S and Australia, the iPhone 13 Pro Max launched at the same starting price as its predecessor. The UK starting prices are 50 euros cheaper. The iPhone 12 Pro Max launched at $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$1,849 for 128GB of storage, and $1,199 / £1,199 / AU$2,019 for 256GB, up to $1,399 / £1,399 / AU$2,369 for 512GB. The 1TB version of the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a starting price of $1,599.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
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iPhone 13 Pro Max: Pros and cons

Pros

  • Amazing battery life
  • Super bright display with great colors
  • Fastest performance of any phone
  • Improved camera
  • Best video quality of any phone

Cons

  • Lacks super fast charging
  • Quite heavy
  • Cinematic Mode needs some more polish
  • Still sports a lightning port instead of an upgrade to USB-C

iPhone 12 Pro Max: Pros and cons

  • Largest, toughest display on an iPhone yet
  • Great camera system
  • Double the base storage of its predecessor
  • Futureproof 5G support with bands record
  • Best water-resistance on a general purpose phone

Cons

  • Static 60Hz display refresh rate
  • Quite heavy compared to its peers
  • Costs $599 to repair the body if you crack the rear
  • No power adapter in the box.
  • It doesn’t support super fast charging

As you can see, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is easily a better phone. It has a better battery, a better camera, a better display, and a faster processor. But all of those things, except perhaps the battery, are only moderately better — and if you stand to save a ton of money by getting a discounted or used iPhone 12 Pro Max, then you’ll still be extremely happy with it.

FAQs

Should I buy the iPhone 13 Pro Max or the iPhone 12 Pro Max?

If you really want the best, go for the latest phone. But if you’re happy saving some cash, you’ll be more than happy with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

What is the difference between 13 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max?

There are a number of differences between the iPhone 13 Pro max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 13 Pro Max features a better camera system, improved battery life, and a faster processor.

Is iPhone 13 better than 12 Pro Max?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is overall a better phone than the iPhone 13. The only feature that the iPhone 13 has, which is lacking in the 12 Pro Max, is Apple’s A14 Bionic chip.

Is it worth upgrading from the 12 Pro Max to the 13 Pro Max?

Yes, it’s totally worth it upgrading from the 12 Pro Max to the 13 Pro Max. This is largely dependent on your preferences when it comes to phones. But, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is definitely a worthy upgrade.

Is the 12 Pro Max and 13 Pro Max the same size?

The dimensions of the iPhone 13 Pro max and the 12 Pro Max are almost identical. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is thicker, but this is practically unnoticeable. Both phones feature 6.7-inch screens. However, iPhone 13 Pro Max is heavier than its predecessor.

Is the 13 Pro Max too big?

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has almost the same dimensions as the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Anyone who has used the latter won’t have an issue with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you prefer smaller phones, consider purchasing other iPhone models in the iPhone 13 lineup.

Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra, Australia, where he lived until the age of 14. After his father got a job in Paris, France, Christian lived there for five years, after which he moved to Minnesota for college. During college, Christian developed a passion for consumer technology by writing for tech blogs. Christian now lives in sunny Santa Cruz, California.