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iPhone 13 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro: Is the latest premium iPhone worth it?

Updated Oct 14th, 2021 12:35PM EDT
iPhone 13 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the iPhone 13 series, comprising of the iPhone 13, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 Pro in particular has gotten a pretty spectacular update, getting the camera tech that was previously only on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, along with a high refresh rate display.

But just how much better is the iPhone 13 Pro compared to the iPhone 12 Pro? And should you upgrade to the latest model if you already have the iPhone 12 Pro? We put the two phones head to head to find out. Note, we’re focusing on the iPhone 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max in this story. You can see our comparison between the regular iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 here.

Design and display

iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max: Design and color options. Image source: Apple Inc.

The basic shape and look of the iPhone changed pretty massively with the iPhone 12 Pro, and as such, we were never expecting the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max to get any major design changes. But they do get a few. For starters, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max have a much larger camera module, which is aimed at accommodating the new camera tech in the phones.

The iPhone 13 Pro devices also have a smaller notch than those in the iPhone 12 series. It’s not the notch-less iPhone that we’ve been looking forward to, but it’s a step in the right direction. And, the new iPhones come in new colors — including a beautiful new Sierra Blue model.

The display on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max is also getting a major upgrade. Apple is finally bringing a high refresh rate to an iPhone. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max get a ProMotion display with a variable refresh rate that adjusts based on what you’re doing. This should make for a much more responsive feel and smooth animations overall. The newer display also offers a 1,000-nit typical max brightness, over the 800-nit brightness on the iPhone 12 Pro.

Specs and performance

Apple iPhone 12 Pro BackImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

As is the tradition for new iPhone models, the iPhone 13 Pro also offers Apple’s latest and greatest mobile processor, the A15 Bionic. The new chip is still based on a 5nm process, but it should still offer a decent performance boost over the A14 Bionic last year. Apple says the new chip will deliver 15 trillion operations per second — up from 11 trillion from last year. The new chip also has a 5-core GPU, which should help improve graphics performance.

While the iPhone 13 Pro will offer better performance than the iPhone 12 Pro, in reality, both phones will easily handle everything you can throw at them.

The latest iPhones get another storage option too. The iPhone 12 Pro comes in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options, while the iPhone 13 Pro adds a 1TB option.

Battery life and charging

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Lightning Port
iPhone 12 Pro’s Lightning charging port. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

All iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 models support fast charging, Qi wireless charging, and MagSafe charging. In other words, they’re pretty versatile in terms of charging capabilities.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, however, do have a larger battery, and despite the high refresh rate display, should last longer on a single charge. According to Apple, the iPhone 13 Pro will deliver up to 22 hours of video playback — which seriously beats the 17 hours on offer by the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 13 Pro Max reaches 28 hours, up from 20 hours on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That’s a pretty impressive improvement.


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

While the iPhone 12 Pro Max offered a better camera than the standard iPhone 12 Pro, that’s not true for the iPhone 13 series. Now, you can choose your phone based on the size alone.

Like last generation, the iPhone 13 Pro offers a triple camera setup, with a 12-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera. On the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, that telephoto camera offers 3x optical zoom, instead of the 2x on iPhone 12 Pro, and 2.5x on iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Both iPhone 13 Pro models have the sensor-shift stabilization tech from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. They also have a wider aperture on the main and ultrawide cameras, and support for the new Photographic Styles feature, which is essentially an AI-based filter system. And, you’ll get support for Apple’s new Cinematic Mode, which allows you to adjust focus between subjects while filming video. Lastly, you’ll get support for Apple’s ProRes format.

Safe to say, while the camera on the iPhone 12 series is great, there are some serious improvements on offer by the iPhone 13 series.


The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max definitely offer upgrades over the last generation. On the iPhone 13, you’ll get that stunning ProMotion display, along with better performance, some serious camera upgrades, and better battery life. Nothing here is really radical — but it all adds up to a much better experience overall.

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

While the iPhone 13 Pro definitely represents an upgrade over the iPhone 12 Pro, it’s probably not quite an upgrade to take advantage of if you already have an iPhone 12 Pro. By all means, if you have money to throw around, you’ll love the new features — but otherwise, it’s worth holding off another year.

That story changes if you have an older phone. If you have an iPhone 11 or older and can afford a new phone, it’s absolutely worth buying the iPhone 13 Pro or 13 Pro Max. They’re excellent phones that offer the best iPhone experience to date.

Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.