Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the iPhone 13 series, boasting the best performance in an iPhone ever, along with a range of awesome new features. The iPhone 13 series may not offer a radical redesign over the iPhone 12, but it certainly does still represent an upgrade over last year’s models.
But which iPhone should you buy? The iPhone 13 or the iPhone 12? Like last year, there are four iPhone 13 models available — the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. In this guide, we’re only going to focus on the standard iPhone 13/13 Mini and iPhone 12/12 Mini, but we’ll have other guides for other models.
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iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 design and display
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 offer more or less the same design, with flat edges and a large square camera module on the back. It’s a good look, and still modern and relevant.
While the overall look of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 is the same, there are a few design differences. The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini offer a diagonally aligned camera module instead of a vertically aligned one, though it doesn’t really make a huge difference. Perhaps the one difference that does make a difference is the smaller notch. According to Apple, the notch is 20% smaller.
Unlike the iPhone 13 Pro, the standard iPhone 13 and 13 Mini do not have a ProMotion display. The display experience on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 is more or less the same. Displays are OLED, with a 476 pixels-per-inch resolution, and support for True Tone technology. The one difference is the fact that the iPhone 13 offers an 800-nit typical max brightness, compared to 625 nits on the iPhone 12. That may come in handy, but it’s hardly a major upgrade.
The iPhone 13 is slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 — but it likely won’t be very noticeable, and it helps give the iPhone 13 a larger battery, which is nice.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 specs and performance
As is always the case, Apple added a new processor to the iPhone 13 series, and the result is that the newer devices are a little more powerful. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini offer Apple’s A15 Bionic, up from the A14 Bionic on the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini. The chip is still built on a 5nm process, but Apple says it can handle a hefty 15.8 trillion operations per second, versus the 11 trillion on the iPhone 12 series.
Honestly, the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini will still be more than powerful enough for most. We’ll have to wait and see just how much of an impact the newer chip has, but both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 will be very capable.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini offer improved storage options too. While the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini offer options of 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB, the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini come in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 battery life and charging
Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 offer fast charging through the Lightning port, Qi wireless charging, and support for Apple’s MagSafe. But Apple has focused on battery life for the newer devices. The iPhone 12 Mini offers up to 15 hours of video playback, while the iPhone 13 Mini gets up to 17 hours. The standard iPhone 12 offers up to 17 hours, while the iPhone 13 gets up to 19 hours.
We’ll have to wait and see just how much of an impact the improved battery life has on day-to-day use.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 cameras
The cameras have gotten some solid improvements too. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 devices still all offer a dual-camera setup, including a 12-megapixel main camera with an f/1.6 aperture and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera with an f/2.4 aperture.
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini, however, add Apple’s sensor-shift optical image stabilization tech, which was previously only available on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That should make for more detailed images with better low-light photography. According to Apple, the cameras on the iPhone 13 can capture 47% more light.
The new devices support some great software features as well. The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini support Apple’s new Cinematic mode, which allows you to more easily shift focus between subjects. And, they support Photography Styles, which is basically an AI-based filter system. These features are supported by the front-facing camera, too.
The iPhone 13 is an improvement over the iPhone 12, with a faster processor, better camera, and longer battery life. But it’s not a major improvement. It refines what was already an excellent phone, and ultimately, if you’re in the market for a new phone, the iPhone 13 is worth considering.
Should I buy the iPhone 13 or iPhone 12?
If you already have an iPhone 12 or 12 Mini, it’s not really worth upgrading to the iPhone 13 or 13 Mini. There are improvements, but they won’t have a massive impact on day-to-day life. If, however, you have an older phone, it’s worth considering an upgrade, as you’ll get better performance and a much better camera.