You’re probably reading these words because you typed iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max into Google, along with something like “what’s the difference?”, or “which is better?” Or maybe you didn’t. Either way, it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask, and you’re here because you want to know if it’s worth upgrading from your iPhone 12 Pro Max to Apple’s slightly newer model.
Both are old now that the iPhone 14 range is here, and both are likely to be discounted significantly in light of the newer iPhone family. So which is the better bet?
There’s plenty to cover, so without further ado, let’s dive straight into the showdown.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: price
The iPhone 13 Pro Max launched at the exact same price as the iPhone 12 Pro Max did last year in both the US and Australia, while UK launch prices were £50 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. Note that unlike the newer iPhone 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro Max didn't have a 1TB model.
In comparison the iPhone 13 Pro Max prices can be viewed below.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||UK||US||Australia|
|iPhone 13 Pro Max 128GB||£1,049||$1,099||AU$1,849|
|iPhone 13 Pro Max 256GB||£1,149||$1,199||AU$2,019|
|iPhone 13 Pro Max 512GB||£1,349||$1,399||AU$2,369|
|iPhone 13 Pro Max 1TB||£1,549||$1,599||AU$2,719|
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: at a glance
- Near-identical looks. iPhone 13 Pro Max thicker, heavier, new Sierra Blue colour
- 20 per cent smaller notch on iPhone 13 Pro Max
- 13 Pro Max has a 120Hz ProMotion display vs 60Hz on the 12 Pro Max
- Pro Max has updated cameras with faster aperture, 3x zoom
- New Cinematic Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Faster Apple A15 Bionic processor on the 13 Pro Max
- Battery life is up to two and a half hours longer on the iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: design
You might be hard pressed to spot the difference between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and its predecessor. After all, the overall stainless steel design is essentially the same, and they’re almost exactly the same dimensions too, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max measuring in at a practically imperceptible 0.3mm thicker, and slightly heavier at 240g versus the 228g weight of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Look a bit closer though, and you’ll notice a few differences, like the fact that the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a slightly narrower (20 per cent narrower, to be specific) screen notch. While both share the same Gold, Silver and Graphite colours, the iPhone 13 Pro Max introduces a new shade, Sierra Blue, which is noticeably lighter than the dark Pacific Blue option for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: screen
We’ve already covered the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s smaller notch, but there’s an even more important difference between the two OLED screens under the hood. While the iPhone 13 Pro Max has the same 6.7-inch screen size and 1284 x 2778 resolution, it trounces the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 60Hz refresh rate with a 120Hz screen.
The main thing you’ll notice is a difference in smoothness when scrolling, and while not a total game-changing improvement, it’s the sort of subtle feature you won’t want to give up if you’ve become accustomed to it.
Beyond the faster refresh rate, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also has Apple’s ProMotion feature, which means it can adjust its refresh from 120Hz to as low as 10Hz, depending on what you’re using your phone for. This prevents any extra battery from being used up on a faster refresh rate for no reason (e.g. if you’re simply reading static text).
Another key difference is the brightness, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max offering a 28 per cent brighter display, which makes for better visibility outdoors on sunny days.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: camera
The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with some noticeable camera changes. For starters the main wide camera has an f/1.5 aperture on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, versus the f/1.8 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The ultra-wide camera on the 13 Pro Max has an f/1.8 aperture versus its predecessor's f/2.4 camera, while the telephoto camera on the iPhone 13 Pro Max has 3x optical zoom, versus 2.5x on the 12 Pro Max.
More exciting perhaps is the fact that thanks to its larger sensor, the 13 Pro Max’s main camera now captures up to 2.2x more light for both photos and videos, while the ultra-wide camera sucks in a whopping 92 per cent more light. This means that low-light shots are noticeably better on the newer iPhone 13 Pro Max compared to the 12 Pro Max. Not only that, but you can also capture macro shots on the 13 Pro Max thanks to the ultra-wide camera’s new auto-focus system that lets you capture subjects just 2cm away.
There are noticeable improvements with video too, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max featuring a Cinematic Mode that has a rack focus and manual focus feature that adds a more professional quality to your shots. You can, impressively, also change the focus of a previous recording, which could be game-changing for mobile creators, though will probably be an underused feature for the average casual user.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: power
It’s no surprise to hear that the iPhone 13 Pro Max (along with its mini, 13, and 13 Pro siblings) was – at time of launch – the fastest iPhone ever made, not to mention the most powerful smartphone in the world when it comes to raw specs.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max's A15 Bionic chip boasts a six-core CPU and four high-efficiency cores which were 50 per cent faster than the competition at time of launch, while the new GPU was 30 per cent faster than rivals. A 16-core Neural Engine also means that machine learning skills are boosted too, unlocking iOS features like Live Text in Camera and a 3D Maps navigation feature.
Compared to the likes of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s A14 Bionic processor, the gap is less, and while the newer handset obviously wins out on raw power, you could happily use the iPhone 12 Pro Max without feeling that you’re short of power.
While both handsets come with 6GB and 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also has a gargantuan high-end 1TB variant for media hoarders and power users.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: battery life
The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a slightly larger battery than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Coupled with software optimisations and the ProMotion display, it will last up to two and a half hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is a decent increase in longevity.
Charging speed, however, remains the same, with both handsets offering 20W fast charging which should boost you up to 50 per cent in around half an hour.
iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: verdict
In every category, the iPhone 13 Pro Max comes out on top.
That isn’t however, suggesting that every iPhone 12 Pro Max owner has to upgrade. This is definitely an evolutionary update as opposed to something brand spanking new. The design is more or less identical, and while the 120Hz screen is certainly a nice feature, it might not be worth the upgrade in itself.
If you’re a casual photographer who tends to stick to daylight shots then you can probably stick to your guns for another year at least. If, however, you take lots of low light shots and/or are an avid videographer, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera upgrades will be mightily tempting – especially with the improved battery life.
What is a 120Hz smartphone display and should you want one?
Get the full lowdown: everything you need to know about the new iPad (2022)
We've rounded up the best smartphones