iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: which should you buy?

iPhone 13
(Image credit: Apple)

It’s been 14 crazy years since Steve Jobs graced the stage with his formidable presence and introduced the world to the phone that would change the face of tech forever. Today, the much-leaked iPhone 13 is official, having made its debut at Apple’s live-streamed launch event on 14th September

As usual, some things are similar, while others are shiny and new, looking to tempt you away from last year’s model. There’s a lot to cover, so we’ve rounded up all the key differences between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 models to help you decide which you should buy and if the new iPhone 13 is worth upgrading to. And if you're after something a little bigger, you can always check out our iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max guide.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: price 

The iPhone 13 models are landing at almost the exact same launch prices as their iPhone 12 counterparts, namely: 

iPhone 13 mini: $699 / £679 / AU$1199

iPhone 13: $799 / £779 / AU$1349

iPhone 13 Pro: $999 / £949  / AU$1699

The US prices remain identical to the launch prices of the iPhone 12 models, while the UK prices are a little cheaper (read: £20 less) across the board.

All iPhone 13 models can be pre-ordered from 17th September, ahead of their 24th September release date.

 iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: design 

iPhone 13

(Image credit: Apple)

At first glance you’d be hard pressed to find an immediate difference between the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 12. Peek a bit closer though, and a few changes become apparent. 

Flip the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini models around, for example, and you’ll notice that there’s a new diagonal rear dual camera layout compared to the straight one of their iPhone 12 siblings. Apple has also opted for more sustainable design choices, such as plastic antenna lines made from recycled bottles. 

In terms of colours, the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini will be available in Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight and Product Red, while the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are offered in more subdued hues.

There's no radical redesign then, but given how handsome the iPhone 12 family is, you won't feel like you're carting around an ugly phone by any means.

 iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: screen 

Apple iPhone 13 screen

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini don't have the fancy new 120HZ refresh rate screens of the 13 Pro and Pro Max. Instead, they keep the same iPhone 12-matching 60Hz screens, which is a little disappointing, as a faster refresh rate would make things feel slicker and smoother.

On the physical design front, the iPhone 13 still hasn’t managed to ditch the notch — it’s still there to make space for the fancy Face ID tech above — although it is noticeably smaller in this latest iteration (around 20 per cent in fact).

Size-wise, the iPhone 13 retains the same dimensions and resolution as the iPhone 12, though there are some positive changes. The advanced Super Retina XDR OLED display on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini is now 28 per cent brighter while being more power efficient to boot.

 iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: power 

iPhone 13 A15 Bionic CPU

(Image credit: Apple)

Surprise surprise, the iPhone 13 models are the fastest iPhones ever made, thanks to Apple's all-new A15 Bionic processor. No other smartphone processor has managed to catch up with Apple's offerings, and it brings a few new features and performance hikes compared to the A14 chip in the iPhone 12.

For starters, there's a new 6-core CPU with two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, making it 50 per cent faster than the competition, with a new GPU that's 30 per cent faster than rivals. The new 16-core Neural Engine makes for even faster machine learning smarts, such as the new Live Text in Camera feature found in iOS 15, and the new 3D Maps navigation feature.

Impressive? You bet, but the fact that comparisons were made between the competition as opposed to the previous generation iPhone suggests that it might not be as gigantic a leap in processing power. Still, it's definitely more efficient, and you can't argue with raw specs — the iPhone 13 is definitely more powerful than the iPhone 12.

 iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: camera 

Apple iPhone 13 Cinematic Mode

(Image credit: Apple)

Like the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 has a dual-camera setup, with a 12MP wide camera and 12MP ultra wide camera. The new wide angle camera is however powered by a new sensor, with improved low light performance compared to the iPhone 12, with 47 per cent more light being utilised thanks to its larger 1.7µm pixels. It's the largest sensor ever to feature on a dual-camera iPhone, and we're looking forward to putting it through its paces. The new ultra-wide sensor has also been upgraded for improved low light performance, though not to the same extent as the main wide camera.

The wide-angle camera also has the same sensor-shift optical image stabilisation previously featured on the Pro Max. It works by stabilising the sensor as opposed to the lens, which should make for crisper, cleaner shots, even with slightly wobbly hands.

There are a few improvements on the video front too, with the iPhone 13 now supporting 4K HDR recording with Dolby Vision up to 60fps, vs the iPhone 12's 30fps offering. There's also a new Dolby Vision HDR Cinematic Mode which should be a genuinely exciting addition for budding videographers thanks to its object and people tracking, along with a rack focus feature for greater cinematic effects.

 iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: battery 

Apple iPhone 13 front and back

(Image credit: Apple)

Good news for range anxiety sufferers — the iPhone 13 models all have larger batteries than their iPhone 12 predecessors which, combined with the newer, more efficient A15 Bionic processor and general improvements in hardware and software integration, mean the iPhone 13 has better battery life than the iPhone 12 across the board.

Thanks to these improvements, the iPhone 13 looks set to last two and a half hours longer than the iPhone 12 counterparts, while the iPhone 13 mini should last an hour and a half longer than its predecessor.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: verdict

iPhone 13 camera

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 isn't a revolution, and after 14 years of iPhones, it couldn't possibly be (without something as drastic as a folding screen, that is). Still, it's a solid improvement across the board, which suggests that the overall experience and performance will beat its iPhone 12 predecessor.

Still, you can’t review a phone on specs alone, so while the iPhone 13 appears to have an early edge, you'll have to stay tuned for our full review for the final word.


Want something a little bigger? iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max guide

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Esat Dedezade
Freelance contributor