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iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: how do Apple’s most powerful phones compare?

As Apple reveals the latest iPhone, we're crunching the numbers on iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12. Which is the best value and which should you buy?

iPhone 13 colours

Every time Apple releases a new phone, it’s huge news, and the iPhone 13 is no exception. The rumour mill surrounding a potential iPhone 13 release date was in full swing ahead of this week’s much anticipated Apple event, but one key question remains. Right now, with the new phone revealed, which should you buy? The iPhone 13 or the iPhone 12?

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Of course, the iPhone 13 is the more cutting edge handset. With improved specs and new features, it’s the more ‘future proof’ option. However, we gave the older phone a commendable four and a half stars in our full iPhone 12 review, and with iPhone 13 pre-orders now live, we can expect to see some appetising Black Friday iPhone deals for the older handset in the coming months, as Apple’s new flagship takes over. 

A large part of the decision-making process will be individual and dictated by budget constraints. It’s also worth considering exactly what features you require from a phone. If you need the very latest tech and money isn’t particularly an issue, the iPhone 13 is likely to suit you better than its predecessor. On the other hand, if your budget is a little tighter, we can still wholeheartedly recommend the iPhone 12, which excelled in our testing and is generally a fantastic handset. 

We’re yet to get hold of the iPhone 13 for a full review and in-depth testing. Until then, we can’t definitively say whether it’s the best iPhone out there. However, we can dig further into the details highlighted by Apple at the company’s recent event, comparing them to our thorough testing of the iPhone 12. We will have a full hands-on review of the new model as soon as possible, so watch this space and read on for a comparison of the Apple flagships. 

Before you dive straight into the iPhone 13 deals, you’ll want to check our iPhone 13 features guide as we breakdown the phone’s key specs.

Looking for more Apple products? Head to our iPad mini release date page or read our AirPods vs AirPods Pro guide to help you decide which earbuds are worth your money.

Jump to: 

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: key differences at a glance

  • Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip makes iPhone 13 more efficient and powerful than A14 in iPhone 12
  • Entry-level iPhone 13 has 128 GB storage vs entry-level iPhone 12 with 64GB storage.
  • Improved camera and ‘cinematic mode’ on iPhone 13
  • Improved battery life with iPhone 13

Sponsored by Sky Mobile

Despite the new iPhone 13 only just being revealed, pre-orders are already live. 

Sky Mobile has some brilliant deals on the new models, so we’ve picked out some we think are worth shouting about. 

Looking for more deals? Head to our iPhone 13 pre-orders page to see all the best offers. 

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 in detail 

Apple iPhone 13 release date

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: specs 

On reveal day, Apple was particularly proud of the iPhone 13’s new A15 Bionic chip. It’s a new generation of chip that the company claims will make this the most efficient and powerful flagship iPhone ever. During the reveal of the phone, Kaiann Drance made the bold claim that “there’s nothing in the world like this chip”.

The interior of the iPhone 13 was re-designed to make space for new tech and a larger battery, paving the way for some interesting new features. These are discussed in more detail in the camera and battery life sections.  Interestingly, the base level iPhone 13 comes with more storage than its predecessors – 128GB.

It’s got fewer bells and whistles, but we found the iPhone 12 to be an impressive performer. In our reviewer’s full test, the A14 Bionic chip partnered well with the phone’s 4GB of RAM and delivered pleasing performance across the board. It also packed in more 5G bands than competitors and beat them on benchmarking tests with ease. iOS 14 is smooth and intuitive and makes the phone a breeze to use. 

Of course, things have moved on slightly since the release of the iPhone 12, and the new handset has a clear advantage in terms of specs and performance. We’ll deliver more detail on this in our full review of the iPhone 13. 

Price 

Currently, you can pick up a new iPhone 12 starting at around £579. You can pay more for more storage or a little less for an equivalent iPhone 12 Mini. We’re also expecting some great Black Friday iPhone deals on the iPhone 12.

How to buy iPhone 12: 

The standard iPhone 13 will cost £779, with the Mini coming in at £679.

How to buy iPhone 13: 

Storage

The standard iPhone 13 ships with a base of 128GB of storage, double that of the base iPhone 12.

Apple analysts at Wedbush predicted that at least one new phone in the iPhone 13 range would ship with a staggering 1TB of storage. Compare that to Apple’s current largest offering on an iPhone – 512GB on the iPhone 12 Pro Max – and it becomes immediately apparent why this claim was so surprising. However, the only handsets in the new range that ship with this storage option are the Pro Max. 

The standard iPhone 12 is available in three versions, with 64, 128, or 256GB of storage, with around £150 difference in price between the largest and smallest storage options at time of writing. 

iPhone 13 Pro battery

Battery Life

During its event, Apple noted that battery life is “really important to our users”. Seemingly this was an acknowledgement – or as close as we’ll ever come to one – that battery life has never been iPhone’s strongest feature. The new phone, Apple claims, will run for 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12. The iPhone 13 Mini will run for 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Mini.

The iPhone 12 packs a 2,815mAh battery, which is smaller than that of its predecessor, the iPhone 11, which came with a 3,110mAh cell. The 12’s A14 Bionic chip made it more efficient, but – during testing – we still found the iPhone 11 to have a greater battery life, making this metric a weak point for the iPhone 12. 

Various outlets and tipsters predicted a larger battery for the new handset, and ultimately the iPhone 13 does promise greater battery life. However, we’re going to temper our enthusiasm for this upgrade until we conduct a hands-on test. 

Elsewhere, the iPhone 13’s charging set-up roughly what was expected. The EU piled pressure on Apple to adopt a standardised USB-C charging port but seemingly got short shrift. While the system has been adopted on other Apple products, the phone remains stubbornly non-USBC. Meanwhile, Twitter tipster, Jon Prosser, suggested the phone might go completely wireless, but that never materialised either. 

iPhone 13 Pro camera

Camera 

The iPhone 13 features two 12MP cameras on the reverse, including the all-new wide-angle lens, which captures 47% more light, make shooting in low light much easier, according to Apple.

Apple has also acknowledged the persistent customer irk of the ‘notch’ by reducing this significantly on the new handset. It’s still there, though, and that is bound to irritate some Apple fans.

The iPhone 12 also packed a dual-camera line-up, consisting of one main 12mp f/1.6 wide-angle camera and a 12MP ultra-wide lens more suited for group shots and landscapes. What really saw the iPhone 12 improve on its predecessor, though, was the power of its A14 Bionic chip.

Cameras are always a focal point in any big phone release, so it’s no surprise that Apple has improved on the offering of its previous flagship.

The most interesting addition to the iPhone 13’s camera lineup may be ‘Cinematic Mode’, which uses AI to automatically change focus within shots – for example, if a new character walked into a shot, the camera would automatically focus on them. This was shown off to great effect in the reveal event, but we’re not going to pile too much praise on Apple until we’ve tried it for ourselves.

iPhone 13 screens

Display

The introduction of an OLED display to the iPhone 12 was a definite step forward for iPhones. The 6.1-inch display looks good, though some users were less than pleased with the reappearance of the camera notch.

Now, Apple has gone one better. The new super retina XDR display on the iPhone 13 is 28% brighter and has a 1200 Nits max HDR brightness, making outdoor use in bright sunlight even easier.

At first glance, the display looks impressive. We can’t wait to try it out for ourselves and will keep you updated when we do. Check our best iPhone page for the latest updates.

5G capability and connectivity 

The key leap forward that Apple made in releasing the iPhone 12 was the adoption of 5G. Having fallen slightly behind some Android competitors at the time, it was a crucial upgrade. Of course, 5G is present again in the new handset, with more bands, and Apple claims connectivity will be better than any previous iPhone.

iPhone 13

Design 

Apple crafts phones in their own distinctive style, and – as expected – they haven’t abandoned that with the iPhone 13. It’s instantly recognisable as an Apple product, and each iteration of Apple’s iconic phone line-up borrows from those that went before. 

The iPhone 12 took plenty of design cues from the iPhone 5. More importantly, though, it ushered in a new era of handset hardiness for the brand. The screen at the front of the aluminium and glass handset is coated in a material Apple refer to as ‘Ceramic Shield’. The glass-ceramic hybrid material was lauded by Apple in a series of adverts claiming the phone’s surface was “tougher than any smartphone glass”. 

Ceramic Shield protection returns in the iPhone 13, having stood up well under testing on the iPhone 12.  

Where to buy

Buy iPhone 13:

Buy iPhone 12:

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For the latest news, reviews and deals, check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Still unsure about what iPhone to pick up? Read our iPhone 12 vs mini vs Pro vs Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE comparison guides for a full breakdown of the key differences.