iPhone Family Feud: iPhone 12 or 13. Compare the latest iPhone generations

iPhone Family Feud: iPhone 12 or 13. Compare the latest iPhone generations
(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 has officially arrived, complete with a whole new host of exciting features – including Cinematic Mode and some updates to the rear camera module on the Pro models. But how does it compare to the iPhone 12? We've compared the iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 to help you decide whether to save your cash and go for the older generation, or plump for the newer model with the latest features.

We've broken down our comparison into the build & design of the two handsets and the camera functionality. We've also pointed out the key differences between the two generations – and what you'll get in the base models versus the Pro handsets. 

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iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: Build & design

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The iPhone 13 family

The iPhone 13 features a 6.1" OLED Super Retina XDR display and weighs just 173 grams and the iPhone 13 Mini has a 5.4" display and weighs 140 grams. Meanwhile, the iPhone 13 Pro features a 6.1" display and weighs 203 grams, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a larger 6.7" display and is the heaviest of the quartet, weighing 238 grams. 

The iPhone 13 models are capable of up to 1200 nits maximum brightness and are rated IP68 for splash, water and dust resistance. Each model features the new A15 Bionic chip, which is capable of 30% faster graphics than "the leading competition". Meanwhile, the new 16-core Neural Engine is capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second, enabling faster machine learning. 

The iPhone 13 Pro models feature ProMotion technology with adaptive refresh rates of up to 120Hz. This means that graphics-intensive games will play smoothly on your phone – but if you're simply scrolling on Facebook, then the iPhone 13 Pro models will automatically reduce the refresh rate to help save battery life. 

In terms of storage, all iPhone 13 models start at 128GB of storage and don't feature the ability to use any kind of external storage (outside of cloud-based storage). However, the iPhone 13 Pro models now come with a 1TB storage option.

The iPhone 13 lineup (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 12 family

The iPhone 12 features the same 6.1" OLED Super Retina XDR display as the iPhone 13, which is designed to deliver 2x more pixels than the iPhone 11. The biggest difference in terms of the screen is that the base iPhone 12 model is only capable of 625 nits maximum brightness under typical conditions, while the base iPhone 13 is capable of 800 nits (both models rise to 1,200 nits maximum brightness for HDR). 

The iPhone 12 is lighter than its iPhone 13 counterpart, weighing just 162 grams. However, the iPhone 12 features the previous A14 Bionic chip, which is slower than the brand new A15 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 13 models.

The iPhone 12 comes in storage options including 64GB, 128GB and 256GB, while the iPhone 12 Pro models are available in options including 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: Camera

The iPhone 13 family

There are few physical changes to the base iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini cameras, with both models using a similar dual 12MP camera system to the iPhone 12. However, the biggest difference concerns the sensor for the main wide angle camera. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini both now use the 1.7-micron pixel sensor that was previously only used by the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This means that the 12 Pro Max's sensor-shift optical image stabilization has also been incorporated into the base iPhone 13 models.

The iPhone 13 generation also sees the introduction of the new Photographic Styles feature, which enables users to customize their photos at the point of capture with a set of filter-like styles. Plus, Apple's new Cinematic Mode looks to be one of the biggest jumps forward in smartphone videography yet. 

Meanwhile, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max models feature fairly substantial physical camera upgrades, with all-new Wide, Ultra Wide and Telephoto cameras. The new wide angle camera features up to 2.2x improved low light performance, thanks to the new 1.9-micron pixel sensor and the new wider f/1.5 aperture. The ultra wide camera also has a wider f/1.8 aperture than the previous generation and a new autofocus system. Excitingly, the ultra wide lens is now also capable of macro photography – which is the first time we've ever seen this functionality on an iPhone. 

Finally, the new 77mm Telephoto camera offers 3x optical zoom, which is a significant step up from the iPhone 12 Pro's 2x optical zoom. Other camera upgrades include Night Mode now being available on all cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro models, including the Telephoto camera. We'll also be seeing Apple ProRes support coming to the iPhone 13 Pro models – but this won't be until later this year. 

The iPhone 12 lineup (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 12 family
As previously mentioned, the base iPhone 12 models are fairly similar to the base iPhone 13 in terms of the physical camera features. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini both feature a 12MP wide angle camera with an f/1.6 aperture and an ultra wide camera with an f/2.4 aperture. However, it doesn't appear that iPhone 12 users will be able to access the new Photographic Styles and Cinematic Mode features. Plus, iPhone 12 users won't be able to enjoy the larger wide angle camera sensor and sensor-shift optical image stabilization found on the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 13 model either. 

However, when it comes to the Pro models, this is where we start to see more of a different between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 generations. The iPhone 12 Pro models still have a similar triple rear camera unit, featuring a 12MP f/2.2 ultra wide camera, a 12MP f/1.6 wide angle camera and a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto camera. However, these cameras are a generation behind the new and improved versions in the iPhone 13 Pro models, so if camera performance is important to you, then we would recommend going for the 13 Pro handsets instead. 

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: Which one to buy?

Ultimately, deciding whether to buy the iPhone 13 or iPhone 12 will come down to whether your highest priority is the affordability of the phone, or the features it comes with. If you're looking for a genuinely fantastic smartphone at a good price, then we'd recommend the iPhone 12. However, if money is no object, you want the latest tech and you're a keen smartphone snapper or content creator, then the iPhone 13 models are a no-brainer. 

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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine and  Digital Photographer. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.