iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Beneath the Surface!

The iPhone 12 brought quite a lot of new stuff to the table when it was first unveiled. A brand new design, a stunning display, more power under the hood and lots more. In comparison, the iPhone 13 is just an iterative upgrade at best. But if you’re out iPhone shopping today, it is not easy to decide which one of these 2 phones to buy for yourself. Let’s find out whether you should get the iPhone 13 or the iPhone 12.

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Design Comparison

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 Design Comparison

When we talk about the design and in-hand feel, there really isn’t much to differentiate here. From just the looks alone, the only differentiator between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13 is in the orientation of the dual camera setup at the back with the iPhone 13 featuring a new diagonal orientation. But apart from that, you have the same aluminum frame on both phones, sandwiched by a glass front and back.

The story is quite similar when you pick the phones up. They feel extremely similar to the point that it would be near impossible to tell them apart from just the in-hand feel. Perhaps the only giveaway is the 10g weight difference but even that is barely noticeable. It is pretty safe to say that there are virtually no differences designwise between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. If you want the people around you to know that you have the latest iPhone, the diagonal camera module and perhaps the recently announced Green color will come handy.


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iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Battery Comparison

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 Battery Life Test and Comparison

A big difference that I observed after extensive usage is battery life. The battery pack on the iPhone 13 is bigger than the one on the iPhone 12 which translates to significantly better battery life. The iPhone 12 does not have bad battery life, it can easily last a day with my use. But with the iPhone 13, I can stretch it to 1 and a half days on a single charge. A big improvement in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the charging situation is a bit meek. Both these expensive phones come with just a charging cable in the box, which means you’ll have to buy an adapter separately.

Also read: Best Fast Chargers for iPhone 12

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Display Comparison

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 Display Comparison

When we talk about the display, the story doesn’t change much. Both the iPhones offer a 6.1” gorgeous Super Retina XDR panel with a 60 Hz refresh rate. I was really hoping Apple would bump it up to 120 Hz on the iPhone 13 but that happened only on the 13 Pro. The iPhone 13 got a minor bump in peak brightness from 625 nits on the iPhone 12 to 800 nits on the iPhone 13. A barely noticeable difference. 


Another difference in the display experience is the notch. As you can see, the notch on the iPhone 13 is significantly smaller than the one on the iPhone 12. Apple hasn’t really done anything to make use of the freed-up space so the only real life difference you will see is when watching videos in full screen mode. Again, a barely noticeable upgrade.

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iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Performance Comparison

Talking of barely noticeable, let’s talk performance. The iPhone 12 is powered by the A14 Bionic CPU while the 13 is powered by the A15 Bionic CPU. Apple makes some of the most powerful and long lasting chipsets in the industry and it shows. Even though the iPhone 12 is a generation older, there is no performance difference to be seen when compared to iPhone 13. Even with intense tasks like gaming or video editing, you will not notice any performance difference at all.

However, one important thing to note here is that every smartphone ages and lags eventually. So even though the performance difference today is negligible, the gap will start to widen over time. That gives the iPhone 13 a crucial advantage for users who hold on to their phones for multiple years. To add on to it, since the iPhone 13 is a generation newer than the iPhone 12, it will get an extra year of software support.


Also read: Top Must-Have AR Games for iPhones

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Camera Comparison

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 Camera Test and Comparison

Let’s talk about the cameras now. Before we proceed to the comparison, let’s have a quick look at the specs. Both iPhones have a dual 12MP rear camera setup and a 12MP selfie camera housed in the display notch. The major difference between these two iPhones’ camera systems is that the 2021 iPhone 13 has upgraded camera hardware. The wide and ultrawide cameras are mounted diagonally on the iPhone 13 rather than vertically on the iPhone 12. Thanks to this design change, the iPhone 13 comes equipped with a larger sensor and sensor-shift stabilization instead of optical image stabilization on the iPhone 12. Enough about the spec upgrades, let’s find out how these devices perform in real life. We’ll start off with the photos and then move on to the videos.


  • The primary camera performance of both devices is excellent. In fact, most users won’t be able to notice the differences. All thanks to the new larger sensor and A15, the iPhone 13 has a slight edge over the iPhone 12 when we talk about HDR performance, image sharpness and noise processing. Apart from this, there’s a noticeable white balance difference between pictures shot with both iPhones. 
  • Pictures shot with the ultrawide cameras on both iPhones look very similar. Just like the primary camera, you will have to look closely to see the differences. A closer look reveals that the iPhone 13 snaps slightly sharper pictures with low noise. 
  • Moving on, the portrait mode works flawlessly on both devices. Although, the portraits shot with iPhone 13 have better subject separation and HDR processing in challenging situations.
  • Selfies shot with both iPhones look bright and have low noise. In fact, most pictures looked very similar and only had minor white balance differences.  
  • Low light performance is noticeably better on the iPhone 13. Thanks to the sensor-shift image stabilization and larger sensor, the iPhone 13 captures brighter and sharper images than the iPhone 12 even in complex lighting situations. 
  • Apart from this, the iPhone 13 also has a new feature called photographic styles. These different customizable advanced filters are baked into the iPhone’s image processing pipeline. For example, if you like cooler or contrasty pictures, you could customize the iPhone 13 to take cooler or contrasty pictures by default, avoiding the hassle of editing your images after you’ve shot them. Unlike regular photo filters, photographic styles do not modify the whole image, instead, they use computational photography to modify different elements of an image like skin tones, shadows, highlights & more.


  • iPhones have always been the leaders when it comes to shooting videos on smartphones. Apple has one-upped the iPhone 13 with new features & upgrades.
  • Please note both iPhones can shoot videos in 4K@60fps from all 3 cameras. In addition to this, the iPhone 13 can also shoot Dolby Vision HDR videos in 4K@60fps from 4K@30fps on iPhone 12. 
  • Apart from this, the iPhone 13 sorts sensor-shift optical image stabilisation and can shoot FullHD/1080p videos in Cinematic Mode.
  • Cinematic mode basically allows users to shoot videos with a bokeh or blurred background. The iPhone 13 captures cinematic videos with easy to use focus tracking user interface. This makes your videos look more professional. It is a handy feature for content creators and vloggers.
  • In terms of overall video quality, both devices shoot excellent videos with unmatched stabilization and HDR performance. The iPhone 13 shoots slightly brighter videos and offers noticeably better low light video quality. 

To conclude our detailed camera comparison of iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12, both devices have excellent cameras. In fact, a casual user can’t really tell the difference between whether a picture was shot by an iPhone 13 or an iPhone 12. So, which one should you go for? It all really depends on how often you take pictures and videos with your phone. If you’re a casual user, the iPhone 12 offers a better bang for your buck. On the flip side, if you shoot a lot of pictures and videos, then you could really benefit from iPhone 13’s bigger sensor, improved low light performance, Cinematic mode and photographic styles. 

Also read: Best Accessories for iPhone 13

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Speakers & Call Quality Comparison

And now, for a few quick highlights before we conclude. The button placement on the iPhone 12 and 13 is surprisingly different, which means that even with the same design and dimensions, iPhone 12 cases won’t fit iPhone 13. The speakers and earpiece on the iPhone 13 are noticeably better than the iPhone 12. The phone call experience is largely the same on both the phones with roughly the same network holding capacity.


Also read: Best iPhone 12 Accessories You Should Buy

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Which one should you buy?

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 Which one should you buy

And now, for the conclusion. See, when you look at the iPhone 13, it seems to be a very boring upgrade over the iPhone 12. But under the hood, it brings a host of small improvements which add on to provide a noticeable advantage. A crucial factor is that the base iPhone 13 is 128GB while the base iPhone 12 is 64GB. So if you opt for 128GB storage, which is recommended, the price difference between the iPhone 12 and 13 reduces even further. With all that factored in, I think the iPhone 13 makes for the better, smarter choice in this comparison.

Check iPhone 13 price:

Amazon (US): https://amzn.to/3MNU8qq

Amazon (India): https://amzn.to/3q2abH9

Amazon (UK): https://amzn.to/3t3Xn4U

Check iPhone 12 price:

Amazon (US): https://amzn.to/3er6cwK

Amazon (India): https://amzn.to/3eqlQst

Amazon (UK): https://amzn.to/3p0iP72

Rohan Bhateja
Rohan Bhateja

Vagabond who loves technology, ranting and brooding.