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iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Biggest differences to expect

iphone 13 vs iphone 12
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A quick check of the calendar shows that we're now closer to the expected launch of the iPhone 13 than we are from the debut of the iPhone 12 last fall. And that means it's time to start comparing Apple's upcoming phones to the current models.

That's easier than you might think. Rumors have painted a pretty complete picture of the iPhone 13, including the biggest changes and additions to Apple's smartphone lineup. While you still have to take some iPhone 13 rumors with a grain of salt, we do have a good idea on how the new models will compare to the old.

If you're trying to decide whether to buy an iPhone 12 now or wait for the iPhone 13, an iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12 comparison can help make that choice easier. Read on to see what improvements are rumored for the new iPhones.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Price and release date

iPhone 12 mini review

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For the iPhone 13, we expect there to be four models: iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. We base this on what Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said (via MacRumors) earlier last year. Considering the poor sales of the iPhone 12 mini, it wouldn't surprise us to see Apple cancel its plans for the iPhone 13 mini. We certainly hope not, since the iPhone 12 mini is the best small phone right now, and the last we've heard, Apple seems inclined to keep a mini model in the lineup.

As far as price, current rumors suggest that the iPhone 13 will be an iterative upgrade to the iPhone 12, so we don't anticipate big changes to what Apple currently charges. That would mean that the iPhone 13 mini would start at $699 (64GB), iPhone 13 at $799 (64GB), iPhone 13 Pro at $999 (128GB), and iPhone 13 Pro Max at $1,099 (128GB).

If Apple increases the base storage on the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 — and boy, do we hope that Apple does exactly that — then we might see a slight increase on those phones' starting prices, perhaps $749 and $849. That's just speculation, though. There is also a possibility that there will be a ludicrous 1TB storage option for the Pro models.

As for the release date of the iPhone 13, all signs point to Apple returning to a September launch. (The iPhone 12 had a staggered launch, if you remember, with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro coming out in October, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini arriving a month later.) Most recently, analysts at investment firm Wedbush forecast an iPhone 13 launch in the third week of September.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Design and display

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: iPhone 12 Pro Max review vs iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

For the iPhone 12 series, Apple introduced OLED displays for all four models. OLED offers punchier colors and true blacks, among other benefits, and it was certainly a welcome upgrade. While we really like the displays on the 12 series, Apple still has some room to grow for its Super Retina XDR OLED panels.

When compared against the Galaxy S21 series, which have excellent Super Dynamic AMOLED displays, the iPhone 12 screens lack a high refresh rate and Always On Display (AOD). The iPhone 12 models are all locked at 60 frames-per-second (FPS), or 60Hz, but rumors suggest that the iPhone 13 Pro series will sport a 120Hz refresh rate, which would net 120 FPS and therefore much smoother scrolling and gameplay.

One benefit of OLED panels is that individual pixels can be disabled, which is how they produce those deep, dark blacks. On most Android devices with OLED displays, you get what's called Always On Display. This is a low-power mode which shows some important information. It varies by phone, but most devices show the clock and pending notifications. Rumors suggest that the iPhone 13 will finally gets its own always-on display.

Some, including leaker Jon Prosser, say that Apple will shrink the infamous notch at the top of the display which houses the Face ID tech. This would be a very welcome change, since the notch is quite unsightly. And  leaked renders and dummy units indicate that the notch will shrink across all four iPhone 13 models.

iPhone 13 could get a pink version — what we know

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As always, Apple may jazz up the colors for the iPhone 13. Currently, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini come in blue, green, white, black, red and an all new purple huh, while the Pro models are available in blue, graphite, silver and gold. One of the potential iPhone 13 colors is a bright pink options, according to one rumor.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Cameras

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

Currently, the iPhone 12 Pro Max and 12 Pro use three lenses: a wide-angle 12MP f/1.6, an ultrawide 12MP f/2,4, and a 12MP telephoto with an f/2.0 aperture (2x zoom on the 12 Pro, 2.5x zoom on the 12 Pro Max). The iPhone 12 and 12 mini lack the telephoto lens and LiDAR time-of-flight sensor.

Some rumors say that the iPhone 13 will feature a periscope camera for better zoom to compete with the Galaxy S21 Ultra's ridiculously powerful zoom capabilities. More importantly, Apple might upgrade the ultrawide camera to an f/1.8 aperture with autofocus (versus the f/2.4 aperture and fixed focus on the 12 series). This comes from Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors).

Other rumors suggest that Apple will use the LiDAR sensor on all four models instead of just on the Pro ones. Night Mode might see some enhancements, especially on the ultrawide camera. We've also heard that the iPhone 13 may feature a portrait mode for video and an astrophotography mode for shooting the night sky. 

The iPad Pro 2021 introduced in April added a Center Stage feature to the front camera, allowing that lens to follow you when capturing video, like when you're on a video call. There's no indication yet whether that feature could find its way to any of the iPhone 13 models, but it would certainly be a welcome addition.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Touch ID in the display

iPhone with Touch ID

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The iPhone 13 might bring back Touch ID, which was last seen on the iPhone 8 series (it's also on the iPhone SE, but that's not a flagship device and uses the iPhone 8 body). Apple has been all in on Face ID since the iPhone X, but it might add Touch ID to the iPhone 13. In this pandemic world where we're still wearing masks, Face ID doesn't do much good out in public.

Apple could use an in-display fingerprint scanner, like on the Samsung Galaxy S21 — the S21's ultrasonic sensor is pretty good and accurate in our testing and usage. However, Apple shoved a Touch ID sensor in the power button for the most recent iPad Air. Some Android phones have taken this route in the past and it can work quite well, and also feels pretty natural.

Regardless, having both Face ID and Touch ID in the iPhone 13 would cover all the bases: face unlock for going maskless and fingerprint unlock for public use and Apple Pay. We hope this feature comes to pass, but right now, rumor mongers seem split on whether it will happen.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Lightning or portless

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12: iPhone 13/iPhone 12S concept

(Image credit: Jermaine Smit/LetsGoDigital)

Speculation that Apple might abandon the Lightning port on the iPhone 13 has floated around for a few months now, especially once the company introduced MagSafe wireless charging on the iPhone 12 series. While few people seem to want this, Apple likes to shake things up a bit. USB-C would be preferable, but that may never happen.

Apple leaker Jon Prosser said that one of his sources mentioned that "one" iPhone 13 model would be portless. Due to some possible language barrier issues, he thinks that maybe the Pro models will portless, not just one variant. At one point, Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggested that only the iPhone 13 Pro Max will be portless, but he's since backed off that claim. We'd assume that this is one iPhone 13 rumor it's safe to dismiss at this point.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: New processor

A14 Bionic specs

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We're not exactly going out on a limb here, since a new iPhone always brings with it a new processor. But the A14 Bionic chip in the iPhone 12 is likely to make way for an A15 Bionic processor for the iPhone 13.

Any new iPhone will have a high bar to clear, as the A14-powered phones were all top performers, beating even Android devices powered by the Snapdragon 888. Still, the A15 may up to the task even if it's just an incremental upgrade to the A14. The new chip should be based on a 5-nanometer process mode just like the A14 Bionic. We're not expecting a switch to 4-nanometer chips until the 2022 model.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Battery

Since we first published our iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12 comparison, more details have emerged about the potential battery life of the new models. Leakers expect the new iPhones to feature bigger batteries across the board — and that's good news if you're familiar with the iPhone 12 family.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was really the only member of the iPhone 12 lineup to fare well on our batter test. All the other models struggled. There are lots of reasons for that, but Apple going will small batteries on each model probably didn't help matters.

That sounds like it's changing with the iPhone 13, with a connected Twitter user claiming bigger battery sizes all around on each new model. Battery sizes are rumored to start at 2,406 mAh for the iPhone 13 mini compared to the 12 mini's paltry 2,227 mAh power pack. The iPhone 13 Pro Max should top the scales with a 4,352 mAh battery, which we believe would be the largest to ever power an iPhone.

iPhone 13 batter sizes (rumored) iPhone 12 battery sizes
Mini model2,406mAh2,227 mAh
Standard model3,095mAh2,815 mAh
Pro model3,095mAh2,815 mAh
Pro Max model4,352mAh3,687 mAh

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Outlook

Nothing is set in stone yet for the iPhone 13, but both Kuo and Prosser have good track records when it comes to predictions. We won't get anything in any official capacity until Apple's big event this fall, but more and more rumors are likely to spring up in the meantime. 

Keep in mind that even with the iPhone 13 coming, Apple's likely to keep around at least one iPhone 12 model at a reduced price. So even if the changes coming to the iPhone 13 aren't exciting to you, it could lead a lower price for any of the iPhone 12 models that have caught your eye.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter: @jccpalmer — his Instagram feed is mostly photos of his cat.