The short answer is that most iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 owners can probably skip this upgrade since their phone is probably still in great shape, and there isn’t a whole lot that meaningfully changes the experience.
But those who own older models, particularly the iPhone XS and earlier, will likely have a lot to gain when it comes to camera features and battery life. Apple’s older iPhones dating back to the iPhone 6S generation still support iOS 15, which launched earlier this week (here’s our iOS 15 review), but they won’t feel nearly as fast and powerful as more recent iPhone models.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12, 12 Pro
If you have an iPhone 12, there’s little reason to upgrade right now. That’s because the iPhone 12 has a lot in common with the iPhone 13. They both have 5G support, a vibrant OLED 6.1-inch screen, a fast processor, great cameras and MagSafe accessory support. The biggest reasons to consider upgrading are the camera updates — especially for shooting video — and the longer battery life.
All of Apple’s new iPhones, including the standard iPhone 13 and 13 Mini, are getting a new video shooting feature called Cinematic mode, which automatically switches the focus between subjects to give footage a more filmlike aesthetic. It looks like a neat trick for those who frequently use their phones for video projects, and our reviewer Patrick Holland had a blast testing it out. Apple says that Cinematic mode takes advantage of the new A15 Bionic processor, but it’s worth noting that Apple also has a history of bringing enhancements like these to previous iPhones through software updates.
The wide camera on the standard models can also take in more light for better results, and the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini inherit the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s sensor shift technology for better stabilization. Apple is also introducing a new feature called Photographic Styles, which allows users to apply certain preferences across a scene in photos. Apple says it’s different from a filter since it can apply the right adjustments to make sure elements like skin tone are preserved accurately.
As is usually the case, Apple’s bigger photography improvements can be found on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Night mode works on all three rear camera lenses, including the telephoto lens, and the Pro models can also take macro shots that can focus in on a subject as close as 2 centimeters. Check out our full story to learn more about the iPhone 13’s camera improvements here.
The iPhone 12 still has Apple’s 12-megapixel dual camera system that comes with a wide and ultrawide camera, while the iPhone 12 Pro line has Apple’s 12-megapixel triple-lens setup with wide, ultrawide and telephoto cameras. Most of the camera features are otherwise the same between generations, aside from the new capabilities available only on the iPhone 13 family mentioned above.
The iPhone 13’s aforementioned A15 Bionic processor is offering faster speeds and longer battery life compared to the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic chip. Specifically, the iPhone 13 should last roughly 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, while the iPhone 13 Mini gets an extra 1.5 hours over last year’s 12 Mini. The iPhone 13 Pro will last for 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max will benefit from an additional 2.5 hours compared to its predecessor.
You’ll also get more storage from the base level iPhone 13, which comes with 128GB instead of 64GB, and goes up to 512GB instead of 256GB on the regular model. The iPhone 13 Pro goes up to 1TB of storage, while the iPhone 12 Pro maxes out at 512GB.