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Apple iPhone 13 vs older iPhones: Should you upgrade?

Here's how the iPhone 13 phones stack up against their predecessors.
May 17, 2022
iPhone 13 Pro focus on camera
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Apple’s latest iPhone 13 series includes four smartphones, ranging from the iPhone 13 Mini to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The designs are unchanged compared to those of their predecessors, except for a smaller notch and a re-aligned camera setup for the two smaller iPhones. However, you get the expected upgrades in performance, better battery life, new camera modes, and new software features thanks to iOS 15. But is that enough to justify an upgrade if you have an older iPhone? Let’s find out in this iPhone 13 vs older iPhones comparison!

See more: Everything you need to know about the Apple iPhone 13

Is the iPhone 13 the best iPhone ever?

iPhone 13 Pro on MacBook Air tilted
Gary Sims / Android Authority

In terms of raw specs and features, it’s clear that the iPhone 13 lineup is the best series of phones that Apple has ever released. The latest Apple A15 bionic processor is still unmatched in the mobile space, and the addition of 120Hz ProMotion displays on the two top-end models was a welcome change from previous iterations.

However, there are a few features missing on the iPhone 13 that can be found on older models. Most notable is the headphone jack, which hasn’t been found on iPhones since 2016’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Other features, like Touch ID, have been replaced with more modern tech like Face ID in newer flagships.

Still, if you are considering upgrading to the iPhone 13 and have an iPhone that’s less than five years old, you’ll find nothing but upgrades. Many of these may be iterative or minor upgrades, but they are upgrades nonetheless, and that makes the iPhone 13 series the undisputed best iPhones you can buy.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12

iPhone 12 Pro Max scrolling display 2
David Imel / Android Authority

If you have a phone from the iPhone 12 series, the iPhone 13 series will look very familiar. It was the first series to introduce the Mini, which offered users a manageable size and, more importantly, a more affordable option. Apple kept this strategy for the iPhone 13 series, with few major changes across the board.

In fact, the iPhone 13 series is quite an iterative update and not that different from the iPhone 12. You may not even be able to tell the phones apart if laid on a table in front of you. However, there are a few notable upgrades that might tempt you to get the new phone.

The design differences between the two series are minimal.

In terms of design, things stay largely the same, except for a smaller notch across the board. The rear camera module is also more prominent on all four phones and in a new diagonal orientation on the iPhone 13 Mini and standard iPhone 13.

Speaking of the camera, the ultra-wide camera on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max has been upgraded from an ƒ/2.4 aperture to ƒ/1.8, meaning it should perform better in low light conditions. The cameras on the non-Pro models stay the same. That said, even the upgraded models won’t seem like much of an improvement over the iPhone 12 (or even iPhone 11) models.

Related: The best iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro cases to buy

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of 120Hz ProMotion displays on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max models. This feature was previously reserved for the top-end models in the iPad Pro range, and the higher refresh rate will make a difference in everyday use when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Scrolling will be smoother, and games will play better, provided they support higher framerates. The standard model and Mini model, however, maintain the same 60Hz displays.

All four phones come with larger batteries than their predecessors. The base model storage has also been doubled, and the Pro models offer up to 1TB of storage. The iPhone 13 phones are also faster with the new A15 Bionic, but you’re not likely to notice much of a difference compared to the A14 Bionic found in the iPhone 12, despite what Apple’s marketing wants you to believe.

All said and done, the iPhone 13 has plenty of upgrades on offer, but nothing that you’d urgently need if you already have the iPhone 12. If you really want to make the jump, though, you can get up to $790 off via trade-ins, so it’s not the worst option.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 11

iPhone 11 Pro Max True Tone

Nowadays it seems like everyone releases multiple models, but Apple started its Pro and Pro Max iterations with the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max featured identical hardware, with the only difference being the screen size — 5.8-inch vs 6.5-inch — and the size of the battery. On the other hand, the standard iPhone 11 had a display with a lower resolution and one less rear camera, with the Pro editions adding a telephoto lens.

Powered by the Apple A13 Bionic and backed by 4GB of RAM, the iPhone 11 series is still powerful enough to offer smooth performance with iOS 15 and use all the new software features. There are a few key differences that make the iPhone 13 the better of the two.

Our verdict: iPhone 11 review | iPhone 11 Pro Max review

The iPhone 13 phones come with OLED screens that offer a better display experience than the LCD displays of the iPhone 11. In the case of the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, the previously mentioned 120Hz ProMotion displays are an even bigger jump forward.

You’ll also get better performance, more camera features, improved battery life, and better durability with the iPhone 13 series. The software experience will stay the same, though, and the iPhone 11 cameras are more than good enough even in 2022.

Unless you need the latest and greatest processing package and cameras, you can probably hold on to the iPhone 11 for at least another year. That said, the great trade-in values may not last much longer, with Apple offering up to $500 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

The front of the Apple iPhone XS Max.

The iPhone XS and XS Max brought many of the changes from the previous iPhone X to the mainstream. Although the naming practice was dropped after this lineup, the S-editions were an iterative update of the previous models. It packed the latest processor, the A12 Bionic, upped the RAM, and introduced a higher 512GB storage option. The XS Max had the same hardware as its smaller sibling. Giving it its name was the huge 6.5-inch display, the first from Apple to cross the 6-inch threshold. It also had a larger battery as well and provided better battery life.

Because of the burgeoning prices of the flagship range, Apple also introduced the iPhone XR. It offered flagship performance, and there were plenty of colorful options to choose from. However, the build quality and camera setup weren’t as good as the higher-end models, which allowed Apple to keep the price relatively low. The approach differs from modern phones like the iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini, however, because the phone was between the XS and XS Max in size.

Our reviews: iPhone XS review | iPhone XS Max review

The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR are three years old at this point, but some users on a budget might want to hold on to them for a little longer. The good news is that you won’t miss out on any iOS 15 features with these devices, as they are both powered by Apple’s A12. This SoC, combined with as much as 4GB of RAM, should keep things running smoothly as well.

Of course, the iPhone 13 series is better across all aspects and definitely a worthy upgrade. But if you’re curious about the rumored big things Apple has in store for its 2022 flagships, there’s no reason why you couldn’t keep the XS series running for another year.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone X

The iPhone X was introduced alongside the iPhone 8 series back in 2017 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. The iPhone X was as revolutionary for Apple as the first iPhone, introducing a complete design overhaul with the notch and near bezel-less display. This design element has been present in every iPhone to date, with the exception of the iPhone SE.

The iPhone 13 series is a worthy upgrade over the iPhone X.

Besides the design changes, the iPhone X came with the same hardware as the iPhone 8 Plus — dual 12MP rear cameras, the Apple A11 Bionic SoC, 3GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. It’s eligible for an upgrade to iOS 15 but will miss out on specific features that are only available on devices running the A12 Bionic or newer. You may also notice a bit of sluggishness on the aging A11 Bionic processor, especially if you run demanding apps and games on your phone.

If you’re still hanging on to your iPhone X, it’s probably nearing time to upgrade. The improvements you’ll see in everything from cameras to the screen and everyday performance will immediately be noticeable, and the nearly $1000 original pricetag of the iPhone X has actually gone down for most models, even before trade-ins.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and older

iPhone SE 2020 vs iPhone 8

If you still have the iPhone 8 series or an even older Apple phone, it’s probably time for an upgrade. The four-year-old iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were the last Apple flagships to feature the classic iPhone design with large bezels and the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. The 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are tiny by today’s standards, with the iPhone 13 Mini being the best option if you’re hoping to maintain the same overall footprint.

You’ll get much better performance with the new phones. The displays are far improved, particularly if you splurge on the iPhone 13 Pro models that feature a 120Hz refresh rate. And while the iPhone 8 cameras were excellent for their time, you’re missing all the latest hardware and software features available on the newer phones. You also don’t get 5G support.

It's no surprise that the iPhone 13 series is better than the iPhone 8 lineup in every way.

The one thing you don’t have to worry about is the software package itself. Every iPhone going back to the iPhone 6S series is eligible for an upgrade to iOS 15 and most of its new features, except those that rely on hardware. However, while Apple does a great job optimizing its software for older phones, you will absolutely see some sluggishness with the iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic processor and 3GB of RAM.

It’s not surprising that the iPhone 13 series is better than the iPhone 8 lineup and older iPhones in every way. If you’re looking to upgrade, now is a great time to do so.

iPhone 13 vs older iPhones: Should you upgrade??

iPhone 13 colors

If you have an iPhone older than the iPhone 11, it’s probably time to consider an upgrade. You could potentially hold on to the iPhone XS series for another year since the A12 Bionic can handle all the new software features you get with iOS 15. However, the iPhone 13 devices bring considerable improvements to the table compared to phones like the XS and older.

Also read: Which iPhone is right for you?

Things are a little murkier with the iPhone 11 and even more so with the iPhone 12 series. Both ranges remain extremely capable and should run smoothly for more than a year or two. Unless any of the new iPhone 13 features are particularly enticing, you don’t have to splurge on the latest from Apple yet.

What might tempt potential buyers, though, are the excellent trade-in values. The iPhone 11 series could get you up to $500 off. On the other hand, the iPhone 12 series nets you a maximum discount of $790. Of course, keep in mind that you can get even more if you decide to sell your phone yourself.