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Apple iPhone 15 vs. iPhone 13 series: Which one should you buy?

The iPhone 15 packs many compelling upgrades, but can it justify upgrading from prior models?
By

Published onMarch 6, 2024

Apple iPhone 13
MSRP: $799.99
Check price
Positives
Top-notch build quality
Unparalleled performance
Solid camera and video experience
Negatives
Proprietary Lightning port
Slow charging speeds
iOS still an acquired taste
Apple iPhone 15
MSRP: $799.00
Check price
Positives
Excellent update commitment
Top-tier build quality
USB-C port, finally!
Smooth software optimization
Solid performance
Negatives
Limited camera setup
Slow charging
60Hz only
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
MSRP: $999.00
Check price
Positives
Useful Action Button
USB-C support
Solid performance
Lighter design
Superb videography
Excellent software support
Negatives
Lackluster long range zoom
Old camera issues unfixed
Slow to fully charge
Some battery anxiety for power users
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
MSRP: $1,199.00
Check price
Positives
Strong titanium design
New Action button
Ray Tracing
Negatives
Slow charging
Pricey
The new action button performs just one task
iPhone 13 Pro review in hand facing the sky
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The iPhone 15 series introduces some of the longest-awaited changes to the world’s most popular smartphone. Unlike the previous-gen iPhone 14, the new model gets a bevy of new features and usability improvements. Better yet, the base non-Pro iPhone 15 models also enjoy some of the upgrades. On the downside, we’re still dealing with the same form factor as previous years. Certain aspects of the phone haven’t meaningfully changed, even if we compare it to the iPhone 13 from a couple of generations ago. So in this article, let’s pit the iPhone 13 vs. the iPhone 15 series and see if there’s enough on offer to justify an upgrade.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13 series: At a glance

In a hurry? Here's a quick summary of how the iPhone 15 series differs from the iPhone 13:

  • The entire iPhone 15 family packs better displays and faster chips compared to their iPhone 13 counterparts. All four smartphones also get a smaller display cutout, which Apple calls the Dynamic Island.
  • Apple has done away with the Mini form factor, but has added a larger iPhone 15 Plus to the mix.
  • The Pro models in the iPhone 15 series are significantly lighter compared to previous generations, thanks to a new titanium mid-frame.
  • With a 48MP primary camera and improved software processing across all models, the iPhone 15 family should handily outperform the iPhone 13 series when it comes to camera quality.
  • Apple has replaced the Lightning connector with the universal USB-C port on the iPhone 15 series.
  • In the US, the iPhone 15 family no longer houses a physical SIM card tray.
  • The vanilla iPhone 13 remains on sale today at $599 compared to the iPhone 15's starting price of $799.
  • The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with double the base storage (256GB) at the same $1,199 launch price.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 15: Specs

Apple iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max 2
Aamir Siddiqui / Android Authority

Let’s start with a comparison of the base iPhone models since they’re the most affordable. The base iPhone 15 retains the same screen size as the iPhone 13, but it replaces the notch with Apple’s Dynamic Island that we first saw on the iPhone 14 Pro. It may not seem like a massive change, but many apps now take advantage of this space to show persistent notifications. Sticking with the display for a moment, the newer iPhone also gets a much brighter display that maxes out at 2,000 nits in outdoor conditions. That’s a lot higher than the iPhone 13’s 1,200 nits, which will make sunlight legibility a lot better.

The iPhone 15 also gets Apple’s newer A16 Bionic SoC, which wasn’t the case going from the iPhone 13 to the iPhone 14. In other words, this is the first time we’re seeing a big performance uplift in two years. The iPhone 15 also packs 6GB of RAM, or an additional 2GB over the iPhone 13.

The entire iPhone 15 series enjoys a processing speed bump vs. the iPhone 13.

Fans of smaller smartphones will be disappointed to hear that Apple no longer sells a Mini version of the iPhone. Instead, we now have the iPhone 15 Plus with a larger 6.7-inch display for an extra $100 over the base model.

Moving on to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, we see similar improvements on the display and processing fronts. If you upgrade from either iPhone 13 Pro model, you’ll get the Dynamic Island and a much higher display peak brightness of 2,000 nits. Compared to the iPhone 13 Pro, you also gain the always-on display feature which helps to tell the time and pending notifications at a glance.

Apple iPhone 13 left centered rear against red brick wall
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Processing power on the Pro models has taken a huge leap, going from the A15 Bionic to the A17 Pro, which Apple touts as powerful enough to run console-quality games. Apple has also replaced the side Silent/Ring switch with an Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro, which you can customize to perform various functions. For example, you can set it to launch the camera, toggle the flashlight, or record a quick voice memo. More functionality should arrive later as well.

You also get a few other minor improvements going up from the iPhone 13 series to all 2023 iPhone models. Emergency SOS via satellite, for example, is now standard across the iPhone 15 series. Likewise, Apple has finally caved and replaced its Lightning connector with the universal USB-C port, but more on that later.

iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 15: Design and size comparison

Apple Event 2023 iPhone 15 Pro titanium colors (2)
Apple

The general silhouette of the iPhone 15 hasn’t changed compared to the previous three generations. That said, there are still plenty of subtle differences that make a big usability difference in the real world.

Starting from the top of the stack where we see the biggest difference, the iPhone 15 Pro Max gets a slightly thicker design but still manages to shed 8% of its weight compared to its predecessors. That may not sound like a big difference, but it will certainly make the phone much more comfortable in the hand. For reference, the older Pro Max models weighed nearly as much as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 foldable.

A new titanium frame makes the iPhone 15 Pro models significantly lighter.

Apple achieved this weight savings by swapping the stainless steel frame on both iPhone 15 Pro models to titanium. So even the smaller iPhone 15 Pro boasts an impressive weight reduction, going down to just 6.6 ounces (187g) compared to the iPhone 13 Pro’s 7.27 ounces (206g).

The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus continue to use aluminum side rails and don’t get any weight savings to speak of. That said, the entire 2023 iPhone series features a new textured matte finish on the back glass panel, which is a refreshing change of pace compared to previous generations. The side rails also aren’t as straight-edged as on previous iPhone models, meaning they’ll feel better in the hand.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 15: Camera

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max camera

The iPhone 13 series featured 12MP camera systems across the board, but that has completely changed two generations later. All four iPhone 15 models get a 48MP main sensor that will capture more detail in a variety of shooting conditions. It also allows the base iPhone to achieve 2x optical-like zoom by taking a middle crop of the larger sensor. Earlier, you had to step up to the Pro models for any zoom functionality whatsoever.

The base iPhone 15 gets big camera upgrades compared to the iPhone 13.

Speaking of zoom, the iPhone 15 Pro Max also gets better telephoto capabilities as Apple has packed a tetra-prism to bounce light several times within the phone for even further zoom. Compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 3x zoom, you now get 5x optical zoom. However, the iPhone 15 Pro doesn’t get the new tetra-prism or longer zoom capability.

Hardware changes aside, Apple has also made big strides in computational photography over the past couple of generations. The iPhone 15 series uses a new Photonic Engine for better low-light photography and includes better Smart HDR and portrait algorithms as well. You should notice better selfies as a result, even if the core hardware remains mostly unchanged.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 15: Battery life and charging

Apple iPhone 15 Pro USB C cable and port

We’ve already run through the iPhone 15 series’ battery life and fast charging in a dedicated post, but in a nutshell, Apple hasn’t rocked the boat much. Compared to the iPhone 13 series, Apple states that all phones in the iPhone 15 lineup will offer an extra hour of video playback. We were hoping for a more radical jump in longevity with the rumored move to stacked battery tech, but Apple hasn’t gone down that road yet.

Battery life and charging hasn't changed much, but you finally don't have to deal with Lightning anymore.

Luckily, there’s still some exciting news when it comes to charging. Even though the iPhone 15 series doesn’t charge any faster than the previous two generations, it replaces Apple’s aging Lightning connector with USB-C. This means you can finally charge your iPhone, Macbook, iPad, and hundreds of other non-Apple devices with a single cable. It’s just a shame that you’ll have to wait well over an hour to fully charge any 2023 iPhone.

That said, Apple has brought USB 3 transfer speeds via the USB-C port to both iPhone 15 Pro models. This means you can transfer files to and fro at a blisteringly fast 10Gb per second.

See price at Amazon
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
USB Type-C port
High-end specs
Titanium design
See price at Amazon
Apple iPhone 15
Apple iPhone 15
Excellent update commitment
Top-tier build quality
USB-C port, finally!
See price at Best Buy
Apple iPhone 13
12%off
Apple iPhone 13
Top-notch build quality
Unparalleled performance
Solid camera and video experience

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 15: Price

iPhone 13 Pro slipping in pocket
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • iPhone 13: Starts at $599
  • iPhone 13 Pro: Discontiuned (formerly $999)
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max: Discontinued (formerly $1199)
  • iPhone 15: Starts at $799
  • iPhone 15 Plus: Starts at $899
  • iPhone 15 Pro: Starts at $999
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max: Starts at $1199

Even though the rumor mill speculated a price increase for some models of the iPhone 15 family, Apple hasn’t made its smartphones any less affordable than in previous years. You can still buy the base iPhone 15 for $799 and double your storage for every $100 increment after that. Alternatively, you could pick up the larger iPhone 15 Plus for $899, which wasn’t an option you got with the iPhone 13 two years ago.

The iPhone 13 puts forth a compelling case even two generations later.

The iPhone 15 Pro keeps its starting price of $999 too and goes up to $1,499 for the 1TB storage option. If you prefer larger phones, you’re actually getting an even better deal with the newer iPhone 15 Pro Max as it packs 256GB of storage for $1,199. That’s double the storage capacity compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max at the same base tier. Going up to 1TB of storage will cost you $1,599.

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have long since been discontinued, but Apple still sells the base iPhone 13 for just $599. That’s quite a bargain considering how many specifications it retains compared to its 2023 cousin.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 15: Which one should you buy?

iPhone 13 Pro six months later top down profile shot
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

As I mentioned in the previous section, the base iPhone 13 seems quite appealing considering the $200 discount off its launch price. That said, a lot has changed within just two iPhone generations and the inclusion of USB-C further sweetens the pot. Chances are that you already own a handful of devices with the universal charge port, so it’s compelling from a convenience standpoint. Not to mention, the camera, display, and processing upgrades are quite significant too.

The iPhone 15 looks more compelling vs. the iPhone 13 if you can afford it.

However, the equation changes somewhat if you already own an iPhone 13 and are contemplating an upgrade. The above changes alone don’t merit splurging on a brand-new smartphone and the iPhone 13 series will still get updates for several years from now.

As for the premium models, you can no longer buy the iPhone 13 Pro. And if you’re considering an upgrade, there are several internal and external upgrades that better justify the splurge compared to the base model. The lighter design, significantly faster internals, better connectivity, faster display, and software improvements all make a compelling argument. Not to mention, you also get usability additions like the action button, always-on display, and the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 15 Pro models.

Is upgrading from the iPhone 13 to the iPhone 15 worth it?

224 votes

FAQs

Yes, all iPhone 15 models now have USB-C ports.

Yes, the iPhone 15 is rated IP68 water resistant, which includes brief immersion.

The iPhone 15 comes in five colors: pink, yellow, green, blue, and black.

No, the iPhone 15 Mini does not exist. Apple has dropped the Mini line in favor of the larger iPhone 15 Plus.