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iPhone 13 or iPhone 12? Should you wait for 2021's Apple phone?

iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 13 range is fast approaching, so if you’re in the market for a new iPhone you might be wondering whether Apple’s next flagship is worth waiting for, or whether you should just buy an iPhone 12 now.

To help you answer that question we’ve looked at the key considerations, including how much of an upgrade the iPhone 13 range is rumored to be, how long you’ll actually have to wait for it, and how differently the new and old phones might be priced.

For most people there's now a definitive answer as to whether you should wait or not, and with the help of this article you should have a clearer idea of which choice is right for you.

The iPhone 13 isn’t far away

An iPhone 12 Pro on top of the box it came in

The iPhone 12 range won't be Apple's newest phones for long (Image credit: TechRadar)

The most obvious argument in favor of waiting for the iPhone 13 is that it’s really not very far away now. The exact release date hasn’t been confirmed, but based on Apple’s past form and the current rumors, we’re expecting the iPhone 13 range to land in September, with an announcement probably in the first half of the month and the release of the phones in the second half.

So at the time of writing we’re talking less than two months, which isn’t much at all considering there’s a roughly 12-month gap between each model.

At this point then we’d always strongly advise waiting for the new model unless you can get a current one at a significant discount – which in the case of the iPhone 12 range you’re unlikely to, as they hold their prices well.

Upgrades could be minor

An artist's impression of the iPhone 13

The iPhone 13 range might look much like the iPhone 12 range (Image credit: TechRadar)

On the other hand, this year more than most it sounds like the new iPhones might not be much of an upgrade.

While nothing is certain yet, leaks point to a similar design and screen (albeit with a 120Hz refresh rate on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max and a slightly smaller notch), plus a fairly modest power upgrade, marginally bigger batteries, and slight tweaks to the camera, including a new diagonal lens arrangement for the non-Pro models.

We may see some bigger changes, but at the moment this sounds more like an iPhone 12S than an iPhone 13, so you might not miss out too much by opting for the older model.

Long-term support

An iPhone 12 mini with the App Library on screen

Expect years of software updates whichever model you choose (Image credit: TechRadar)

The iPhone 12 range likely still has many years of software updates left in it too, so you won’t be left behind on that front. Unlike Android where you only usually get two years of updates (or three if you’re very lucky), Apple keeps its phones up to date for a long time. Indeed, when iOS 15 lands later this year it will be available for every model from the iPhone 6S onwards.

Couple that with a chipset that’s still arguably more powerful than any found in an Android phone, and you’re looking at a handset with a lot of life left in it.

Prices will drop

An iPhone 12 in purple on a wooden floor

Get ready for the iPhone 12 to get cheaper (Image credit: TechRadar)

Even if you’ve decided you don’t want the iPhone 13 though, it's still worth waiting for the new phone to launch, as prices of the iPhone 12 range are sure to drop when it does.

As an example, the iPhone 11 started at $699 / £729 / AU$1,199 when it launched, but now Apple sells it for $599 / £599 / AU$999, so we’ll likely see a similar drop for the iPhone 12. Some models of the iPhone 12 range might be discontinued with the launch of the iPhone 13, but even then third-party stores are sure to still have stock that they’ll try and shift at a discount.

Plus, by waiting, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision, as you’ll know exactly what the iPhone 13 offers, and how much cheaper the iPhone 12 could be.

We’d suggest that a wait-and-see approach is best, as it’s hard to recommend paying full price for a phone that will be superseded in a very soon, even if the new model isn’t a huge improvement.

Waiting is the way

An artist's impression of the iPhone 13 in purple

An artist's impression of the iPhone 13 in purple (Image credit: TechRadar)

With all this in mind, whether you want an iPhone 13, an iPhone 12, or haven't made up your mind yet, waiting for the new models is almost certainly going to be the best option.

Really the only reason we can now see to upgrade before the iPhone 13 range launches - short of a remarkably good sale - is if your current phone is broken, but even then we'd suggest getting a very cheap temporary phone and then assessing your options once the iPhone 13 range is out.

But if you really can’t wait then you won’t go wrong with any of the iPhone 12 models – they’re all great phones, and probably will be for a long time.

James Rogerson
James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps.