iPhone 14 vs iPhone 13: does the difference make a REAL difference?

Should you buy an iPhone 13 instead of the latest iPhone 14?

Should you buy last year’s iPhone or the latest iPhone? The answer to that question has tended to be a no-brainer over the years. And with good reason. New iPhones almost always came with significant performance and hardware improvements and sometimes even a whole new design. However, this year has been different. When Apple released the iPhone 14, the most affordable of the new iPhones, there were many who wondered what exactly was new about the phone, given the similarity of now just the design but also what lay beneath it. 

While there is no doubting that the iPhone 14 is different from the iPhone 13, it also cannot be denied that the two phones have more in common than not. So much in common, in fact, that a lot of folks are wondering whether it actually makes sense to cough up the extra dough for an iPhone 14 or maybe just opt for a lower-priced but still very able (and very similar) iPhone 13. So is the difference between the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 13 enough to, well, make a difference? Let us find out the answer to that question by answering a few others.  

Let’s start with design. Can anyone tell by just looking whether I have an iPhone 14 or an iPhone 13? 

Apple iPhone 14

The answer to this question would be a big fat NO. Keep the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 14 next to each other and there is no telling which one is which just by looking at the two phones. Now pick them up, hold them, inspect the design as closely as you wish and you STILL will not be able to tell the two phones apart, which is enough to tell you that by the looks of the two phones, you will not be able to differentiate between them.

Although the iPhone 14 is marginally thicker at  7.80 mm and weighs 172 grams, making it slightly lighter as compared to the iPhone 13 which is 7.65 mm thick and 174 grams heavy, the two phones are equally tall (146.7mm) and wide (71.5mm) and come with the exact same display size with Ceramic Shield on the front, glass on the back and same diagonally arranged camera unit, making it pretty much impossible to identify which iPhone is which. The two phones are so similar that you will be able to use the cases and tempered glass available for the iPhone 13 for the new iPhone 14 as well. Need we say more?

But then you cannot judge a book by its cover. Does the iPhone 14 have better hardware than the iPhone 13? 

While the spec sheet of the iPhone 14 also has many numbers and features in common with its predecessor, Apple has introduced some improvements that give the iPhone 14 its performance edge. For the first time in a very long time, Apple has introduced a new-number iPhone with an old processor. The iPhone 14 is powered by the A15 Bionic processor which we have already seen on the iPhone 13 series. But the new iPhone does not have the same processor as its older counterpart, the iPhone 13. Instead, Apple has equipped the iPhone 14 with the A15 Bionic which powered the iPhone 13 Pro variants last year. The processor on the iPhone 14 has an extra GPU core and brings a 5-core GPU setup as opposed to a 4-core GPU setup present on the iPhone 13. 

Apart from this, Apple has also made some improvements in the camera department. While the two phones have two 12-megapixel sensors on the back, the main sensor and the front camera on the iPhone 14 have slightly bigger f/1.5 and f/1.9  apertures respectively, as opposed to the f/1.6 and f/2.2 apertures on the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 also brings Photonic Engine to the camera table and for the first time, the front camera also gets autofocus with the iPhone 14. The iPhone 14 comes with longer battery life as compared to the iPhone 13 and Apple has also equipped the iPhone 14 with its new Crash Detection feature which calls for help if it detects that the user is involved in an accident.

Better processor? Does it result in noticeably faster performance? 

Not exactly. The only difference between the A15 Bionic on the iPhone 14 and the A15 Bionic on the iPhone 13 is the extra GPU Core which might help the iPhone 14 handle graphics-intensive tasks better. However, we have not seen a noticeable difference between the performance of the two phones even when kept side by side. Just like the iPhone 13, the iPhone 14 handles both everyday tasks and power-hungry tasks without breaking a sweat and running everything smoothly, leaving us with little to no difference in terms of performance. Whether it was playing Call of Duty or editing images and videos (which both phones handle very well), we could see no discernible difference in performance.  Perhaps we are not checking the right apps or need a stopwatch and magnifying glass to really monitor stuff!

The cameras are such an important part of the iPhone. Are they better on the iPhone 14? And is the improvement a clearly visible one? 

If you are someone who simply believes in point and shooting, the difference between the iPhone 13’s cameras and the iPhone 14’s cameras might not jump out at you. But look more closely, and there is a difference between the camera performance of the two phones, especially in low light. We do not know whether the iPhone owes it to the slightly large aperture or the Photonic Engine or both but the low-light photos taken on the iPhone 14 turned out to be better, both in terms of detail and colour reproduction. The colours did not seem too pimped and the noise level was managed very well, even in really dim light conditions. The same goes for the front-facing camera as well. While you might not see a glaring difference in your regular selfies, selfies taken in low light would be of better quality and with autofocus on the front-facing camera, it becomes easier to focus on different subjects while taking selfies.

Does the battery of the iPhone 14 actually last longer? 

Apple claims that the iPhone 14 lasts an hour more in terms of video playback than the iPhone 13, and that is the level of change we have experienced too. There is a clear difference between the battery life of the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 14. Our iPhone 13 used to last a day of normal to heavy usage and had to be plugged in by late evening and sometimes even earlier if we pushed it more. The iPhone 14 on the other hand comfortably makes it till the end of the day after going through a day of normal to heavy usage. It stays with us till late evening even when we push it. 

Does the iPhone 14 have any significant features that the 13 lacks?

Crash Detection 

The one significant feature that comes on the iPhone 14 which was missing on the iPhone 13 and the one that we think all phones should have and not just the iPhones is the Crash Detection feature. This feature detects if the user has been involved in an accident, and calls for help automatically, in case the user is unable to. While we hope no one ever gets in a situation like this, this feature has the potential to save lives. It is on the iPhone 14, but the iPhone 13 does not have it.  

A lot remains almost the same between the two devices, though, doesn’t it?

Yes, there are actually more similarities between the iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 than there are differences. The phones have the same 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with 60Hz refresh rate. Both come with the same IP 68 dust and water resistance, making them safe to use under 6 meters depth for up to 30 minutes. The two phones share the same charging speeds (up to 20W), have the same connectivity options, the same design and most importantly come with the same software, iOS 16, although the iPhone 13 has been updated to it, while the iPhone comes with it right out of the box. All of which make the two phones very similar. 

What about software and software updates?

iOS 16

Both phones run on Apple’s iOS 16 software. The only difference is that while the iPhone 14 comes with iOS 16 out of the box, the iPhone 13 can be updated to iOS 16. Usually, the latest iPhone receives updates for an added year as compared to its predecessor which is mainly because of its processor. But that might not be the case with the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14, as the two phones run on A15 Bionic chipset.  There is a decent chance that the two phones are likely to get updates for the same amount of time. 

I am getting an iPhone 13 at a discount from a number of retailers. The iPhone 14 starts at Rs 79,900. Do you think the difference is worth the big gulf between the two? 

Well, if you are obsessed with getting the most latest suffix-less iPhone with the latest technology then the iPhone 14 is obviously the one for you. The phone does come with improved battery life and better cameras, and the Crash Detection feature can literally be a life saviour. Having said that, the two phones have a massive price difference and we personally would go for the iPhone 13 which is available for a smaller price tag and comes with does not seem to be too far behind in terms of performance — in fact, the two phones can be mistaken for each other in terms of both form and function. With the money saved one could pick up a pair of AirPods (maybe even the Pro under a good deal) and a decent charger, making it a complete trio.