iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: the smart two-year upgrade?

The iPhone 14 isn't that different from its predecessor – but it's a big upgrade from the iPhone 12

Apple iPhone 14
(Image credit: Apple)

As much as it would be nice to upgrade to the best phones every year, many of us skip a generation – and with iPhones, that pays serious benefits. The difference between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 may not be huge, but you’ll likely be delighted by the difference if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 12.

And that's a good thing, as many people buy their phones on two-year monthly plans, meaning that if you plumped for an iPhone 12 at launch, you're now ready to upgrade to a newer handset.

Here’s what’s new in what's likely going to be Apple’s best iPhone for most people, the iPhone 14.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: price and release date

The iPhone 12 was launched two years ago with a price of $799 / £799 / AU$1,349 for the standard 64GB storage. It's now down to $599 / £649 / AU$1,049.

The new iPhone 14 is also $799 in the US but there's a price hike in the UK and Australia, where it's gone up to £849 / AU$1,399 for the entry level 128GB model. There are also 256GB and 512GB models, with the latter coming in at $1,099 / £1,179 / AU$1,899. If you want the same specification with a bigger screen, the iPhone 14 Plus is $100/£100/AU$180 more expensive.

Pre-orders for the new iPhone begin on 9 September with availability from 16 September.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: design

Although the designs of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 12 aren’t dramatically different, the iPhone 14 is flatter and comes in different colour options: where the iPhone 12 launched with black, white, red, green and blue options, that was expanded to include a purple option too. 

The iPhone 14 is slightly flatter looking and comes in a choice of Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Purple and Red. It's almost identical to the iPhone 13 and has the familiar notch at the top of the display.

The iPhone mini is no more but there's a new, larger iPhone Plus that takes the same iPhone 14 but gives it a 6.7-inch display.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: cameras

The main cameras in the iPhone 12 are 12MP, with wide and ultra wide lenses, 2x optical zoom, 5x digital zoom and optical image stabilisation. It can record 4K at up to 60fps. 

The iPhone 14 has effectively inherited most of the camera system from the iPhone 13 Pro. The main camera is still 12MP but there's a much larger sensor for better low light performance, f/1.5 aperture for low light capture, sensor-shift optical image stabilisation and improved processing for much better quality in less than ideal lighting conditions. Apple says it's 2x better in low light performance than the iPhone 13 and 2.5x better on the new main camera. The front camera is a 12MP TrueDepth with f/1.9; Apple claims 38% better low light performance. There's also a new Action Mode designed for taking fast-moving shots while you're in motion, offering the kind of results you'd normally need separate hardware for.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: performance and battery

The iPhone 12 processor is an Apple A14 Bionic, a 6-core CPU with two performance cores, two efficiency cores, a 4-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine. 

The standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus don't get Apple's very latest processors – they're reserved for the Pro models – but they do get the A15 Bionic that powered the iPhone 13 Pro. Its 5 core GPU is up to 18% faster than the iPhone 13 and it has more efficient cores and an improved neural engine as well as a custom image signal processor for the camera. That means better photos and much faster performance than in the iPhone 12.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: display

The iPhone 12 was Apple’s first OLED smartphone with a 6.1-inch, 60Hz display and its resolution is 2,532 x 1,170 pixels with HDR, True Tone and P3 Wide Colour. 

The iPhone 14 display has the same resolution but it's a lot brighter, with a typical max brightness of 800 nits to the iPhone 12's 645. If you go for the iPhone 14 Plus the display is the same but the resolution is 2,278 x 1,284.

iPhone 14 vs iPhone 12: early verdict

If you've skipped upgrading to the iPhone 13 that was a wise move: while the 13 wasn't dramatically different from its predecessor you'll notice a big difference moving from the iPhone 12 to the iPhone 14. It's effectively an iPhone 13 Pro in tighter trousers, with a very good camera system that uses the iPhone processor to do some very clever things with photo and video. It'll be noticeably quicker too, and while the display isn't any higher resolution it's more fun to watch and easier to read in bright daylight. 

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).