iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: worth the two-year upgrade?

Should you make the leap?

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13
The iPhone 15 (left) vs the iPhone 13 (right)
(Image credit: Apple)

So you're weighing up the best iPhone for you, and you're wondering if you should upgrade your iPhone 13 for the brand new iPhone 15. There's a lot to consider, from the asking price to the colour options to the kind of performance levels you can expect.

Here we're going to break everything down in detail, explaining exactly what the differences are between the iPhone 15 and two-generations-old iPhone 13. We're not concerned with the other handsets in the line-ups, from Pro to Pro Max, this is just about the smaller models from Apple.

With the iPhone 13 actually still on sale directly from Apple, even after the launch of the iPhone 15, you might in fact be wondering which one to pick up factory fresh. Whatever your shopping situation, answers to all of your questions can be found below.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: what's new?

Two years can be quite a long time where the smartphone market is concerned, and there's quite a lot that you get on the iPhone 15 that you don't get on the iPhone 13 (remember that there was the iPhone 14 in the middle).

When it comes to the highlights of what's new, we've got the USB-C port rather than a Lightning port, we've got the Dynamic Island up at the top of the screen, and we've got a more advanced camera system and a faster chipset too.

While recent iPhone upgrades may have seemed incremental at the time, once you look across the span of two years rather than one, the differences stand out more – but let's dig into the differences (and similarities) in a bit more detail.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: price & availability

The iPhone 15 has now arrived and is available on Apple's site – but the company is still selling the iPhone 13 as new too. You may well already have an iPhone 13 and be thinking of upgrading, but if you're choosing between the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 13 as a brand new purchase, Apple has you covered here as well.

The key differentiator is of course the price: the iPhone 13 starts at £599/$599 with 128GB of storage, whereas the iPhone 15 starts at £799/$799 with 128GB of storage. That's quite a price jump, so it depends how much you want the newer features as to whether or not you can justify the additional cost.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: design

iPhone 15

The iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 15 and the iPhone 13 look very similar, though the choice of colours are not: darker pink, yellow, lighter green, lighter blue and black for the iPhone 15, while darker green, lighter pink, darker blue, red, white, and black are available for the iPhone 13.

The dimensions are almost identical. We've got 147.6 x 71.6 x 7.8mm (and a weight of 171g) for the iPhone 15, and 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.65mm (and a weight of 173g) for the iPhone 13.

Perhaps the biggest difference when you're looking at the phones is that switch to USB-C from Lightning for the data and charging port – though they don't look too dissimilar.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: display

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13

(Image credit: Apple)

Both of these phones sport a 6.1-inch display, though because of its slightly more rounded edges, the iPhone 15 packs in more pixels: 2,556 x 1,179 compared with 2,532 x 1,170 in the iPhone 13. The other display specs match up exactly, except for peak brightness – the iPhone 15's 2,000 nits beats the iPhone 13's 1,200 nits in this department.

You'll also notice that the iPhone 15 does away with the notch on the iPhone 13, using the Dynamic Island instead. It allows for a variety of little widgets and alerts to appear at the top of the screen, depending on the apps you're using.

Some small and subtle differences then, which you may find useful – although we're talking about the same screen size and screen technology overall.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: hardware

The iPhone 15 is actually only one generation ahead of the iPhone 13 in terms of its chipset, rather than two: it has the A16 Bionic inside, as opposed to the A15 Bionic. That means it'll be faster and better at graphics, though not by a huge amount.

Apple never reveals how much RAM is inside its phones. Teardowns have revealed that there is 4GB of RAM inside the iPhone 13 and 6GB of RAM inside the iPhone 14, but we're still waiting on that information for the iPhone 15 (but assume the latter, at 6GB).

Also worth noting is that the iPhone 15 adds the hardware necessary for the emergency SOS via satellite feature – you can read more about it here. You never know, it might just save your life (but let's hope it never needs to).

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: battery

iPhone 15

The iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

As with RAM, Apple is usually rather coy when it comes to battery life, and it doesn't reveal the battery capacities of its smartphones. What it does do is publish estimates of how long the battery is going to last when doing different tasks.

For the iPhone 15, that's up to 20 hours for video playback, up to 16 hours for streamed video playback, and up to 80 hours for audio playback. Compare that to up to 19 hours of video playback, up to 15 hours of streamed video playback, and up to 75 hours of audio playback on the iPhone 13. The iPhone 15 wins, but only just.

Both phones support MagSafe and Qi wireless charging, and both can be charged up to 50% in 30 minutes with a wired cable – though you'll need a 20W adapter, which doesn't come in the box.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: cameras

There have been some significant camera improvements in the time between the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 15. The older phone offers a rear camera setup of 12MP main and 12MP ultrawide, whereas the newer phone has a 48MP main sensor and a 12MP ultrawide, adding in 2x optical zoom feature as well.

Megapixels aren't everything when it comes to photo quality, but the iPhone 15 clearly has the superior setup. Around the front there's a 12MP selfie camera on both phones, though Apple has slightly improved the sensor in the iPhone 15.

In short, you can get great photos and videos on the iPhone 13 – and even better ones on the iPhone 15.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13: conclusion

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13

(Image credit: Apple)

It's clear that we're talking about a not insignificant leap between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 15, but whether it's worth the upgrade depends on how much you've got to spend and how much you like these new features.

On paper, faster performance, better photos, USB-C, and the addition of the Dynamic Island sounds like a really good deal. That said, the iPhone 13 remains a great phone, and both these handsets run the same iOS 17 software of course.

If you've got the cash spare, we think the iPhone 15 is a worthy upgrade, but you're not going to miss out too much if you stick with the iPhone 13 for its lower asking price.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.