iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Should you upgrade? | Cult of Mac

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Should you upgrade?


iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro Comparison
Apple has made some big upgrades in the two years since iPhone 13 Pro's release.
Photo: Apple

The iPhone 15 Pro packs significant upgrades over its immediate predecessor, like a titanium body, a brighter display, a faster processor and better cameras. But are these changes enough to warrant an upgrade from your 2-year-old iPhone 13 Pro? Find out in this comparison.

iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Upgrade or not?

Two years is a long time in the smartphone world. With every new generation, companies introduce major new features to their devices to deliver a better experience. And Apple is no different.

However, at first glance, the iPhone 15 Pro might look similar to the iPhone 13 Pro. And some of the new additions in the iPhone 15 Pro might seem minor. But a closer look at the specs sheet will reveal all the key upgrades.

Are these improvements enough to ditch your iPhone 13 Pro? Below is a detailed iPhone 15 Pro versus iPhone 13 Pro comparison to help you decide if you should upgrade this year or not.

Table of contents: iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro

Design: Titanium vs. steel

iPhone 15 Pro display bezels closeup
Apple made the right design refinements with the iPhone 15 Pro.
Photo: Apple
  • iPhone 15 Pro: 146.6mm x 70.6mm x 8.25mm; 187 grams; IP68, titanium edges, Ceramic Shield, Action button
  • iPhone 13 Pro: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.65 mm; 204 grams; IP68, stainless steel edges, Ceramic Shield, Mute switch

Despite launching in September 2021, the iPhone 13 Pro holds its own in the design and build-quality departments. The stainless steel chassis gives the phone a premium in-hand feel. The disadvantage here is the added heft that using steel brings.

Apple resolved that with the iPhone 15 Pro without compromising its premium in-hand feel. The use of titanium edges allowed the company to make the phone lighter by 17 grams, making the phone easier to carry daily. And while the display size remains unchanged at 6.1-inch, the slimmer bezels mean the new iPhone is also slightly more compact.

Another key upgrade on the iPhone 15 Pro is the Action button. It replaces the mute switch, but since it is customizable, you can use the Action button to trigger custom shortcuts and do much more.

Display: A brighter panel with Dynamic Island

iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro’s display still holds up very well after two years.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac
  • iPhone 15 Pro: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, 2,556 x 1,179 pixels, 120Hz ProMotion, Haptic Touch, Always-On display, Dynamic Island, HDR10, Dolby Vision, 1,000 nits typical max brightness, 2,000 nits peak brightness outdoors
  • iPhone 13 Pro: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, 2,532 x 1,170 pixels resolution, 120Hz ProMotion, Haptic Touch, HDR10, Dolby Vision, 1,000 nits brightness, 1,200 nits max brightness

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro have the same screen size: a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display. But while the panel’s size has not grown, Apple made other changes in the two years since the iPhone 13 Pro’s debut.

Firstly, the new iPhone’s panel can reach a substantially higher peak brightness of 2,000 nits. That’s 800 nits higher than what the iPhone 13 Pro can achieve. And the dual ambient light sensors on the iPhone 15 Pro ensure the phone does a better job of adjusting the brightness level based on the ambient light.

An Always-On display and a Dynamic Island to replace the notch

Secondly, the iPhone 15 Pro comes with Always-On display support. This enables the phone to keep the screen always on in a low power state, showing your unread notifications and time/date.

Lastly, instead of the screen cutout known as the “notch,” the iPhone 15 Pro comes with the Dynamic Island, which debuted on the iPhone 14 Pro in 2022. While the feature packs a lot of promise, a year since its launch, many third-party app developers have yet to take full advantage. Still, there’s no denying that the iPhone 15 Pro’s Dynamic Island is a lot better than the iPhone 13 Pro’s static notch.

Performance: A17 Pro vs. A15 Bionic

A17 Pro
Apple’s A17 Pro features a new six-core GPU.
Photo: Apple
  • iPhone 15 Pro: A17 Pro made with 3nm fab, six-core CPU with 10% faster performance, six-core GPU with 20% higher peak performance, 2x faster 16-core Neural Engine, dedicated AV1 decoder, USB-C controller, second-gen Ultra Wideband chip
  • iPhone 13 Pro: A15 Bionic made with 5nm fab, six-core CPU, five-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine, Ultra Wideband chip

The A17 Pro chip inside the iPhone 15 Pro is the “fastest chip ever in a smartphone,” according to Apple. But that’s a claim the company makes every year with the launch of a new iPhone. Compared to the A15 Bionic, the A17 Pro will deliver 20% to  30% faster CPU performance. The new six-core GPU is also faster and uses Apple-designed shaders. But more importantly, it supports Apple’s MetalFX framework, significantly improving graphics quality in compatible games.

Plus, a more powerful Neural Engine in iPhone 15 Pro

And the iPhone 15 Pro’s performance boost is not just about the faster CPU and GPU. The 16-core Neural Engine of the A17 Pro is more than twice as fast as the iPhone 13 Pro’s. It features a dedicated AV1 decoder, making streaming content from Netflix, YouTube, and other services much more efficient. And thanks to a dedicated USB-C controller, the iPhone 15 Pro can deliver up to 10Gbps data-transfer speeds through its USB-C port. This will make transferring large files from the phone (or vice versa) over a wired connection a breeze.

While the A17 Pro is a better chip, it does not mean the iPhone 13 Pro’s A15 Bionic is slow. This chip can still hold its own two years after its debut and deliver great performance without lags or hiccups while running demanding apps or games.

The iPhone 15 Pro ships with 8GB RAM, which is 2GB more than the iPhone 13 Pro. This should help the former’s multitasking performance, allowing it to keep multiple apps in the background longer. There’s no difference in storage capacity, as both iPhones are available with up to 1TB storage.

Camera: Big upgrades

In some lighting, the Sierra Blue iPhone 13 Pro looks OK. In others, not so much.
iPhone 13 Pro’s camera hardware has held up well. Software, not so much.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac
  • iPhone 15 Pro: 48MP f/1.78 primary camera, second-gen sensor-shift stabilization, 12MP f/2.8 telephoto camera, 3x optical zoom, OIS; 12MP f/2.2 Ultra Wide with 1.4um pixels, Macro photography; next-gen portraits, LiDAR Scanner, Smart HDR 5, Adaptive True Tone flash, Cinematic mode (4K HDR@30fps), Action mode, ProRAW support, ProRes video recording, Log video recording, Action mode, Macro video recording; Front: 12MP camera with f/1.9 aperture, autofocus
  • iPhone 13 Pro: 12MP f/1.5 primary camera, sensor-shift stabilization; 12MP f/2.8 telephoto camera, 3x optical zoom, OIS; 12MP f/1.8 Ultra Wide, Macro photography; True Tone flash, LiDAR Scanner, Smart HDR 4, Cinematic mode (1080p@30fps), ProRAW support, ProRes video recording; Front: 12MP camera with f/2.2 aperture

A bigger and higher-resolution primary camera. An Ultra Wide with a faster f/1.9 aperture to take in more light. On paper, these two are the major camera hardware improvements on the iPhone 15 Pro. But that does not reveal the whole story. There are numerous processing and imaging upgrades that play a vital role here.

By default, the iPhone 15 Pro takes photos at 24MP — twice the resolution of the iPhone 13 Pro. Due to this, the images it captures look a lot sharper and contain more details. Apple’s new Smart HDR 5 processing does a much better job of not blowing out the sky and highlights, a longstanding issue with iPhones.

Video is better on iPhone 15 Pro, too

Video recording quality is also better thanks to the iPhone 15 Pro’s bigger sensors, but the difference in quality is not dramatic. You do get new features like Action mode for super-stabilized videos, Log video recording, and ProRes video recording at up to 4K60fps to an external storage disk. If you are a genuine pro user who uses an iPhone as part of your workflow, you’ll like these new additions.

But none of these improvements mean the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera is bad. Its 12MP primary shooter can still capture great photos with plenty of details. And unless you will benefit from the iPhone 15 Pro’s new camera features, upgrading does not make much sense from a photographic perspective.

Connectivity and sensors: USB-C and satellite!

  • iPhone 15 Pro: Emergency SOS via satellite, Roadside Assistance via satellite, Thread networking, high dynamic range gyro, Crash Detection, dual eSIM slots, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, precision dual-frequency GPS, USB-C (up to 10Gbps), faster 5G modem
  • iPhone 13 Pro: Emergency SOS, dual eSIM slot, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, Lightning (up to480 Mbps)

From a connectivity perspective, you might think that not much changes between iPhones across generations. But that’s not the case. In the two years since the iPhone 13 Pro’s release, Apple has made numerous connectivity upgrades that add up to a significantly better experience.

The first change immediately noticeable on the iPhone 15 Pro is the USB-C port. If you have gone all in on USB-C, your iPhone 13 Pro with its Lightning port must have been sticking out like a sore thumb. This might seem like a simple port change, but its convenience is unmatched.

USB-C has become the port across all Android smartphones and other consumer devices, so iPhone 15 Pro using the same standard is a big deal. Plus, it brings faster wired data-transfer speeds.

Plus faster 5G and Wi-Fi, and satellite connectivity for emergencies

You also get faster/better 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity on the new iPhone.

Another key iPhone 15 Pro upgrade is satellite connectivity for Emergency SOS and Roadside Assistance. This allows the phone to connect to emergency services even when it is not connected to a mobile network. Lastly, if you have a smart home, the iPhone 15 Pro can act as a Thread router for compatible devices, enabling them to communicate with other nearby devices and the internet.

iPhone 15 Pro units sold in the United States do not come with a physical SIM slot. Instead, they only support eSIMs. So coming from an iPhone 13 Pro, you’ll need to ditch your physical SIM card.

Battery life: No changes

iPhone 15 Pro features highlighted by Apple
iPhone 15 Pro packs a lot of upgrades, but better battery life is not one of them.
Photo: Apple
  • iPhone 15 Pro: Up to 23 hours of video playback, up to 75 hours of audio playback; MagSafe and Qi2 wireless charging support
  • iPhone 13 Pro: Up to 22 hours of video playback, up to 75 hours of audio playback; MagSafe and Qi wireless charging support

Despite using a faster and more efficient A17 Pro chip, the iPhone 15 Pro offers the same battery life as the two-year-old iPhone 13 Pro. That’s not really bad since the iPhone 13 Pro made big improvements to battery life. But it is a bummer to see Apple not further improve on this. Still, the iPhone 15 Pro will last you through a day of heavy use with room to spare. And that should be more than good enough for the majority of users.

Charging speeds remain unchanged and terribly slow. A zero-to-50% top-up will take 30 minutes on both iPhones, with a full charge taking around 90 minutes. Wireless charging also tops out at 15W like before with MagSafe, so don’t expect any improvements in this area either.

Should you upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro?

With the iPhone 15 Pro, you get a lighter phone with better build quality, a brighter display, better cameras with pro-centric features, a customizable Action button, and USB-C. All of these are compelling reasons to upgrade, but should you? Unless you have some specific issues with your iPhone 13 Pro or are finding its cameras inadequate, I’d recommend holding out for another year.

The iPhone 15 Pro would have been a worthy upgrade if it featured the same 5x telephoto lens as its larger sibling, the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Some rumors indicate Apple plans on this upgrade for 2024 (alongside a bigger display). That would make the jump from iPhone 13 Pro to iPhone 16 Pro a noticeable one — and an upgrade well worth your money.

If you already decided to buy the new iPhone, check out our iPhone 15 Pro versus iPhone 15 Pro Max comparison to decide if you should go for the bigger model this time around.


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