iPhone 13 — buy now or wait for iPhone 14?

The age-old question that gnaws at anyone considering a tech purchase — how long is too long to wait to buy a new product — must feel especially poignant for iPhone fans these days. The iPhone 13 is out and enjoying strong reviews. But at the same time, iPhone 14 rumors are beginning to heat up, promising even more improvements further down the road.

So the quandary facing someone weighing whether to get one of Apple phones is this — do you grab what is clearly one of the best phones now in the iPhone 13 or do you wait until next fall for whatever improvements the iPhone 14 has to offer

There’s an added complication to this particular dilemma, resulting from supply chain issues plaguing plenty of tech companies, Apple included. Apple has run into difficulties getting all the parts it needs to make the iPhone 13; as a result, iPhone 13 supplies are limited, particularly for the Pro models.

As of our most recent check of iPhone 13 shipping delays, you’ll wait around 10 to 17 days after ordering the iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max before the phone will land in your hands. That’s not an insurmountable delay in the greater scheme of things, but it does make you think that if you can wait that long, why not hold out for longer? With supply chain issues not expected to ease up until February 2022, this is a debate that’s going to linger.

Deciding whether to buy an iPhone 13 or hold off for the iPhone 14 is much like any buy-or-wait decision. It depends heavily on your personal circumstances — if you need a phone now, get one now — and what kind of features you consider must-haves. But knowing what’s available now and what’s likely to come down the pike can help simplify that decision. So here’s what you get with an iPhone 13 and how Apple’s rumored iPhone plans for 2022 might influence your buying decision.

The iPhone 13 arrived in late September with four different models to choose from. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is our favorite of the bunch and the best iPhone you can currently get. But it’s also the most expensive — the iPhone 13 Pro offers many of the same features but with a smaller display for $100 less. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max review

The iPhone 13, with its $799 price, will appeal to most users with its mixture of features and value. The iPhone 13 mini is the cheapest of the new iPhones, but with its 5.4-inch screen, it’s appeal is limited to fans of small phones.

iPhone 13 mini iPhone 13 iPhone 13 Pro iPhone 13 Pro Max
Starting price $699 $799 $999 $1,099
Storage 128, 256, 512GB 128, 256, 512 GB 128, 256, 512, 1TB 128, 256, 512, 1TB
Screen size 5.4 inches 6.1 inches 6.1 inches 6.7 inches
Resolution/ppi 2340 x 1080/476 2532 x 1170/460 2532 x 1170/460 2778 x 1284/458
Adaptive refresh No No Up to 120Hz Up to 120Hz
Chip A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic
Rear cameras Dual 12MP (Wide, ultrawide) Dual 12MP (Wide, ultrawide) Pro 12MP (Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide) Pro 12MP (Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide)
Zoom None / 5x digital None / 5x digital 3x optical / 15x digital 3x optical / 15x digital
Front camera 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth
Colors Red, Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Pink Red, Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Pink Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue
Size 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches
Weight 4.97 ounces 6.14 ounces 7.2 ounces 8.5 ounces
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68
Battery life 8:41 10:33 11:42 12:16
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All four iPhone 13 models are powered by the A15 Bionic chip, the most powerful mobile processor we’ve tested. Each of the four iPhones also rank among the best camera phones, with the Pro models featuring a telephoto lens in addition to the two-camera setup included on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. Each model also supports the Cinematic mode feature in which you can seamlessly shift the focus in a video you’re shooting.

Perhaps the most welcome addition to the iPhone 13 lineup was bigger batteries in every model. The iPhone 12 lineup, with the exception of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, was a disappointment in terms of battery life, so it’s good to see Apple reverse that trend with its follow-up release.

Our iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro comparison can help you pick out which model is right for you. We also look at the iPhone 13 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max differences.

While any iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12 comparison will show some improvements from year to year, the biggest advances will be felt if you’ve been holding onto an older iPhone and upgrade to a new model. For example, our iPhone 13 vs. iPhone XR camera face-off shows a dramatic improvement in low-light photos over a phone that came out just three years ago.

iPhone 14: Rumored features coming in 2022

The iPhone 13 came out so recently it still has that new iPhone smell. But Apple is already working on next year’s iPhones, and some of the alleged details about what’s in the works has started trickling out.

We wouldn’t expect Apple to deviate from its long-established strategy of rolling out major iPhone releases in the fall, so we’re at least nine months away from laying eyes on the iPhone 14. But if you can wait that long, these are the rumored features and enhancements potentially coming our way.

iPhone 14 concepts

A faster processor: This one’s a gimme. Every new iPhone generation tends to introduce a new system-on-chip, and we’d expect the iPhone 14 to be no different. That likely means A16 Bionic silicon replacing the A15 that powers this year’s models. You’d figure that chip would be faster and more power-efficient, especially if Apple’s chip supplier switches to a 4-nanometer process that fits more transistors onto the chip than the 5nm A15.

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That said, generation-to-generation performance improvements tend not to be visible to the naked eye. A processor boost alone wouldn’t be enough to postpone an upgrade, even if you’ve been holding on to your current iPhone for years.

New model size: The iPhone 13 mini will likely be the last of its kind to sport that particular screen size. (So if you do favor smaller phones, now’s the time to upgrade.) For the iPhone 14, Apple will supposedly go big — as in a lower cost 6.7-inch model that will serve as a bigger screen version of the 6.1-inch iPhone 14.

If this rumor pans out and Apple releases an iPhone 14 Max, it will create a big-screen option for less than what the current Pro Max models cost. Fans of big screen phones who aren’t willing to pay up for an iPhone 13 Pro Max may have good reason to hold out until the fall.

No notch: Apple shrunk the notch by 20% on the iPhone 13, but that’s not good enough for people who want as clean and unobstructed a display as possible. They may get their wish with the iPhone 14, which is rumored to be dropping the notch from at least some of its models.

iPhone 14 concepts

The end of the notch would require Apple to figure out some way to house its Face ID sensors either under the display or in a very thin bezel above the screen. For that reason, the notch-free experience may be limited to just one model or the iPhone 14 Pro lineup.

120Hz displays for all: Speaking of features limited to the Pro models, that’s exactly what Apple did when it came time to introduce adaptive refresh rates to the iPhone’s screen. Only the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are capable of scaling up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and more immersive games; the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are stuck at 60Hz.

That’s expected to change with the iPhone 14, as the entry-level models could get fast-refreshing displays of their own. If that’s a must-have feature for you, and you don’t want to buy a Pro model, then waiting for the iPhone 14 seems like a sensible decision.

Touch ID’s return: Apple dropped fingerprint sensors from the iPhone with the arrival of Face ID and the notch in the iPhone X. But iPhone fans would love for Touch ID to return if for no other reason than Apple’s otherwise stellar face-scanning technology doesn’t work when you’re wearing a mask. And plenty of us are these days, if only indoors.

There’s no consensus that Touch ID will return in the iPhone 14 or what form it will take — an under-the-display sensor is possible or Apple could integrate it into the power button similar to how it works on the current iPad Air and iPad mini. Because the status of this feature remains up in the air, though, you may not want to consider Touch ID among your reasons to wait for an iPhone 14.

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Don’t forget about the iPhone SE

While Apple’s flagships only seem to ship in the fall, that doesn’t mean we’re waiting until then for any phone release from Apple. A new iPhone SE could arrive in 2022, with its likely launch date coming in the first three months of the new year.

Dubbed the iPhone SE 3, this new phone would bring 5G to Apple’s least expensive iPhone. If Apple follows the same pattern as the 2020 version of the iPhone SE, this model would adopt the A15 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 13. It’s unclear if the new iPhone SE would retain the current model’s design — a 4.7-inch screen in an iPhone 8 form factor — or adopt a more modern iPhone design with a bigger screen. 

iPhone SE 3

With the iPhone SE 3 expect to cost about as much as the current SE, consumers hoping for a cheaper Apple phone will want to wait until at least March to see if the anticipated iPhone SE can meet their needs. Until we hear more about the iPhone SE 3’s rumored design, it’s hard to say if compact phone fans will embrace the new model.

iPhone 13: Buy it now or wait for something else?

Hopefully, those rumors about what’s coming from Apple can help you figure out if the iPhone 13 is the right phone for you or if you’re betting off waiting for features more in line with your wish list. Again, there’s no universally right answer to this question — it all depends on what you want from a phone and whether Apple is likely to provide it, whether that’s now or in the future.

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