iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Worth the upgrade?

The iPhone 15 has arrived to some fanfare, with some big updates arriving during Apple’s most recent Wonderlust event. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, is rounding the bend to its third birthday, and that means that those with slightly longer three-year contracts are getting those ‘time to upgrade!’ messages from their carriers.

If you are one of these people, then you are likely already thinking about getting yourself an iPhone 15 — or, you’re wondering what upgrading to the latest handset will bring to the table that makes it that much better than your old one. Well, with features like Dynamic Island, USB-C, and a brand-new 48MP camera, you can expect some massive upgrades over the phone in your pocket. It’s also the same price that you’ll have paid for your iPhone 12 on launch, and with a trade-in, it might even be free — feels like a no-brainer to us.

Here is the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 12 put up against one another so that you can make the final decision.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Specs

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

While there are a couple of similarities between the two models like OLED screen size and chassis width, thickness, and weight, for the most part, the specs of the iPhone have been completely refreshed in the new iPhone 15. The new features and specs announced at the most recent event make for some truly impressive reading, and it only justifies an upgrades from the iPhone 12 to the iPhone 15 even more.

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iPhone 12 vs iPhone 15
Specs iPhone 12 iPhone 15
Display size6.1 inches6.1 inches
Display type OLED OLED
Capacity 64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Splash, water, dust resistanceIP68IP68
Chip A14 bionic chip, 6 core CPU, 4-core GPU, 16-core neural engineA16 Bionic chip, 6 core CPU, 5-core GPU, 16-core neural engine
Camera 12MP triple-camera system + TrueDepth front camera with autofocus, ƒ/1.5 aperture 48MP triple-camera system + TrueDepth front camera with autofocus, ƒ/1.5 aperture
Zoom.5x, 1x.5x, 1x, 2x
Video 4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, Action Mode
Face IDYes Yes
Apple Pay Yes Yes
Safety Emergency SOSEmergency SOS via satellite, Crash Detection, Roadside Assistance via satellite
Location GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDouGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, Digital compass, WiFi, Cellular, iBeacon microlocation
Video calling Yes Yes
Audio calling Yes Yes
Siri Yes Yes
Power and battery Video playback: up to 17 hoursVideo playback: up to 23 hours
Fast chargingYesYes
SensorsFace ID, Barometer, High dynamic range gyro, High-G accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Dual ambient light sensorsFace ID, Barometer, Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor
Operating systemiOS 17iOS 17
SIM Dual SIM - Nano-SIM and eSIMeSIM

As we can tell from the spec list above, the iPhone 15 is a cut above the iPhone 12 in more ways than one. The A16 Bionic chip under the hood is the same as the iPhone 14 Pro’s, making it a whole lot more powerful than the iPhone 12 and its A14 Bionic chip. Then there’s that monster of a 48MP camera at the back, quadrupling the megapixels that you would’ve found on the slightly older iPhone — you won’t even be able to compare the pictures without cringing.

There are more extra features to bring you across as well, like the 2000 nits peak brightness display, and a vastly improved front camera. On top of that, it’s a brand-new phone, so while the battery life might not be improved on paper, it's not suffered three years' worth of battery rotations that will have likely tanked its prognosis. If you’re coming from an iPhone 12 contract, you’ll soon notice the difference.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: What’s new

There is a whole three years between the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 12, so you’d expect some new stuff to have come along the way in the generations that filled the gap. The iPhone 15 has taken most of the improvements of these generations, and then added it’s own as well — when you pluck the iPhone 15 out of its box, these are going to be the features that are new to you.

Dynamic Island

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

Coming fresh off the iPhone 14 Pro, Dynamic Island gets rid of that horrible notch at the top of your screen, replacing it with a camera hiding a black digital pill. The contents of that pill change depending on what’s going on in the background — you can use it to check what music is streaming over AirPlay for example, or see tracking details for a takeaway order on UberEats. 

It’s a well-implemented alternative to the standard screen notch that covers the tops of iPhones of old, and you’ll soon notice it if you jump over from the very much-enotched iPhone 12.


iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

This is going to seem like a massive jump if you’re coming from the iPhone 12 — there’s a new 48MP camera on the iPhone 15 which will really up the photo quality from the iPhone 12 that’s in your pocket. When you look at the raw numbers, that’s quadruple the megapixels from your old phone, and the differences will be very noticeable.

There are also some new features coming to the portrait mode, which use machine learning to do some really clever stuff. First off, portrait mode can now detect multiple subjects in frame, and then you can select which one to apply the bokeh effect to. You cando this to a photo after it’s been taken — even if it wasn’t initially a portrait mode photo, which is cool. Place the two cameras side by side and you’re going to notice a massive difference in photo quality.


iphone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

On the bottom of the iPhone 15 is the biggest change to the outside of the iPhone — the inclusion of a USB-C port. Gone is the Lightning port of old, and in with the industry standard oval of dreams. That means you’ll be able to use a wider range of devices with the iPhone 15, including external displays and external DACs for Apple Music Lossless. You won’t even need a new wall adapter, as the USB-C port on the other end will plug straight in.

Alas, some of the USB-C features of the Pro models aren’t coming over to the 15, like faster charging and quicker data transfer, but it does mean you’ll only need one cable for your iPad, MacBook, and new AirPods Pro 2 USB-C — unless you’ve got an old pair of AirPods. Old iPhone accessories will need updating too, as they’ll all be for the Lightning standard. Think games controllers like the BackBone One, and numerous docks that you might have. It will have it’s teething issues for users, but overall it is a net good.

Battery packs and other accessories will be fine, however — as long as there’s a USB port you can plug into, there won’t be any issues.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Processor


(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 12 had, at its time, a very solid processor at its core in the shape of the A14 Bionic. Now, however, the game has very much been changed with the A16 Bionic in the iPhone 15. As said up top, that’s the same chip that shipped in the iPhone 14 Pro, a very powerful phone indeed, so you know you’re going to get something slick and snappy.

That A16 should also bring better battery life with increased efficiency, as well as being better for some light gaming. If your iPhone 12 isn’t feeling quite as powerful as it used to, then the iPhone 15 is the way to go.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Colors

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

The new colors for iPhone this year really shake things up, with some very fetching pastel shades. 2023’s color lineup consists of Black, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink, and each one is a lighter, classier shade than the colors we might have seen before. There are some notable absences — PRODUCT(RED) for one, which is a massive shame.

The iPhone 12 came in some slightly different, more saturated colors, including Blue, White, Black, Green, and PRODUCT(RED). They were more vivid colors, perhaps, but this year’s make the iPhone look more refined and subtle to go with its more curvaceous frame.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Battery life


(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone battery life is always a tricky one to guage, given that Apple very rarely talks exact numbers about its battery life figures. The most we get is something along the lines of ‘All Day Battery Life’ which, given that most people’s definition of ‘all day’ means something a little different, is tricky to quantify. What we can say, however, is that the battery life in brand new iPhone 15 is going to be far better than the battery life of the iPhone in your pocket that at this point has gone through three years of battery cycles.

Battery life on the iPhone 12 on launch was fine, if not good, and it’s likely that the iPhone 15 will be much the same. When numbers did come around for the iPhone 12, it was around 20 hours while watching video — although it was likely slightly less than this in actual use. The iPhone 15 is most likely going to match the stats, but we won’t know for some time.

iPhone 15 vs iPhone 12: Should you upgrade?

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Apple)

Now that we have a better idea of what all the different iPhones look like, we can make a more informed decision as to what you should do with your aging iPhone 12. It goes without saying that the iPhone 15 is the better phone of the two, with a massive bump in specs, and most notably, camera megapixels.

The iPhone 15 has loads of extra features too, from the Dynamic Island that now sits at the top of the screen, to a new sleeker chassis. Dynamic Island is particularly good because it not only gets rid of the unsightly notch at the top of the display, but also because it adds a new, interactive portion to the top of the screen. You can track takeaway deliveries, check what music is playing and where, and even watch timers tick down — all whilst doing something else.

The USB-C port is also a big upgrade, although you won’t get some of the benefits like the Pro models get. It does trim down the cables you need to take on a trip, and if you get a pair of the new AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C, you’ll be able to use your iPhone’s battery to charge them up.

The interesting part is that upgrading, especially if you’re coming from an iPhone 12, is the price. You’d expect that a massively upgraded iPhone would come at a higher price than you paid three years ago for your now outdated iPhone, but that’s not the case. Instead, you’ll find that the iPhone 15 costs $799, the same price that you’ll have paid for your 12.

Combine that with the fact that you’ll be able to upgrade with trade-in and save, if your phone is in good condition then you could get the phone for free with selected carriers. Upgrading doesn’t just make sense from a specs point of view, but a monetary one too.

The iPhone 15 will ship out to those who preordered on September 22, and you can still preorder an iPhone 15. You will find that your shipping date will be slightly different, however, as launch stock seems to have completely evaporated since preorders went live.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.