iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. 14 Pro Max?

Now that Apple finally has refurbished iPhone 13s in their store, and I have a fresh tax refund, I’m going to replace my long-out-of-date iPhone 7 Plus with either a 13 Pro Max or a 14 Pro Max. But I want to make sure I’m not missing out on anything truly important by going with a 13 instead of a 14.

The refurbished 13 Pro Max, 1TB, is currently listed in the Apple Store online at $1269, while the 14 Pro Max, 1TB, is $1599, a difference of $330. No small change.

But I’ve always been in the habit of buying the most recent device I can practically afford that suits my needs, because I keep devices until they die or are no longer practical to use. Since the 7 Plus doesn’t support iOS 16, it’s just about to that “no longer practical” point. The 1TB Pro Max is definitely what I want (if I have to settle for 512GB, I’d be looking at the refurbished 12 Pro Max). I’m just having difficulty justifying to myself the additional $330 for the one-year-newer model.

Of the things the 14 offers over the 13, the only ones I’ve seen that make much difference to me are the newer camera, the Dynamic Island instead of the Notch, and the gorgeous Deep Purple color. The Dynamic Island and the color are not, however, worth a $330 premium to me.

So, among those of you familiar with both devices, is the camera in the 14 Pro Max sufficiently better than that in the 13 Pro Max to be worth an additional three hundred dollars? Are the other improvements in the newer phone significant enough to justify the extra cost? And how likely is it that the year-older model will be obsoleted more than one year/one iOS version earlier than the newer one?

Using MacTracker to lookup features, here are the differences between the 13 Pro Max an the 14 Pro Max:

  • Display: Very similar resolutions. But the 14 supports a 1Hz always-on refresh mode. The 14 can get brighter (up to 2000 cd/m2 outdoors)
  • Video recording: The 14 adds “Cinematic mode up to 4K HDR at 30 fps”
  • CPU: A16 at 3.5 GHz vs. A15 at 3.2 GHz
  • Bluetooth: 5.3 vs 5.0
  • Cellular modem: Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 vs. X60
  • The 14 supports 5G cellular with 4x4 MIMO (13 only supports 4x4 MIMO for “Gigabit LTE”)
  • The 14 doesn’t have a physical SIM socket for the model sold in the US. Some countries have models with a single SIM or dual SIM socket.
  • Location: the 14 has “Precision dual-frequency GPS”
  • Camera: The 14 has a 48MP main camera. All others are 12MP. All of the 13’s cameras are 12MP
  • Sensors: The 14 has dual ambient lights sensors (vs. 1 on the 13) and “high dynamic range” gryo and “high-g” accelerometer. I assume this is to support crash detection.

I’d say that if you have to ask (and if you’ve been happy using a 7 up until now) then you’re probably not into photography enough for the difference to matter to you.

It’s impossible to know, but from what I’ve seen, there doesn’t seem to be anything here that Apple would want to abandon as a part of the upgrade cycle, so I would expect the two to have comparable amounts of support.


Yeah, I’ve looked at the specs, but most specs don’t tell you much that’s actually useful. I wish manufacturers and reviewers would translate them into what the real-world effect is. Such as, in a practical sense, what’s the difference between Bluetooth 5.3 and 5.0? How intensive does my usage have to be for the difference between a 3.5GHz A16 and a 3.2 GHz A15 to matter? What can a Snapdragon X65 do that an X60 can’t? Does “4x4 MIMO” on 5G vs. only on Gigabit LTE even have any practical value for the average user? (Even after reading the Wikipedia page on MIMO, I have absolutely no clue on that one.) A user can see that X spec is “better” on one device than another, but what that means in actual use is typically pretty opaque. I think marketing departments prefer it that way, but it makes useful comparisons hard for those of us who aren’t dazzled by jargon and numbers.

The one spec that feels meaningful to me is the 48MP camera vs 12MP—that’s something I understand and can translate into a real-world effect. And you’re right that I’m not currently deep enough into photography for that to matter up until now, but I’ve been considering moving more in that direction, and a fourfold increase in MP is significant. I’m just on the fence about whether it’s worth $300 to me right now—but I’m leaning towards not, especially when I could put that $300 towards replacing my also-out-of-date iPad Mini 4.

According to this article, the big differences are:

  • New audio support. So compatible headphones may sound better and/or use less power
  • Some additional security features

As a user, you probably won’t know or care unless you have a pair of headphones that can take advantage of the new audio features (introduced in BT 5.2).

I suspect only gamers are going to notice. But if you’re doing photographic work, I suspect the more advanced neural engine will improve your pictures and/or speed up the processing time. Especially with that 48MP camera element.

Wikipedia provides a table, but it doesn’t say much. More 5G bandwidth seems to be the distinguishing feature (max speed from 7.5 Gbps to 10 Gbps)

If I compare Qualcomm’s product briefs for the X60 and X65, it’s a lot of technobabble that boils down to “more bandwidth”.

4x4 MIMO means it can transmit and receive on 4 separate antennae at once. When used in conjunction with a compatible cell tower, it can give you a cleaner signal and less dropouts as you move around.

Both of the Snapdragon modems say they support 4x4 MIMO on 5G (sub-6 bands - only 2x2 MIMO on mmWave bands). But the iPhone 13 doesn’t support it, so I suspect only the 14 has the necessary antennae needed to make it all work.


Now you’re talking…