Last week when Apple’s iPhone 13 models went on sale, I asked Twitter followers which model they planned to order. An overwhelming majority voted for the iPhone 13 Pro, followed by the iPhone 13 Pro Max, followed by the Mini and the Basic. Interestingly, those are my personal preferences, especially now that I have perused all four iPhone 13 models that Apple sent out for review.
In addition to these phones, Apple sent out another device, so not surprisingly, I have spent most of the past few days mucking about with that device instead of digging into the iPhones. I intend to write my full length iPhone 13 review in time, but I highly recommend John Gruber and Joanna Stern if you want to get some good intelligent reviews.
Like all reviewers, they emphasize two things that have improved across the entire line-up of new iPhones — cameras and batteries. And candidly, it is all that matters to an average person: great cameras to capture daily moments and selfies. Given how much we all are addicted to our phones, battery capacity and performance are pretty high in feature lists for most people.
Last year, I preferred the iPhone 12 ProMax because it had a better camera –, but this year both Pro and Pro Max have the same camera configuration. The 13 ProMax has longer battery life — Apple says it is an additional 2.5 hours compared to the 12 ProMax model — but it comes at a price: it is heavier, and you can feel it.
The iPhone 13 Pro, on the other hand, is the “Goldilocks” model — perfect in size, weight, comfort when using in a single-hand mode, battery life (about 90 minutes more than last year’s model,) quality of the screen, and camera quality. It is easier to use for selfies, and it is also less conspicuous in one’s pocket.
The other significant improvement — at least for me — is the screen performance. In the two Pro models, Apple has added a “Super Retina XDR ProMotion” display, which allows the device to use “ProMotion.” That allows a screen refresh rate of up to 120Hz. It makes the whole user experience so smooth and flawless.
Within a couple of minutes, your brain is so used to this latency-less experience that you start to notice that your year-old iPhone 12 Mini feels like a slowpoke. Apple has made some OS-level improvements to ensure that the system can dynamically switch between 10Hz to 120Hz refresh rate (based on content), so it doesn’t drain the beefier batteries. This new refresh technology puts iPhone on par with Samsung’s latest Galaxy S21 Ultra. I just have not been able to get over this smooth screen experience — this is the icing on the cake.
The cake, though, is an all-new camera system inside the Pro models. (I will eventually get to the Mini and Basic models, but I am focusing on the 13 Pro for now. Apple has put a new sensor inside the phones. It is bigger than previous models (though Apple didn’t share how much bigger.) However, you can see that they are bigger because the rear camera module is visibly larger and has visibly larger camera lenses and camera bumps compared to last year’s model.
They have increased the sensor size. For the standard camera, it is 1.9µm pitch pixels, which at 12MP translates to a 1/1.67” sensor. The aperture on this camera is now f/1.5 and is IBIS stabilized. That is what allows a much-improved Portrait mode performance and gives the phone ability to create a “cinematic effect” in the video. The ultrawide lens now has an f/1.8 aperture. The Telephone lens has gone up from (an equivalent of) 67mm in the 12ProMax model to (an equivalent of) 77mm equivalent focal length, or 3x magnification over the normal-camera module. The telephoto lens has an aperture of f/2.8.
I am also digging the ability to get close to my subjects and automatically switch into macro mode. Macro photography is so hard to do even with the most expensive cameras and best lenses, and the iPhone 13 Pro is throwing out one good photo after another as if it was child’s play. The biggest takeaway from the new camera rig is that it works amazingly well in low-light situations, which means fewer blurry and less noisy photos during romantic dinners.
Many Android phones have superior camera rigs and are improving their quality by leaps and bounds. However, as an iPhone owner, this set-up is enough for me to take good photos. I have not had a chance to go out and take photos with the new device extensively, but whatever work I have done so far has given me some astonishing results. I can’t wait to get out tomorrow and the days after to put these cameras to use, capture some great moments and share them with you.
For now, if you are looking to upgrade, even with my limited experience, I can safely say: you can’t go wrong with the iPhone 13 Pro.