The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro are now on sale and this year’s phones have improved cameras, better battery life, and a fun new Cinematic Mode. But are they worth an upgrade? Here’s why you might consider swapping out your handset.
Let’s start with the models. There are four to choose from this year: iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. These models come in assorted colors.
Even though that sounds confusing, this year Apple simplified things by making just two main variants. Specs are the same on the 13 Mini and 13 and on the 13 Pro Max. So, your decision comes down to better or best, then which size phone you want. The bigger the handset, the more battery life you’ll get.
The easiest way to tell the different models apart? The iPhone 13 has two camera lenses on the back, while the iPhone 13 Pro has three since it adds a telephoto lens to the mix.
Let’s start with the iPhone 13. This is the model most people will buy. It was an ultra-wide-angle lens and an improved standard lens, which means you’ll get better shots in low light. How much better depends on the phone you currently have. The older the model, the brighter your photos will look when taken on the 13. The device also has longer battery life when compared to last year’s iPhone 12, when things took a hit due to 5G. That gap has been closed.
The iPhone 13 Pro is the bigger upgrade of the two and the phone to get if you want excellent pictures and the best video you can capture on a smartphone today.
Here, all three lenses have been improved for better pictures in low light. You can check my comparison photos here, but the main thing is that this phone snaps faster photos in low light which means you’ll get clearer shots the first time you try to take them.
Here are some photos shot on iPhone 13 Pro. The telephoto lens on the iPhone 13 lets you zoom in 3x, which is more than last year’s Pro models.
The battery life is noticeably better.
The iPhone 13 can also take macro photos, which is fun for getting super close to your subject. The only downside here is that it sometimes makes the camera act funny since it’s always trying to figure out when to switch to the macro mode, which sometimes can lead to a strange back and forth toggle between lenses when you’re trying to capture something. I have a feeling Apple will tweak this in a future software update as they learn how people use the phone.
The other advantage to going Pro is the new high refresh screen rate of up to 120 hz, which Apple calls ProMotion.
It’s super apparent when you swipe to unlock the phone and go to the home screen (it’s never looked so buttery smooth) but I barely noticed the change in my day to day use of the phone.
All of the 2021 iPhone models include Cinematic Mode, which is portrait mode for video. The subject is in focus while the background is blurred. You can watch a demo of it in the video below. It’s a fun feature but time will tell if it’s a novelty or truly useful.
Photos taken on the iPhone 13’s seem to look sharper and more contrasty by default. You can also adjust their universal look of with a new feature called Photographic Styles. You can choose from standard, rich contrast, vibrant, warm or cool. Apple says these are better than filters since they preserve facial skin tones.
Bottom line: this year’s improvements are incremental and some, like battery life, are corrections from last year. But they all add up to make the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro the best smartphones you can purchase today. Keep in mind, there will be people who debate the merits of the iOS operating system or that there are better cameras out there, but I’m including the Apple ecosystem when I say this.
You won’t find a phone that has better apps available on it, better accessories, a better smartwatch to connect, and better tech support and repairs when you need it.