Those looking for an upgrade for the iPhone 11, XS or 8 don’t need to search beyond the 6.1-inch iPhone 13. Apple’s latest mid-size headset offers far better performance than older models, noticeably longer battery life and a better camera. In addition, there are some other nice additions, like a smaller comma.
Skip the annual upgrade
If someone came to check if the upgrade from the iPhone 12 was worth it, I have a simple answer: no. But that is not at all unusual. There is rarely an excuse to replace an iPhone (or Android, TV, or car) with a model next year.
It’s a whole other story for those upgrading to an iPhone 11 or older. Two years or more is enough time for the latest model to include significant improvements. The six major ones I counted.
This is not an attack on people who want to upgrade every year – I do it myself. But I am always aware that there is no real justification for this other than my desire to own the latest and greatest. Still, the iPhone 13 is better than the iPhone 12 in several ways, including battery life.
1. Longer battery life
Estimating the battery life of any smartphone is a bad job. So much depends on how the device is used. The screen brightness level and Wi-Fi / 4G / 5G have a big impact on the life of the device.
Instead of reducing it to a number that would be arbitrary, I’ll tell you that the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 gives at least an hour longer between charges than my iPhone 12. It’s extra time with the screen on, not sitting idle my hundred. This is welcome because the model for me usually dropped below 20% by the end of the day.
As for earlier Apple models, I got into the habit of keeping the charger on my desk so I could plug in my iPhone. Otherwise, they would run straight before I was ready for bed. Keep in mind that I am a heavy user: 3 or 4 hours are typical. Between the usual use, reading e-books, watching videos and games, 5 hours is not so unusual.
Apple says the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 is good for 19 hours of video playback. Compare that with its predecessors:
- iPhone 12: 5 p.m.
- iPhone 11: 5 p.m.
- iPhone XR: 16 hours
- iPhone 8: 1 p.m.
Take all these numbers with a grain of salt – it’s video playback without an internet connection, not streaming video. Still, it shows that there has been a general increase in the coming years. The iPhone used to be notorious for its terrible battery life. Fortunately, those days are long gone. The iPhone 13 can equal me after a busy day of use.
And let’s not forget to consider battery health. Batteries wear out over time – it’s inevitable. Regardless of the battery life of your iPhone XR when it was new, it is shorter now. and the new battery in the iPhone 13 will undoubtedly last much longer before recharging is required.
2. The iPhone 13 offers world-class performance
Every year, Apple improves the processor at the heart of the latest iPhone. 2021 is no different. The A15 is the best Apple ever made.
In my tests, the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 scored 4559 points on the Geekbench 5 multi-core CPU test. This easily destroys previous equivalent models.
- iPhone 12: 3834
- iPhone 11: 2969
- iPhone XR: 2065
- iPhone 8: 1781
(Note that the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G released in 2021 will get 3043 in the same test. Ha!)
While reference results are important, don’t expect Apple’s 2021 model to be twice as fast as the 2017 one for common tasks. In my testing, it’s faster on demanding jobs, but not every email opens 115% faster.
However, there are new features in the iPhone 13 that are not available in the older ones because their processors are not up to par. The most important is Cinematic mode.
If you’re looking for even better performance, you’ll need to jump to the iPhone 13 Pro models. These results score about 4720 on the Geekbench 5 Multi-Core test.
3. Speed 5G
Of course, there are several types of performance. If you have to have at least an iPhone 12 to have 5G. This brings a significant increase in connection speed.
For this review, I did a speed test at a random location and got a download speed of 102 Mbps with a Verizon 5G connection. I went up to 200 Mbps on my iPhone 12 when I was in a bigger city. Whenever I do comparison tests for locations, a 5G connection is always faster than a 4G one.
If you’re upgrading from an iPhone XR or iPhone 11, you’ll almost certainly see an increase in mobile network performance.
4. Better images with camera upgrade
Looking back at the cameras, there have been minor and major changes over the years. Each rear camera returning to the iPhone 8 was 12MP, although specs have improved in other ways. The main difference is the addition of the Ultra Wide camera, which started in the iPhone 11.
Apple has rearranged the position of the two cameras in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13, but that’s just the beginning. The device has better performance in low light, with Apple promising 47% more light collection capability than the iPhone 12.
In 2019, I used an iPhone XS Max to take pictures in the late evening to test the camera. I re-created the image with the iPhone 13 to test how much better it is in low light. I promise you, they were both shot in very similar conditions – just before complete darkness.
I didn’t use night mode for this image, but I could. This allows the device to act as a camera in low light and captures beautiful images in almost complete darkness. But it is best for subjects who do not move.
And the iPhone 13 adds cinematic mode. This puts objects in the foreground in focus, but blurs the background. I did some tests and I am very impressed. The handset is smart enough to automatically focus on the subject you probably want. For example, in this test video, I focused on the only face available, the face of my cat.
But if you want to change the focus, you can do it during filming or after. Video depth data is stored and you can change the depth of field effect later. It’s an amazing effect and I expect to see some amazing TikTok videos from it.
All that said, I’ll remind you of something you already know: the cameras in the iPhone 13 Pro series are better. The 6.1-inch iPhone 13 creates beautiful images and videos, but the tricks are only available in Pro versions.
5. More storage space
The base iPhone 13 model comes with 128GB of storage, which is space for a bunch of apps, videos, pictures … whatever. And it’s twice the capacity of the iPhone 12 at the same price. In fact, 64GB has been the standard for Apple’s mid-size models for years, going back at least to the iPhone 8. A change in the 2021 model is welcome.
RAM increased almost as slowly over the years. The iPhone 13 has 4GB of RAM, as does any mid-size model back on the iPhone XR, which has 3GB. But the iPhone 8 only has 2 GB. More RAM improves the performance of your phone because applications need to be loaded less often when switching from one to another.
6. Smaller comma on the screen
Every Apple phone, starting with the iPhone X, has a comma on the screen. The iPhone 13 slightly reduces its width. Which is OK. I certainly won’t complain that the cutout on the screen is 20% smaller, but that doesn’t change the way I use the device in any way.
The latest 6.1-inch model has a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels at 460 ppi, just like the iPhone 12 of the same size. The iPhone 11 retains a 6.1-inch screen, but is reduced to a resolution of 1792 x 828 pixels at 326 ppi, and the iPhone XR has the same. Those who still have an iPhone 8 have a 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels at 326 ppi.
Here, the type of display is more important than the screen resolution. In mid-size models, the iPhone 12 is a leap from LCD to OLED, which provides better contrast. The iPhone 13 includes an OLED screen with a contrast ratio of 2,000,000: 1. It offers a maximum brightness of 800 nits. This is a beautiful screen that you can use in full sun. And one visibly more beautiful than its predecessors.
Apple has not upgraded the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 with a 120 Hz screen. For this you need to get one of the new Pro models.
7. Elegant design
The chassis of the iPhone 13 keeps the straight edges away from the iPhone 12. I like the design: it’s easy to hold and looks good. But if you’re having trouble setting up with an Apple model with rounded edges, just put the device in a holster. This will protect it and smooth out the corners. The case also flattens the back of the camera.
Those with older iPhones are probably unfamiliar with MagSafe. Apple added wireless charging to its phones a long time ago, but MagSafe (starting with the iPhone 12) enhances it with a ring of magnets that hold the phone and charger together. And there are many accessories that take advantage of this system, from MagSafe energy banks to MagSafe wallets.
If you switch from iPhone 12 to iPhone 13, you’ll notice that the device is heavier due to the larger battery. That’s only a 6% difference, but you’ll feel it as soon as you download a new device. Given this, the change makes the lightweight phone a little less lightweight. Nothing terrible.
iPhone 13 last thoughts
Anyone who has been waiting years for an iPhone XR upgrade or maybe a little older will be pleased with the 6.1-inch iPhone 13. You’ll get a faster device with a better camera and significantly longer battery life.
Even iPhone 12 owners will see a few improvements. That’s not enough to justify replacing a virtually new phone.
The mid-sized iPhone 13 costs $ 799 on Apple’s website for the base model that comes with 128GB of storage. It’s the same launch price as the 64GB iPhone 12. But maybe you’re used to paying a little less. At first appearances, the iPhone 11 cost $ 699, the iPhone XR $ 749, and the iPhone 8 $ 699.
Still, the new 6.1-inch version costs $ 200 or $ 300 less than the iPhone 13 Pro. As I mentioned before, the Pro versions offer some additional features. But not enough to take me away from the more affordable.
Apple did not provide the Cult of Mac unit for review of this article. See our review policy and other detailed reviews of Apple-related items.
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