After last week’s review of the new iPhone 13 series A15 chip, which impressed us immensely for the increased efficiency, we promised to then have a closer look at the battery life of the new phone and how the new generation screen and screen efficiency connect. with SoC efficiency and increased battery capacity of this generation.
This year’s new iPhone 13 series is extremely promising in terms of battery life as Apple has improved this aspect of the device through a host of different improvements. All new phones have next-generation displays, most notably the new Pro models that feature new variable refresh screens, with increased battery capacity. After several hard days of testing battery life, we can come to very positive conclusions:
LTPO and new OLED emitters?
Among the most significant introductions of the new technology on this year’s devices was the addition of “Pro Motion” to the new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max models, essentially high refresh rates that reach up to 120Hz. Apple is also joining the LTPO VRR club, meaning new phones are introducing variable panel refresh rates, with Apple promising that the new screens will vary between 10 and 120Hz in the set of discrete refresh rates available – similar to what we saw on Samsung’s HOP screens in the Note20 Ultra last year, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra this year.
In addition to VRR technology, this year’s phones also get new, more basic panel technologies, such as new OLED emitters, which allow for either lower power consumption, or an increase in maximum maximum brightness. To explore this part in more detail, we’ll take another look at our brightness power curves of different devices to get a better insight into what’s going on under the hood.
To avoid mixing screen sizes in combination, we limit the comparison to Apple’s traditionally identical shape factors between generations, starting with the iPhone 11 Pro, followed by the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro generations and the new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro.
Starting with what might be surprising, is the fact that both the iPhone 12 and 13 series have Pro models that consume more power than their non-Pro counterparts. We skipped this measurement in our review of last year’s phones so this surprised me. Measuring the data several times still gives the same results, and regression testing with other power data, such as processor power, showed almost identical numbers among the phones, so this was no difference in methodology. It’s not clear to me why this is happening, especially in the 12 Series. There have been rumors that the 12 Pro is Apple’s first 10-bit screen, and that would somehow make sense given the increased power consumption over the 12 and 11 Pro models, however we could never check it properly.
On the iPhone 13 series, several complex behaviors need to be considered: First, the iPhone 13 Pro and its LTPO board noticeably reduce the phone’s minimum baseline power consumption by about 100mW. This isn’t a big surprise because that’s what we’ve experienced on Samsung’s LFD screens – but with the difference that Apple doesn’t seem to put any restrictions on low-refresh rate, so Apple is definitely introducing an uncompromising 120Hz VRR implementation here. While 100mW doesn’t sound too much, when using a phone with a lower screen brightness, this can represent a large percentage of the device’s total power consumption and significantly extend battery life for the new iPhone 13 Pro models.
Second, for the usual iPhone 13 model, what I expected was that Apple would essentially just inherit last year’s iPhone 12 Pro board and put it on non-pro devices this year, because that’s how Apple at least advertised the new phones. However, looking at the power curves here, we see that these are very different generations of panels, with the new iPhone 13 showing a noticeable reduction in power associated with the new generation, more efficient OLED emitter material. The jump here is extremely large and can be compared to the new emitter efficiency increase we saw on the S21 Ultra this year.
Comparing the 13 with the 13 Pro, the phones have quite different curves – while the 13 Pro consumes less power to display all-white color up to 140 nits, the regular 13 later becomes more efficient. We also see different shapes of curves, which means that the phones run differently depending on their PWM and emitter voltage. Without more technical insight, I don’t have a proper explanation for the results, I can only say they are consistent.
Another thing to add is the fact that with this year’s Pro models, Apple has finally added a dedicated high-brightness mode that only works in high ambient light. 13 Pro, in manual lighting mode, will only go up to 853 nits. In automatic lighting mode in a dark environment, the screen will scale to 625 nits, while in a bright environment it offers a full amazing 1059 nits, fulfilling and exceeding the promise of 1000 nits that Apple advertised.
Apple mentioned that the new iPhones lasted longer than their predecessors, but as always, it was their own “internal usage metric” in hours. Physically, the new phones come with larger batteries, and after the first crashes we can get the appropriate context in terms of their capacities:
|Apple iPhone 12 vs 13 Battery Capacity|
|12 Series||2227 mAh||2815 mAh||2815 mAh||3687 mAh|
|13 Series||2406 mAh
The differences here vary depending on the exact model – the 13 mini and 13 Pro have the smallest increase to +8 and + 10% respectively. The usual iPhone 13 records a larger increase of + 14.6%, while the Pro Max definitely records the largest generational increase at + 18% capacity. In terms of absolute capacity, although Apple has increased things by respectable amounts, by comparison, phones still have fairly small batteries, especially compared to Android competition, where a small phone is expected to have at least 4000mAh and large phones seemingly standardized about 5000mAh. The new Pro models are also extremely heavy this year, both because of the new cameras and because of the larger batteries – I don’t want to know how much more they would aspire to have even bigger batteries.
The resulting battery life results
Combining SoC efficiency, screen efficiency, and a larger battery, we return to testing reliable battery life to explore the end results. The test consists of diverse content from popular sites, with mixed APLs, dynamic scrolling, and realistic time intervals between content loads and read breaks between scrolls.
Starting with the results at 60Hz, we can make appropriate generational comparisons with the iPhone 12. As a note, unfortunately we never reviewed the 12 mini or 12 Pro Max due to deviations in the release date, so they are missing in the results.
All new phones show extremely large generational gains over their predecessors. For the iPhone 13, we get results that are 34% better than the iPhone 12, which exceeds the battery capacity increase of + 14.6%. The new efficiency of the SoC, as well as the increased energy efficiency of the screen would explain the rest of the difference.
The iPhone 13 Pro monitors almost identical operating time as the 13 – 4.1% smaller Pro battery is slightly compensated by a more efficient screen, however what these results show us is that under the same refresh rate of 60 Hz the new LTPO Pro screen does not actually shows such an advantage in efficiency over non-LTPO models — although both have generationally more efficient displays than their predecessors.
The iPhone 13 mini shows enough battery life at 10.7 hours, although it is obviously below average, although it still keeps pace with devices that have significantly larger batteries.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max breaks the top charts at 9.68pm. We’re missing the 12 Pro Max, but it’s significantly longer than the 11 Pro Max, as well as the 6000mAh ASUS ROG Phone monster, and also significantly ahead of the S21 Ultras which also have larger batteries.
Apple’s 120Hz refresh rate seems to work very similar to Samsung’s LFD VRR, as the screen can vary between several discrete refresh rates, ranging from 120Hz to 80, 60Hz and several other low-frequency refresh rates up to 10Hz. The frequencies represented by Apple are similar to those exhibited by Samsung in its drivers, which would not be surprising if both are based on the same panel technology.
Apple’s practical implementation has some differences from the OS, however, I’ve noticed that within the browser content, although scrolling through the viewport happens at 120Hz, the actual content animations seem to be limited to 60Hz. This is a difference from current Android devices that also draw content animations at 120Hz. I don’t think this has any practical difference in experience, however interesting. By the way, Apple’s Pro Motion on iPhones seems to work very well and without problems.
In the 120Hz result set, for which the new iPhone 13 Pro models are now the first Apple devices among the competition, the new phones directly present themselves as the best performers.
The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max lose 14.5% and 13.5%, respectively, compared to 60Hz results, which is generally in line with the 12.2% degradation seen by the S21 Ultra – you can argue that Apple’s 60Hz is more efficient than Samsung’s or Samsung’s 120Hz is more efficient than Apple’s, the difference remains small.
Given the significantly smaller 13 Pro Max battery, seemingly similar display technology and efficiency with the S21 Ultra, the advantage of Apple’s battery life remains in my opinion entirely on the huge efficiency advantages of Apple’s silicon, with the new A15 further increasing this difference compared to competition.
Kings of battery life
Today’s investigation into the battery life results of the new iPhone 13 series confirms what many others have already mentioned – it’s a significant upgrade over the iPhone 12 generation, with a huge increase. Apple’s new more efficient screens, larger batteries, as well as the significantly more efficient A15 chip represent the world’s hardware improvement feature, which is extremely positive about the longevity of the new phones. There is little left to say.
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