Audiences support AppleInsider and can earn a commission when you shop through our links. These partnerships do not affect our editorial content.
This year’s iPhone 13 is not revolutionary, but it will end up as the most popular iPhone 13 model.
In this review, we primarily focus on the iPhone 13 itself. For those interested in the smaller iPhone 13 mini you can check out this review, and those for the iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max, we also have a special review for them.
Apple’s new iPhone
We took the base model unit in (PRODUCT) red, which this year includes 128GB of storage. Instead of 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB intervals, the iPhone 13 now starts at 128 GB and moves to 256 GB and 512 GB.
The dimensions remained largely the same. The iPhone 12 is 5.78 inches high, 2.82 inches wide and 0.29 inches thick. Compared to that, the iPhone 13 holds the same height and width, but has increased its thickness to 0.30 inches. This is not easy to notice, especially if you put the iPhone in a case.
However, some of the keys have moved a bit, which means that the case for the iPhone 12 will not match the iPhone 13. The controls have been moved down, making them easier to press while using the device.
There’s support for MagSafe, which is huge this year as manufacturers have had 12 months to release compatible accessories. There are plenty of car holders, table holders, wallets, chargers and more to support it.
Although most chargers are still only magnetic Qi coils, it seems that Apple still has problems delivering official MagSafe packs to third parties. Hopefully more official chargers will debut next year.
The lighting was kept for another year, to no one’s surprise. Chances are that Apple will soon switch to Lightning, and rumors suggest that the iPhone without ports will crash before the USB-C version does.
It supports Bluetooth 5 as well as Wi-Fi 6. We were hoping to see support for Wi-Fi 6E this year which brings support for the 6GHz spectrum, but we will wait for that at least until the iPhone 14.
5G is slightly more of a feature this year than last as networks have continued to expand, but mmWave coverage is still low. On our Verizon unit, we still don’t notice a big gain on 5G compared to LTE, so we turn it off from time to time to save on battery life.
It’s called 13, but really 12C
It’s been a long time, but Apple used to have a pretty predictable pattern. One year we would have a flagship phone with a dazzling new design, followed by an “S” year that further improved the design and performance of the spotlight and camera.
This pattern was halted by the dubiously dubbed introduction of the iPhone X, completely skipping the iPhone 9 and leading to the 11, 12, and now the iPhone 13.
The iPhone 12 got a new design in 2020, so it was no surprise to see the iPhone 13 look almost identical. There were some shifts in the external buttons and SIM card tray as Apple shuffled the interior to make room for that new, larger battery.
Many colors have been refined on the new devices. (PRODUCT) The red iPhone 13 model is slightly darker, Starlight is just a tad more creamy than white, Midnight replaces black and has a distinctly subtle shade of blue, and blue is lighter this time around. Green was killed, and a new brighter pink usurped purple.
As we mentioned, devices in the “S” year often focus a lot on camera enhancements, and that’s true in 2021 as well – if you opt for the iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max. IPhone 13 camera upgrades are far minimal.
A new screen, in a way
The iPhone 13 is still equipped with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED screen with a pixel density of 460 PPI and a resolution of 2532 x 1170. Since last year, the only change on the screen itself is to increase the brightness from 625 nits to 800 nits, as much as the iPhone 12 Pro had a year ago. This year, the iPhone 13 Pro now goes up to 1000 nits.
When playing HDR content, all iPhone 13 models can increase speeds by up to 1200 nits.
Since Apple originally introduced Face ID with the iPhone X, users have asked Apple to remove the comma that touches the top of the screen. With the iPhone 13, Apple has taken the first step in that direction by reducing the comma size.
It’s not as wide now as it used to be, though it’s only slightly taller. All in all, it’s a reduction, but a minimal one.
There’s just something wrong with Apple pointing out its newly reduced comma. It’s not impressive that the comma is now slightly smaller despite its competition now opting for perforated cameras that only take up a small circle.
Apple works more within its limits, like the TrueDepth camera system, but the average person won’t see it.
To those people, it just seems like Apple is lagging behind. Samsung can create these beautiful edge-to-edge screens with just a small camera hole, while Apple has a notch that is still relatively significant.
After using all iPhones with Face ID, the comma never particularly bothered us. However, when Apple boasts that it has reduced the comma, it becomes too late. In addition, Apple did not use those millimeters for additional information in the “ears” on either side of the comma. It’s just a different size and shape.
Here is the A15 Bionic processor
Apple’s next generation of custom iPhone silicone is the A15 Bionic processor. Like the A14 that follows, it is a six-core chip with two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.
There wasn’t as much hoop around the A15 Bionic during Apple’s introductory presentation, leaving us to see how many improvements came with the new chip.
In Geekbench 5.4.1, our iPhone 13 drew 1727 single-core and 4690 multi-core results. The graphic score of Geekbench Metal was 10704. She scored 918 points on the machine learning test.
Apple has put an A15 Bionic processor in all iPhone 13 models, but the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have an additional graphics core. When we compare them, we see that the iPhone 13 Pro excels in the reference value of computer graphics, achieving a huge 14725.
For daily tasks, the iPhone 13 is as powerful as the iPhone 13 Pro. It doesn’t run much faster than our iPhone 12, but it should provide extra headroom for the next few years. This is also what triggers the new camera features that we will touch on in a few.
Battery life is also improved here thanks to the A15 Bionic processor and its increased efficiency. Apple says you can get 19 hours of video playback compared to just 17 hours on the iPhone 12. Your usage will be the ultimate deciding factor for what you see. Still, we can say with confidence that the iPhone 13 will at least slightly extend battery life compared to the corresponding iPhone 12 model.
Cameras – solid but unexciting
There are almost identical shooters here, a 12 MP wide angle lens and a 12 MP ultra wide angle lens. The only significant upgrade we got on the hardware is the new optical image stabilization with sensor shift (OIS). This moves the sensor, not the lens, which should result in a clearer image when moving.
In addition to not having new camera hardware, Apple also introduced some new software features.
Photographic styles for your own signature
One of our favorite new features is photographic styles. Many professional photographers have their own style and LUTs that they apply to many of their images. When they take photos, you can tell that it was one of them between the look, the angle and the applied editing.
These new photographic styles are applied in the camera app before shooting and applying various adjustments to different parts of the photos. This is different from the filter applied after taking a photo.
New iPhone users can choose between standard, rich contrast, vivid, cool and warm. In addition, photographic styles can be customized. For example, a rich contrast style can change the tone and heat settings up or down.
Then everything you shoot will apply this style, which will result in a caption on all your photos. Of course, this can be turned off at any time with just a few taps.
Cinematic mode has infinite potential
When Apple introduced Portrait Mode, there was an ever-present Internet drama about it. We heard discussions about whether it diminished natural photography, it looked too fake, it didn’t have good results, and whether anyone would use it at all.
As it turns out, Portrait Mode is one of the most prominent features that has come to the Camera app over the years. It has launched an army of cloned effects from competing smartphone makers as well as third-party apps.
It has also made significant progress since the early models. As a scrapbook, Portrait Mode remains convenient or missed with the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. The LiDAR scanner and telephoto lens found on the iPhone 13 Pro are missing.
It goes great with people. But when you have the wrong items like food or drink, it can be difficult. The Pro model still has much better performance. You can see a test shot on the iPhone 13 with our jalapeno pilsner pint. It just got too foggy.
But let’s get back to the movie mode. You’ve no doubt seen reviews that compared the film’s mode of operation to the early days of portrait fashion with the occasional problems with edge detection. They were not wrong.
When it works in cinematic mode, it works well. Impressively good. In our testing, it worked even better on animals than on humans. Dogs, cats and bunnies ended up with this great shot where their faces were sharp but their bodies had a slight blur and the background had a lot more bokeh.
Should I buy an iPhone 13?
We don’t want to blame Apple because “it’s not innovative enough”. It’s a feeling that is too often shared especially in iPhone reviews.
With the new phones, people want to be thrilled with the dazzling new features. Apple stores many of these features for “pro” models. Many people upgrading the iPhone 13 come from older devices or use the fantastic replacement offerings that are being promoted this year.
For these users, the iPhone 13 is an almost perfect phone. It doesn’t have all the features that Apple offers, but it does have features that are important. The iPhone 13 is a fast device that takes great photos in the hands of the masses, and even better those for the skilled user.
This year, there seem to be fewer new features for talking and testing, but it will probably still end up as the most popular smartphone this year.
- Storage capacity doubled
- The A15 Bionic processor still has significant performance upgrades
- Battery life is better
- The comma is slightly smaller
- Photographic styles are a great new feature of the camera
- Cinematic mode has great potential
- MagSafe is more useful than ever
- Still an elegant design, but with new colors
- Dual eSIM support
- Minimal camera upgrade
- The cases of the last generation will not stop
- The performance improvement is not as big as in previous years
- No Wi-Fi 6E
- Price increase compared to iPhone 12
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Where to buy
Apple’s iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are available on Amazon and Expercom, along with wireless operators including AT&T and Verizon.
If you’re ready to buy an iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro, retail prices start at $ 799, but the best deals for the iPhone regularly include discounts on wireless services, replacement promotions, and even free gift card deals.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.