Is the iPhone 13 the best iPhone ever made? Without question. Has Apple lost it’s innovative edge? Not at all. Will the iPhone 13 be seen as somewhat of a dud given it’s mild improvements year on year – by some – but they aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.
iPhone 13 is the most powerful smartphone on the market. Apple say so, and while they don’t say how it compares to any particular model, something as simple as Geekbench – while not perfect, shows the A15 Bionic chip to be the powerhouse they claim it to be.
How the Specs improve – iPhone 12 compared to iPhone 13
Strangely, the biggest question I’ve had since the announcement of iPhone 13 has been about the comparison to the iPhone 12. Strange, because why would you upgrade after just one year – I’ve never quite understood that.
And it’s also how many of the negative nancy’s of the world have expressed their fun around Apple with iPhone 13. Showing that it’s just a tilt of a camera lens nothing more nothing less.
That’s not true at all, though the changes are incremental.
In fact, these changes validate my view that this is really an iPhone 12s. It’s a speed leap, a performance and spec boost. Like 4 to 4S, 5 to 5S, 6 to 6S, X to XS – they’ve got form here folks.
Looking at the Pro models, this year’s iPhone 13 pro has a switch in the colour, moving from Pacific Blue to a more purposefully light Sierra Blue. There’s Cinematic Mode, and a 6x optical zoom range on the camera, along with a Macro mode. Apple lists it with a 5 hour increase in watch time for videos, up to 22 hours from 17.
The iPhone 13 Pro comes in storage configurations up to 1TB, double the iPhone 12 Pro.
There is a slight but noticable increase in the typical screen brightness while the Pro devices also get Apple “ProMotion technology with adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz”
This year’s iPhone is thicker and heavier too – which you’ll agree is very “unApple-like”.
Image stabilisation is now Sensor Shift which was previously reserved only for the iPhone 12 Pro max. There’s a few more things – but you can see, this is all trim around the edges stuff. Impressive thought that may be – iPhone 12 is still a great phone by any measure.
I remember testing out portrait mode for the first time on the iPhone 7 Plus – it was incredible. I said at the time “It’s not perfect yet” – but that style has taken over the smartphone world.
Google nailed it with just one lens, now we have depth sensors just to help make this perfect on some phones.
The reason I bring this up is the new Cinematic Mode on iPhone 13. It feels the same, but better. There’s room to improve, but man, it’s amazing.
Shooting a video in Cinematic mode offers a new layer of depth. A blur across the image that you can remove with just a tap of the screen.
It’s amazing for shooting scenes with multiple people, or even objects in the room. It’s my view that you need to create serious depth to get the effect. In my office, there were really only two zones of focus, perhaps three if you concentrate hard on the back wall.
Intelligently if there are two people in the scene, and one is in focus, if they turn their head to look at another person, the focus will change.
Looks brilliant, I can see this changing many social videos almost immediately.
But that’s not the real brilliance. It’s amazing to me that you can edit your video on the device to change the focus at any time.
In my view here on this page I showed how I did this without anyone else behind the camera. Talking as if the focus was changing, and simply following those instructions when in Edit Mode.
Simply tap the screen to change the focus as often as you need.
Groundbreakingly professional video from a smartphone. And it works on all four iPhone 13 models, and – get this, works on front and back cameras!
Ultra Wide Macro
Keen eyed photographers will also love the Macro Mode. Or should I just say “the Macro photography” There is no “mode” to switch to. The phone automatically switches from 1x to the ultrawide lens as you get close to an object.
Around 2cm away is the spot for focus at its closest.
Shots look the part that’s for sure.
Apple’s big claim at the iPhone 13 announcement was an improved battery life. When was the last time you heard that claim? I don’t recall.
Now I can’t speak to how well they’ve nailed that – in lockdown, life is hardly battery draining. But I can say that coming from previous review devices, the battery life here is top notch, and never left me wanting.
1.5 hours more on the Mini and Pro, or 2.5 hours more on the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro Max.
Those are big numbers folks, so you should notice a difference year on year.
Improved Display with 120Hz
Everyone was raving about the improved display on iPhone 13 Pro. Apple call it ProMotion, every other brand just says 120Hz display.
Loads of geeks and phone watchers were calling for 120Hz displays long before the announcement, and now they’ve finally delivered – I still don’t see what the fuss is about.
I’m sure it’s doing amazing things, matching the frame rates to the speed of your swipe, or the application that’s running.
But I don’t see it. If you’ve got an eye for the detail, perhaps your next gaming experience on iPhone will be mind blowing, but I don’t see this one being the thing that gets clicks and purchases for the iPhone 13.
Aha, the rumours of no notch – rubbish. Apple has moved the speaker up to the edge of the top of the screen, and that allowed all the cameras and sensors in the notch to nest together closer.
Thus, a 20% smaller “notch”.
Again, great stuff, but I haven’t noticed it or thought it was better at all. It’s just a nice to have.
A cheeky little addition to the iPhone 13 range is Dual eSIM capability. Basically, for your two SIM options instead of the requirement that one of them be a physical SIM and the other an eSIM, now both can be eSIM.
I think for Australia this has little benefit right now, given I doubt many would choose two major telcos, though for those with a “Work” and “Home” line, perhaps that’s ideal.
This functionality will come into its own when the smaller telcos like Kogan, Amaysim, Belong, Boost et al have access to eSIMs for their customers.
A15 Bionic power
It’s got the brains and the power, but in reality it feels as slick and fast as any iPhone ever did at launch. Am I noticing on a daily basis the A15 Bionic chip – no, not at all.
Again, Geekbench being my only measure, the Multi-Core performance on the iPhone 13 Pro is a whopping 4767, up over 800 points on last year’s Pro and Single core runs at 1726 compared to 1587 last year.
Compute Benchmarks are a standout, running 14149 which compares to the iPhone 12 Pro Max with A14 Bionic at 9270. For contrast, iPhone 11 Pro is 7386 so you can see the staggering leap forward here.
These performance gains matter for the future vision, ensuring that the software introduced in 3-4 years from now will perform well on the iPhone 13. That we don’t see them today, or can’t really “compute” the leap forward is not any fault of Apple but more an onus that sits with developers to showcase what A15 can do for us, but for want of a better summary – the iPhone 13 certainly doesn’t leave you wanting.
Theft or Loss Protection
Another cheeky little addition to the Apple arsenal this week is Apple Care+ with Theft and Loss cover.
Pay $249 on the 13 or Mini, and $319 on the Pro models for two years coverage by Apple Care with the addition of Theft and Loss coverage
If you do lose your phone in that time, the “excess” or price to replace your phone is just $229.
You can also pay monthly, for as long as you want, $12.49 on the standard 13’s and $15.99 on the Pro models.
Certainly for those investing up front, that seems a pretty wise monthly price to pay.
Should I buy the iPhone 13?
Yes! If you’re an iPhone user with an iPhone such as the iPhone X or iPhone 8 or earlier.
If you’re rocking an iPhone 11 then the design upgrade alone is a great leap, though for iPhone 12 users you’ve really got to want for Macro photography or Cinematic videos to get a real benefit.
Apple haven’t forgotten how to innovate, don’t let anyone tell you that. Their level of detail, their perfectionism for every detail is what sets them apart, and while the iPhone 13 may be an incremental bump from the iPhone 12, it’s wrong to view it that way because most of the buyers will have far older phones and will be blown away with what they’re getting from iPhone 13.
But also, get a case, these camera bumps are big, on the pro models it’s almost clunky without a case. If there’s one area I’d like to see the most innovation from Apple, it’s not the quality of the camera, it’s the space – particularly width – the camera module takes up on the device.