Last year I decided the iPhone 12 Pro was the best choice in the line-up. It offered the best compromise for getting the best technology in a smartphone while not having to carry around a giant surfboard. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t perfect and didn’t feature the absolute best Apple has to offer leading some (myself included) to be a little frustrated in choosing a phone. Things are much fairer this year, but the choice is still a difficult one.
Whilst last year I bought all models of phone this time around I narrowed it down to two. My choice was between the iPhone 13 Mini for its awesome form factor or the iPhone 13 Pro. The more manageable ‘smaller’ version of Apples top of the line Pro models is better than ever in the key areas that users will care about – battery, camera, and screen.
Many words have been written about the iPhone 12 battery life. It wasn’t that bad if you take the iPhone 11 out of the equation, but we were so spoilt by the 2019 versions that 2020 felt disappointing. Apple claimed it stayed similar, but it went from great down to just ok.
Thankfully, they have returned to greatness with the iPhone 13 Pro. Being on par with the 11 Pro, and in some cases much better. I have struggled to get lower than 40% left when going from 7am to 8pm, and power users shouldn’t struggle with achieving 5hours of regular usage with plenty left in the tank. It brings back a level of confidence that you will get through the day with very few issues.
The new A15 is touted as being responsible for most of these gains, with not just increased ability but also more efficiency cores. The iPhone is already overpowered for what is needed from a smartphone, but Apple still pushed forward and developed another step forward in its chips. The A15 has two performance and four efficiency cores so most of the time it will be idling along only using little power but ramp up when needed. Obviously, the iPhone 13 Pro will never miss a beat, no matter what you are doing, but neither did the two generations that went before it. The new 5 core GPU plays games and does everything you want with ease.
All the tech crammed into the iPhone 13 Pro helps maximise battery life. The performance and power saving ability of the A15 help, as does the updated screen, but the fact is the phone contains a bigger battery. The trade-off being an increase in weight from 187 grams to 203 grams which is considerable, and noticeable as soon as you pick the phone up. Only you will know if the trade-off is worth it to you — but just know that this isn’t magic giving you extra power through the day.
Not all the heft can be attributed to a bigger battery thought, as the iPhone 13 Pro sports a much bigger camera housing and more protruding lenses. Thankfully, Apple are not hiding it away this year, and embracing the massive bulk because it once again provides the best camera in a smart phone.
You can hem and haw about Android this and that, but the reality is every year the new iPhone comes out the others play catch up. There is a lot to be said about the image processing producing a photo you like, but without sounding too much like a fan boy, Apple have constantly taken strides (or steps) forward each year with their cameras.
I am not sure that it is, as Apple say, the biggest camera update yet, but it is a big one. With all this said most people won’t be able to tell the difference in the images from any iPhone in the last 3 years but if you’re into the details it becomes obvious.
All three lenses have been updated and are the same across the Pro line up this year. The wide camera being the most obvious upgrade, featuring sensor shift stabilisation that only featured on its big brother last year, and improving to ƒ/1.5 aperture. Combined with bigger 1.9 µm pixels the sensor captures 47% more light, meaning images are not only more detailed in darker areas but also easier and quicker to capture.
The telephoto goes to ƒ/2.8 aperture, from ƒ/2.0 aperture but is 3x rather than 2x so don’t let that fool you. Allowing you to get in tighter to things that you can’t “zoom with your feet” and produces noticeably sharper images compared to previous models. I still feel a little like Apple neglects the telephoto and still leans far too much on a cropped main sensor image in lower light than it should, but the improvements are noticeable and very welcome. I like using the telephoto to get closer to images without moving so I can shoot quicker, and the standard of image produces by the new telephoto is closer to the wide camera, but still not as good.
Another update is the Ultra-Wide, ridding itself of the terrible ƒ/2.4 aperture to a more usable ƒ/1.8 aperture. This is not a lens I use very often and find it a little too wide for creating anything other than arty alternative angles. However, when I do, the improvements are a huge step up. Shadows are much better and not as muddy with more detail retained. An improvement this vast might get me to use it a bit more.
To be honest my photography has truly little need for an angle as wide as the 13mm equivalent, but I might use the new macro mode. Get within 10cm of a subject the camera will switch to the wide angle in macro mode, allowing you to focus on subjects down to 2cm away. I remain reserved on the novelty wearing off, but it’s certainly great to have the option, even if the interface is a little confusing.
I got a little excited writing about the tech specs of the iPhone 13 Pro camera, but all of these won’t mean a thing to most users. What they will notice is the images are easier and quicker to capture than ever before giving you confidence that in almost any situation you will get the shot you want. Photographic Styles will also let you tune your images during capture to constantly get images that you will love every time.
Finally, right! Whilst Android phones have been implementing higher refresh rates for several years, Apples phones have been rumoured but never received the attention they needed. The push back was that iOS mitigated the need for a refresh above 60hz, but as soon as you use anything better you begin to understand. ProMotion is not new, being in iPad Pro for quite some time, but makes the iPhone feel much more fluid.
It’s hard to tell when you first start using the device, as its more powerful too, but as soon as you go back you instantly feel it. The screen retains all of specs in iPhone screens we’ve seen for a few years, with a boost in the brightness of the screen up to 1,000nits, but the big story is ProMotion. The Apple tech used intelligently changes the screen refresh rate between 120hz down to 10hz when required. Saving your eyes, and your battery life.
This is one of those features that seems like it should have been done a long time ago. However, I trust that Apple waited for the tech to catch up and the battery life to not be affected too much. ProMotion is a nice to have feature, but not a necessity unless you use it and then unfortunately it has now ruined me for other phones.
There is simply no denying that this year if you want the best of the best the iPhone 13 Pro is the phone to go for. It offers significant upgrades over the already improved ‘regular’ line up but most of which users won’t notice. It is undeniable that the £170 extra gets you a much more capable phone that it’s hard to turn down if you know what you are looking for.
The screen makes using the phone much smoother and enjoyable. The camera captures better images quicker and the battery gives you the confidence to do it all day. You will see loads of these in use over the next few months as people upgrade. Not because of these improvements but because it’s the new iPhone and that’s OK.
You don’t need to be into specs to get the benefits. The iPhone 13 Pro improves the lives of average users and the experience of power users. It’s a win-win.