Some time ago, Apple tended to give the iPhone a major makeover every two years, with the odd releases being marked as an “S”, or more moderate upgrade. And while the company doesn’t go by that convention anymore, this year’s iPhone 13 is the ultimate expression of an “S” release.
It’s too similar to last year for iPhone 12 owners to consider trading up, but since it has everything that phone had plus some choice tweaks and extras, it’s a very tempting upgrade for those with anything older.
This year we have two different phones, each in two different sizes, just like last year. But new displays and cameras do make a noticeable splash, especially on the Pro models, while bigger batteries and the obligatory faster processor deliver the kind of benefits that you won’t really notice until you have a sudden realisation it’s 11pm, and you still have 50 per cent of your juice.
Starting with the standard models, the iPhone 13 mini is a bit small for me personally with its 5.4-inch screen, but it’s packed with all the same features as the perfectly sized 6.1-inch iPhone 13, making it a great choice for those with smaller hands or pockets. I’ve come around to the flat metal frames and glossy backs since finding them a bit slippery last year, and the emphasis on camera upgrades has been made explicit by the pair of oversized lenses, now arranged diagonally.
On the pricier end of things, the 13 Pro is the same size as the standard model but with a frosted glass back, polished frame and a third lens, just like last year. And the Pro Max is still a hulking 6.7-inches. Interestingly, the choice for people that don’t want a grey, white or gold Pro this year is still blue, but it’s a much lighter and less military blue this time.
All the phones are just as 5G-compatible and waterproof as last year, have the same rear MagSafe connector for accessories and chargers, and behave similarly in most tasks. But there are improvements in some key areas.
The second you unlock an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max you appreciate just how improved the display is, and that’s down to the 120Hz variable refresh tech that’s new this year. Apple calls it ProMotion, but in practice it works the same as on other high-end phones of the last few years, varying how frequently the screen shows a new image.
So while older iPhones (and the standard or mini iPhone 13) show 60 frames per second, the new Pro can show 120 for extremely smooth scrolling and immediate reaction to touch, or as low as 10 to save battery when you’re looking at still images. It’s the kind of upgrade you don’t know you want, but after a few days any 60Hz phone screen will look and feel broken by comparison. The screen on the Pro is also far brighter than on the standard and mini.