The first thing I noticed when I picked up the new iPhone 13 Pro was the weight. This phone is a half-ounce heftier than its predecessor, and it’s slightly thicker. The added size and weight is there to overcome user concerns about battery life by installing a bigger battery.
Turn the iPhone 13 Pro around and look at the back, and you’re sure to notice that the three camera lenses protrude farther from the back than they did in the previous model. They also take up more space, which means your iPhone 12 Pro case won’t fit the new phone even though they look a lot alike.
Storage and Faster Processor
As is always the case, there’s a lot more to an iPhone Pro than what you see in the first impression. For example, the new iPhone Pro can now have up to one terabyte of storage, which is twice as much as the iPhone 12 Pro. It’s got a faster processor in the A15 Bionic chip which features a 6-core CPU, a 5-core GPU and a 16-core neural engine.
Apple also sells the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which has a 6.7-inch screen compared to the 6.1-inch screen of the iPhone 13 Pro. Other than the larger size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and the corresponding larger battery, the two iPhones are the same. You’ll certainly notice that the notch at the top of the screen is still there. The notch contains cameras for facial recognition as well as for pictures and video. Apple said it’s about 20 percent smaller.
In use, you’re likely to notice that the screen scrolls more smoothly due to the adaptive refresh rate that goes up to 120 Hz. The adaptive screen refresh rate means that the phone can change the screen refresh rate to meet the needs at the time. When looking at fairly static screens, for example, the refresh rate can be as slow as 10 Hz. This helps the phone save power, which in turn helps preserve battery life.
The design of the A15 processor also helps reduce power use. It has 2 performance cores with 4 efficiency cores. Likewise it can reduce the brightness of the screen as needed. Apple says that the iPhone 13 Pro has 1.5 more hours of battery life, with 2.5 more hours on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
My experience bore this out. I noticed that the phone never reached the halfway point on battery use by the time it was ready to be charged each night. Like its predecessors, the iPhone 13 supports wireless charging as well as allowing a plug-in charger through its Lightening port.
Bigger Sensors, Better Lenses
As you can tell from the prominence of the cameras, these are where Apple (ahem) focused its efforts. The new cameras have bigger sensors, better lenses and better software than previous iPhones. Serious photographers won’t mistake the iPhone images for something from a professional grade SLR, but the cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro are very good. What’s more, Apple has improved the already good low-light capability and the stabilization.
The three cameras are a telephoto, wide angle and ultra wide angle, all with 12 megapixel sensors. The wide angle camera also supports macro photography. The macro photography mode happens automatically when the camera is asked to focus on something very close. There’s also a 12 megapixel camera on the front of the iPhone 13 Pro which is used for facial recognition and for photos and video.
All of the cameras will support 4K video recording as well as full high definition. Apple has introduced a feature called Cinematic Mode, which can record video with a shallow depth of field, similar to how Portrait Mode worked in the iPhone 12.
Those photos and videos will benefit from the iPhone 13’s support for 5G communications. Depending on your carrier of choice and your location, you may find fast 5G in your area. Tests in the Washington, DC, Metro area showed that the iPhone 13 Pro could reach speeds of just under a gigabit per second using T-Mobile’s 5G network. Similar speeds can be reached with WiFi 6 which the iPhone 13 also supports. The difference compared to the iPhone 12 is that the iPhone 13 supports more 5G bands, but you’re still at the mercy of your phone carrier whether you’ll be able to use them.
The iPhone 13 Pro costs the same as the iPhone 12 Pro did last year, starting at $999.00. However carriers are offering huge discounts in return for a contract. This year, the Pro line comes in four colors with gold and Sierra Blue being added. If you’ve already got an iPhone 12 Pro, the only reason to upgrade is if you really need one of the new features. Otherwise you might want to wait.
This is my last column for eWEEK. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to write for you over all of these years. When I wrote my first story in what was then PC Week in 1983, I never would have guessed that I’d still be here in 2021. Thanks for reading.
(Editors note: Thank you Wayne! You are a pro!)