It’s unfortunate for Apple that the release of the iPhone 13 has coincided with that of No Time To Die. Bond films tend to raise our expectations around gadgetry, and Daniel Craig’s final outing is no different. But while none of the four new devices launched by the Cali tech giant have built-in lasers, and despite the fact they would surely struggle to get signal in a subterranean lair, there’s still plenty to admire.
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Our tech experts got hands-on with the machines to demystify what sets these phones apart and whether the so-called “Pro” camera is worth it. Here’s all the important stuff to help you decide if you should pick up the premium iPhone 13 Pro or the default iPhone 13.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro Design And Colors – What’s New?
Why fix what isn’t broken? All four models have the exact same design as the iPhone 12 series, with the flat edges supported by an aluminum band. So what’s changed? Well, the little notch at the top of the phone that contains the selfie camera and Face ID scanner is marginally smaller, and that’s about it.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro are equal in size at 6.1 inches and have the same glass back, although the Pro one is textured.
Eagle-eyed fans might notice the orientation of the lenses (more on the cameras below) has changed to the diagonal set-up and that’s because the actual lenses themselves are roughly 40% bigger.
As for color options, you get more choice on the iPhone 13, including the famous “Product Red” edition, but our favorite blue hue features on both devices.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro Display – Is ProMotion Worth It?
Both devices have Apple’s new Super Retina XDR OLED display that generally makes things brighter and more colorful, though you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference between one of these and last year’s models.
The key upgrade is the new ProMotion feature only found on the iPhone 13 Pro, which speeds up the frame rate of your phone to give you buttery-smooth motion when swiping, streaming, or gaming.
This adaptive frame rate can automatically adjust between 10-120Hz depending on what you’re doing, reducing it down to conserve battery if you’re just texting or boosting it when flicking between apps.
It’s a nice addition to the premium handset and brings the 13 Pro up to par with some of the best flagship phones from other brands like Samsung or Huawei, but we feel like most people won’t notice that much of a difference. We even forgot it was doing its job as we compared the two phones, and only really got a sense of the speedy motion when scrolling through Twitter or playing a few choice games like Genshin Impact on Apple Arcade.
We think only content junkies who spend a lot of time playing mobile games or streaming a lot of TV shows or movies will see the point in going for the upgrade, so for most people it’s not that big a deal.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro Battery Life – Do They Last Longer?
Apple’s iPhones have had a long history of falling short in the battery department, but the tech company has made a lot of progress building more efficient devices. You’ll get around 2.5 hours extra on the iPhone 13 compared to the iPhone 12, giving you a total of 19 hours.
You’ll only really get this much time if you literally did nothing on it, so we ran a few YouTube videos, did one or two home workouts on out Apple Fitness app, and used it to keep an eye on Twitter over a few days and found we ended up with around 20% at the end of the day.
It lasts a long while, but we do think you might need to top it up at least once if you’ve got a busy day ahead of you or you literally spend hours lost in your TikTok feed.
As for the Pro edition, Apple claims you’ll get an additional 1.5 hours over last year’s handset, equalling around 22 hours. This was much closer to the mark for us, as we found we regularly had at least 30% battery when we crawled into bed, even after streaming the final episode of Vigil on BBC iPlayer right at the end of the evening.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro Camera – How Will Your Photographs Look?
Snapping photos is better on both devices, with slight enhancements to the software under the hood to squeeze more detail out of your images, and the improved sensors. The new phones have larger lenses that let in more light, meaning those 4am shots at the bar will still look clear. The iPhone 13 series also gets souped-up image-stabilization too, so your pictures will look less fuzzy if your hands wobble.
The 13 Pro gets the extra telephoto lens that’s great for zoomed-in shooting and extra editing capabilities that make it the photographer’s choice overall. However, both come with preset image filters called “photographic styles” that give your pictures a certain tone or warmth, providing more control before you shoot while still preserving accurate skin tones in your shot.
You’ll probably notice finer detail, particularly if you get up close with the new “macro mode”. This means you can get right up to your subject and still draw detail – take a picture of your Michelin-star dessert from up to 2cm away for those perfect Instagram shots.
On the video side of things, there’s also the new “cinematic mode”, which basically acts as a portrait mode for filming. You can now choose where you want the camera’s focus to be when shooting video, sharpening the subject and softly blurring the rest of the shot.
We struggled to get this to work consistently on our test phone, and anything we tried to film had an odd halo-like effect around the main focus. It looks great if you get it to work, but it can be moody.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro verdict
When you’re buying a new smartphone, at the very least you want to feel you’re actually upgrading from your old phone. And if you’re making the jump from an older device like an iPhone X or something, you’ll definitely see the improvements with either handset. The camera is top-quality, the overall performance is better than previous models, and the great features like 5G SIM compatibility and Magsafe charging all return.
The iPhone 13 might only be an incremental improvement on the iPhone 12, but that should speak volumes about just how good last year’s model was. This new version keeps all the good stuff we loved and adds more color options and a slightly better camera. In our books, that’s a win.
As for the iPhone 13 Pro, it’s simply the best iPhone available. The new display makes things generally look better, particularly if you’re watching sports because we barely saw any motion blur or juddering on fast-paced action.
If you’ve got a shiny iPhone 12 in your pocket right now, we’d advise holding onto that one and waiting for prices to fall, but making the movie up from an older device could be a good idea.
Despite prices starting at almost a grand, the 13 Pro is well worth the investment, particularly if you want a new camera phone to step up your snapping game.