The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro launched at Apple’s California Streaming event on Tuesday, as rumored and leaked for almost a year now. Newer iPhone models have narrower notches, tweaked cameras, and… not much else. Apple held its typical keynote-style event, which, while virtual out of necessity, was not short of superlatives and praise for every little detail. But while the gap between the Pro and the regular models has narrowed, the fact is there wasn’t too much to get excited about.
The new iPhones are exactly the same shapes and sizes as their immediate predecessors, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro series, within millimeters. They come in different colors, of course. On the front, we have slightly narrower (but taller) notches, and I don’t think that’s a significant improvement. I wish I could revise my battery level percentage, if allowed, but given how quickly the Android world realized that notches weren’t worth copying, Apple isn’t really coming out in the lead here.
On the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, there are still just two rear cameras, and they’re now in an awkward diagonal arrangement – a rare example of Apple opting for something so anti-minimalist. The non-Pro models don’t have a dedicated optical telephoto lens, nor can they use their wide-angle cameras to take macros, which even inexpensive Android phones have been able to do for some time now.
Cinema Mode and Photographic Styles are the two big new camera features, and they don’t look like they’re coming to older iPhones with future versions of iOS. These are two great added values for anyone really interested in the art of photography or cinematography, but they are not intended for situations where you just have to pull out your phone to quickly take a picture of this happening around you, or even for photos and videos you regularly take of people, places and events. It’s for those times when you’re able to think carefully about how to frame a subject, what kind of expression to capture, and what nuance you as a photographer want to bring to your work.
Will it be interesting for amateurs and financially constrained filmmakers? Sure. Does the average person want to put that much thought into everyday photos? Unlikely.
Of course, generational improvements in camera quality are always a good thing, especially when you get new cameras at the same prices as outgoing models. Low-light performance should be good across the board, and the sensor lag stabilization will make a subtle difference in all sorts of situations.
Fortunately, there are no major functional differences between the cameras within each pair of iPhones – the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have identical specs, as does the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone. iPhone 13 Pro Max. Pros don’t just have an extra telephoto lens; their wide and ultra-wide cameras aren’t the same as what you get on non-Pro models. Reviews will show how much of a difference there will be in actual use. However, while you no longer need the biggest and best iPhone to get the high-end features, note that ProRes video recording is limited to 1080p rather than 4K on the 128GB storage variants – probably due to flash memory read and write speeds. – so you still have to spend a bit more than the entry-level price to get all the best capabilities.
As for raw power, while the new A15 Bionic SoC is at the heart of all four new iPhones, the two Pro models get an extra GPU core. Just as with many recent Macs powered by Apple’s M1 SoC, GPU power is used to differentiate price tiers. This should have an effect on gaming as well as video encoding performance. Apple doesn’t go into detail on the frequencies or thermal characteristics of the SoC, only telling us that there are two high-performance and four power-efficient cores. Notably, this talk was also light on performance comparisons – except that Apple considers itself several generations ahead of its competition, which effectively tells us that last year’s products are still great.
What else do the new iPhones bring to the table? Battery life is improved up to two and a half hours which is great. If you want a 120Hz refresh rate, you’ll have to opt for one of the Pro models as that’s inexplicably a differentiating factor between the families. The Ceramic Shield faceplate, IP68 rating, and MagSafe accessory compatibility all appear to be advanced over last year, with no changes.
Then, of course, there’s iOS, the iCloud ecosystem, easy integration with Apple Watch, Mac, and AirPods, and Apple’s familiar appeals to security and privacy. There is the promise of software updates for several years; way beyond what any Android phone maker has been able to offer so far. All four phones will be superbly built, with premium materials and finishes. The iPhone screens still look great, the speakers are good, and there’s nothing to complain about in terms of call quality.
iPhone prices tend to come down over time, and we can often find great discounts on previous-generation models when major e-commerce sites maintain sales. Even considering the new official MRPs, the iPhone 12 family still looks great. The iPhone 12 mini (Review) now costs Rs. 59,900 for 64GB, Rs. 64,900 for 128GB and Rs. 74,900 for 256GB, compared to the iPhone 13 mini which costs Rs. 69,900 for the 128GB, Rs. 79,900 for 256GB and Rs. 99,900 for 512GB.
There is some overlap when you consider the iPhone 12 (Review), which now costs Rs. 65,900 for 64GB, Rs. 70,900 for 128GB and Rs. 80,900 for 256GB, against the iPhone 13 at priced at Rs. Rs. 79,900 for 128GB, 89,900 for 256GB and Rs. 1,09,900 for 512GB. Would you rather buy the newer iPhone 13 mini or the larger iPhone 12 at the same price? This will be an interesting point to consider in our full review.
The iPhone 12 Pro (Review) and iPhone 12 Pro Max (Review) have been officially discontinued, but we’re sure to see them continue to sell out for quite some time. If they fall below Rs. 1,00,000 (like the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max did recently), they are worth considering even compared to the iPhone 13 no professional.
The iPhone 13 Pro will cost you Rs. 1,19,900 for 128GB, Rs. 1,29,900 for 256GB, Rs. 1,49,900 for 512GB and Rs. 1,69,900 for 1TB. The iPhone 13 Pro Max costs exactly Rs. 10,000 more per tier, making the 1TB variant at Rs. 1,79,900 the most expensive iPhone ever. You probably don’t need 1TB of space unless you’re a filmmaker, but 128GB will limit your video recording aspirations, so options in between would make the most sense. If you want the latest and greatest, that’s what it will cost.
On the other hand, there are still some annoying restrictions that iPhone users have to live with – limited UI customization, a locked file system, no easy Bluetooth file transfer, expensive accessories, and the Proprietary Lightning port (without charging adapter in the box). More than all this, it is incredibly hard to dismiss the fact that you can get several equivalent or better features in Android phones at prices ranging from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 45,000.
Despite all this, iPhones will always have takers. It’s hard to counter the call. In India, even old models are in high demand due to brand appeal. With Apple including India in the first wave of countries, this launch is just in time for this year’s festival shopping season and major e-commerce sales events. There’s just one question you should consider before buying: have the iPhone 13 models finally passed the point of diminishing generational benefits? We’ll have the answer to that question soon, once we complete our detailed reviews of these new iPhones.