Apple iPhone 13 Pro full review

When we place the iPhone 13 Pro next to the iPhone 12 Pro, it's hard to see any difference. This fact has half the world going ballistic that it should have been called the iPhone 12s. It is not; it's called the iPhone 13. And with that, let us end the rather pointless discussion about whether the name is correct or not.

This is an improved phone. But it can be hard to tell just by looking at the surface. The biggest improvements are in the camera, screen and battery.

With the seemingly thinness-obsessed Jony Ive having left Apple, the company's designers have dared to (slightly) increase thickness and weight to accommodate a larger battery. When we say the phone is bigger, we're talking tiny margins: the iPhone 13 Pro is 15g heavier than the 12 Pro and a quarter of a millimetre thicker.

We welcome this move. A difference of a few grams is neither here nor there; we want better battery life. More on that later.

A lot can be said about Apple, but build quality is always top notch (or nearly always - we'll never forget Bendgate). The iPhone 13 is a well-designed phone, with slightly sharper edges than its predecessor. Like the 12, the 13 reminds a lot of the iPhone 4, which yours truly thinks is Apple's best-looking phone. It's glass and metal through and through. Holding it is a bit like holding a quality Swiss watch.

Fast-response screen

The famous notch has become narrower - only a bit narrower, mind you. For screen puritans, of course, it's still something of an eyesore, but we're so used to it that it doesn't matter hugely.

iPhone 13 Pro review: Notch

The screen itself, meanwhile, is very good. It's a 6.1in Retina XDR OLED screen, with 2,532×1,170 resolution at 460ppi. It has an adaptive refresh rate from 10Hz up to 120Hz that is adjusted automatically depending on the situation - in contexts where the higher refresh rate wouldn't be noticeable the phone throttles it back to preserve battery life.

The screen also has True Tone, which allows it to adapt to the lighting conditions of the room. It has a maximum brightness of 1000 cd/m² (normal) and 1200 cd/m² (HDR), sharp contrast and good colours.

What that means in practice is that it's an unusually good screen, with fast response when you interact with it and smooth scrolling when you're browsing a website. The screens on the Pro models are certified for Dolby Vision and HDR10.

Impressive cameras in the iPhone 13 Pro

According to Apple, this is the company's biggest camera upgrade ever.

The back of the phone is graced by three camera lenses: ultra-wide angle, wide angle and telephoto. The aperture on the ultra-wide is f/1.8 and should collect 92% more light than the equivalent on the previous model. The wide-angle lens is f/1.5 while the telephoto lens boasts a focal length of 77mm and 3x zoom. New hardware all round.

iPhone 13 Pro review: Cameras

New software in your phone lets you choose between different types of Photographic Styles. Even before you start shooting, you can set whether the image should have warm, cool or saturated colours.

The image quality is very good, with vivid colours and sharp detail right through. However, we haven't had time to test all the features, so this test will be updated in due course with in-depth photo and video testing. We can confirm, however, that wide angle and zoom both work well.

For video, Apple has added Cinematic Mode, which allows the camera to automatically blur the background when you focus on an object or person in the foreground, and then blur the foreground when you focus on a person or object in the background. This feature is only available on the new Pro phones.

Cinematic Mode works really well and is fun for a few minutes, but feels more like a gimmick than something useful for the average person. Same with the ability to film in ProRes video. Do professional filmmakers care?

On the other hand, it wasn't long ago that professional photographers dismissed images taken with a phone camera as worthless. Expect to see videos shot exclusively with the iPhone 13 Pro.

iPhone 13 Pro review: Cinematic Mode

The selfie camera is rated at 12MP and can also shoot in Cinematic Mode. Other new features include support for bokeh (blurred background) and Night Mode. Apple makes full use of the processor's computing power to tinker and fix.

Apple's A15 processor is blazing fast

The chip that powers it all is Apple's latest A15 Bionic, which has a five-core graphics processor in this handset. (The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have just four GPU cores in their A15 chips.)

There's no phone that even comes close to the speed of the iPhone 13 - or the iPhone 12, for that matter. Heavy games like War Robots float along with the graphics settings at max without a jolt or lag.

If you're upgrading from an iPhone 12, you won't notice the speed in normal use - a more demanding procedure like exporting a movie in iPhoto, however, is noticeably faster. But as I said, it all depends on which model you're upgrading from.

Battery improvements

In its announcement, Apple claimed the iPhone 13 Pro lasts 1.5 hours longer than the 12 Pro in typical usage. The phone's specs sheet suggests that in many contexts the difference will be bigger than that: the estimated life for offline video playback, for instance, has jumped from 17 to 22 hours, while the streaming figure has gone from 11 to 20 hours.

We haven't had time to test the battery fully, but after six hours of intense use (not in any way typical use, in other words, so don't take this as an indicator of everyday lifespan), the charge is still well above half full. That's impressive.

Verdict: Should you buy the iPhone 13 Pro?

The iPhone 13 Pro is as close to a surefire hit as you can get: new cameras across the board, a killer fast processor that runs rings round all the Android phones out there, an awesome OLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, all wrapped up in a neat piece of steel and glass.

But is it worth the money? And is it enough of an improvement on the previous model to be worth an upgrade?

Chances are pretty good that you're sitting with the iPhone 12 Pro in your hand, which is also a very good phone. So do you need to upgrade? No, you don't. Sure, this one is better, but if you owned the 2020 Tesla Model S, would you buy the 2021 Model S?

If you're on an iPhone 11 or older, however, or are a filmmaker in the making, then it's a no-brainer. Buy. Now.

If you do decide to buy, read Where to buy the iPhone 13 series for advice on getting the lowest price.

This review originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation by David Price. This article will be updated when the UK team gets access to a review sample; the review score will be posted at that point.

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