Apple iPhone 13 Pro review
For years, the iPhone has been the “gold standard” in the smartphone market. But the iPhone isn’t just a phone, it’s the reflection of your lifestyle. People buy Apple’s premium iPhone “Pro” range not because the device makes calls differently but because they want to show off how rich and tasteful they are.
That’s not a bad thing; the same crowd also spends lakhs on buying a luxury handbag. While some might consider the iPhone 13 Pro’s Rs 119,900 price tag as “luxury”, the fact is that the Pro series phones are envisaged to be the best — in terms of design, camera, battery, and performance. This year, Apple did not focus much on the design part but instead updated the cameras, added a high refresh rate screen, and better battery life. I have been testing the iPhone 13 Pro for a week now and despite the high price you are paying for the phone, there is a level of satisfaction that you won’t get from any other smartphone.
Here is my take on the iPhone 13 Pro.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro price in India: Rs 149,900 (as reviewed, 512GB storage variant)
Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: Flat-edge design
The “Pro” range, headlined by the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, represents the creme de la creme of the current iPhone lineup. The two phones are exactly the same in appearance, except the Pro Max has a bigger screen and battery. Oh, the other difference: the price: the larger Max costs Rs 10,000 more.
There has been a debate over whether the iPhone 13 Pro should exist or not. I don’t have a clear answer, but yes since I am not a huge fan of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s size, I would rather settle for a regular-sized phone that fits in my hands. The iPhone 13 Pro feels just right for me; the 6.1-inch screen size is fine for browsing the web, watching a movie, or texting. But I know people who are already drawn to the 6.7-inch extra screen real estate and for them the iPhone 13 Pro Max makes much more sense.
Whether you pick up the iPhone 13 Pro or the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you can’t really tell the difference from last year’s models. They have the same aesthetics, the same finish, and the same flat-edged design. But I did notice that the iPhone 13 Pro is slightly thicker and a few grams heavier. Oh wait, the camera bump on the iPhone 13 Pro is also bigger, which means the cases designed for the iPhone 12 Pro would not fit into the new model. Otherwise, the new model still has a lovely metal-and-glass finish. The stainless steel frame on the side attracts fingerprints and the Ceramic Shield glass displays are as durable as before. It’s a beautiful phone, and you feel you are holding an expensive device. There’s a new Sierra Blue colour option to choose from but I would still go with the usual graphite shade.
But one change you will notice instantly is the notch on the screen which has become smaller. It has actually shrunk by 20 per cent, but Apple has not really taken advantage of this extra space. A battery percentage indicator would have been a great feature to have as users then don’t need to pull down the control center every time to check on the battery level of the phone.
The iPhone 13 Pro continues to have the super-fast 5G connectivity, though it’s of no use in India for now. Plus, the phone also supports the new MagSafe accessory system for faster wireless charging and new accessories that snap onto the back better than before.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: 120Hz ProMotion display
The 6.1-inch ‘Super XDR Display’ display on the iPhone 13 Pro is the same size and resolution as the one seen on the iPhone 12 Pro. I always liked the display quality on the iPhone regardless of which model you choose but the “Pro” models always get better screens. The display on the iPhone 13 Pro is brighter and I could feel it while texting a friend the other day when I stepped out of the home in the afternoon. You will love the iPhone 13 Pro’s display if you play games or watch movies and web shows.
But the real reason I am excited about the iPhone 13 Pro is that it finally has a 120Hz ProMotion display. Android phones have had this feature for quite some time but Apple is treating a 120Hz display as a premium feature and only the “Pro” range is getting a high refresh rate screen. ProMotion makes everything smoother, and everything from animations to simple scrolling are more responsive. Games and movies that support a high refresh rate run smoothly on the iPhone 13 Pro’s display.
As I said, the 120Hz refresh rate is not a new feature. In fact, Apple was one of the first players in the industry to add a high refresh rate to the iPad Pro way back in 2017. While Apple took a lot of time to bring the high refresh rate screen technology to the iPhone, the implementation is better than the competitors. On the iPhone 13, the screen is able to refresh at 60Hz (or 60 times per second). But on the iPhone 13 Pro, there is something called a variable refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz. This means the screen changes the refresh rate based on the content type. So if you are reading an article on indianexpress.com, for example, the screen refreshes less frequently and saves battery life. But if you are playing a game, it will refresh fast and thus result in a smooth result.
Although the speakers on the iPhone 13 Pro have not been radically improved, they sound really good. In a small room, you can use the iPhone 13 Pro to play music, attend Zoom calls, or watch a video, almost like a portable speaker. At maximum volume it’s really louder — without the sort of distortion, we’ve all come to expect from smartphone speakers at high volume.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: Fast performance
The iPhone 13 Pro not only gets a 120Hz ProMotion display, but the processor inside the device is also truly bonkers. The A15 Bionic chipset is indeed fast, perhaps the fastest mobile processor around. Expect performance improvements across the new iPhone 13 lineup but the A15 Bionic has a 5-core GPU on the “Pro” range versus four on the regular iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. That extra core is reserved for the camera and gaming. When I played Oceanhorn 2 on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 mini, there was a slight difference in speed. I am not saying the iPhone 13 mini is less superior or something like that; but if the speed and high refresh rate matter to you, the iPhone 13 Pro is the one for you. Again, I am not getting to comparing the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 mini, simply because both phones have different audiences.
iOS 15 is the cherry on top. It’s getting a ton of new features like FaceTime improvements, redesigned notifications, a new Focus mode that hides apps that you don’t want to distract you, and a feature called Live Text that can automatically identify and scan text in photographs.
The iPhone 13 Pro still uses the aging Lightning port for charging. And there is no reverse wireless charging on this device, unlike high-end Android smartphones. Base storage starts at 128GB and goes up to 512GB if you have the budget. I would suggest opting for 256GB storage, in case the camera is your priority and you are someone who will be shooting lots of ProRes videos and 4K videos.
For me, though, the battery life and the camera (more on that later) are the highlights of the iPhone 13 Pro. I had used phones with long battery life in the past but the iPhone 13 Pro surprised all my expectations. On regular days I got more than a day of juice on a single charge, with over 50% brightness, and Wi-Fi turned on. My typical day starts at 8 am and I use my phone for everything from browsing to streaming music via Apple Music, editing copies, watching YouTube videos, and checking social media. I am a heavy phone user and even a small boost in battery life is a big deal for me. Long battery life is a welcome move and I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. I think a combination of a bigger battery, a new processor, and a new screen has resulted in longer battery life on the iPhone 13 Pro.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: Updated cameras
Even though the iPhone 13 Pro is aesthetically identical to its predecessor, the improved camera system delivers a very different experience. There are a total of four cameras (three on the rear and one on the front for self-portraits) on this year’s iPhone 13 Pro and all of them have 12-megapixels. The iPhone 13 Pro also adds a rear-mounted Lidar 3D scanner that creates dynamic 3D maps of whatever you point at. Apple is bragging a lot about the improved camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro range, calling it the “most advanced cameras ever on iPhone.” Some may find it a marketing ploy but there are reasons to be excited about the cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro.
Apple did not change the resolution of the cameras. Instead, the regular wide-angle, zoom and ultra-wide-angle lenses on the back are better in taking images, plus there are more capture modes. Images taken with the wide-angle lens are natural and have slightly better contrast. But I have also noticed that the images aren’t as sharp around the edges. This is because the lens is now faster (f/1.5) and it produces a shallow depth of field. The ultra-wide lens has also improved with a much faster aperture (f/1.8 versus f/2.4). This resulted in shots with extreme sharpness and was truly spectacular. The new telephoto lens has also seen an upgrade. Apple isn’t adding a 10x optical zoom, even with 3x Zoom (jump from 2.5X on last year’s model), I got good shots with no noise.
The iPhone’s ability to take photos in low-light situations keeps improving. On the iPhone 13 Pro, when I was taking shots during dusk, the camera saw the environment differently and that resulted in pictures that were close to real life. Here is an example of a shot taken in low-light.
Portrait mode on the iPhone 13 Pro is the best, beating any Android flagship at the moment. The subject is always in focus and the background blurred, as it should be. But I have the most fun taking macro shots. You need to get as close as 2cm from a subject and need ample light to get the desired shots but the macro photography mode is worth trying.
The cameras get better as and when you get deeper into the iPhone 13 Pro. Cinematic mode, for instance, isn’t just Portrait mode for video. I would call it a smart feature, because it automatically shifts the focus when a movement happens in the scene. The cinematic mode collects a lot of depth information, and although results are not perfect, it’s a great feature if you know what to do with it. In my testing, it worked with animals and humans.
I also liked the new “Photographic Styles”, which are essentially shooting presets you would find on DSLR cameras. The styles are standard, rich contrast, vibrant, warm and cool. They are filters but more advanced, giving you exactly the picture you are aiming for.
The video looks great when you shoot them on the iPhone 13 Pro. I think colours are more accurate while filming. Apple also has a “pro” level video codec called “ProRes”, and this is also coming to the iPhone 13 Pro in a software update. It is to be noted that pro res recordings at 4K resolution, require an iPhone 13 Pro with 256GB and above, as ProRes footage takes up a lot of space. The front camera is better at taking selfies, but I found an improvement in low light.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: Should you buy it?
The iPhone 13 Pro isn’t a massive leap from last year’s model, and that’s okay. You cannot expect every new iPhone generation to be crazy different. This year’s iPhone range focuses on iterative updates. But there’s plenty of new features that make the new iPhone 13 Pro worth taking a look at. It’s getting clear that the iPhone Pro range targets specialised users who look for finer details. For example, the camera improvements on the iPhone 13 Pro need to be looked at from a different lens and I don’t think a mainstream user is even interested in the Smart HDR 4, Dolby Vision HDR video recording, and ProRAW photo recording. The iPhone 13 Pro isn’t cheap, but it offers great value for those users who need a certain “professional” level of features on a smartphone.