While the iPhone 13 Pro is a monumental upgrade hidden in the grab of a more iterative update, Apple's iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are more rock-solid, robust updates, but at the same time iterative which refine and polish the iPhone 12 experience to a level of flawlessness, but then again, this is what Apple's "S" updates had been all about in the past. So, yes, in more ways than one the iPhone 13 is basically an iPhone 12S. It comes with a whole host of updates that make it genuinely a better phone for most people than the iPhone 12 Pro Max as well.
It retains the same classic design that's been chiselled out of aluminium and reinforced with glass on the back and Ceramic Shield on the front. It's a design that's won plaudits from around the globe in terms of looks, but as was the case with the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, ergonomics is not the strongest suit. But the issues are fewer considering the diminutive iPhone 13 mini which nestles very comfortably in the palm of my hands. The standard iPhone 13 is also not too bad, as by modern standards these aren't large phones at all.
The new colours are soothing - the new pink - is neat. It will appeal to a wide variety of people and even I didn't mind it, but definitely, Apple had a more attractive colour palette last year. Visually, the big change is the smaller notch which most people will not realise is smaller and the horizontally aligned twin cameras.
The screen is slightly better than the one on the iPhone 12 Pro series but doesn't get the "promotion" high refresh rate technology of the iPhone 13 Pro series. That's alright in my books as iPhones have never needed the crutch of a fast screen but considering having used it on the new 13 Pro models, I'd say, the effect is subtle but very pointed. But most people coming from Android will not miss it as iOS handles animations masterfully and just is superior in terms of speed. That being said, mobile gamers may have a bone to pick with this assessment and that's where probably, Apple will add this next year. Regardless of what happens, it's an excellent screen for doing anything and is one of the best in business, particularly in colour accuracy.
As for the cameras, yes, technically they aren't as dazzling as the hardware as the iPhone 13 Pro series but according to the folks at DXO Mark and myself included, this is a superior camera to the iPhone 12 Pro
Max. And mind you that was the benchmark camera of 2020, so a pretty hard act to beat. Sure, this is a twin camera system whilst even affordable smartphones get quad lenses, but don't get entrapped in marketing speak - most quad-camera setups are basically dual camera systems for all intents.
Generally speaking, it's a brilliant camera system which just takes superb photos and videos in all kinds of lighting. It's just that the iPhone 13 Pro is even better. Apple is using more or less similar hardware to the iPhone 12 Pro Max including the sensor-shift stabilisation system and coupled it with a brighter wide-angle sensor. It's a reliable camera system and when stabilised well can take incredible shots in low light. Here's where things become interesting with the iPhone 13 mini - because it is so tiny you can really stabilise it and at times, it pulls an advantage over even the "Pro" models in low light. Now that's interesting.
Of course, this is something restricted to people like myself who have hands that shake and rattle a lot, but then again, this advantage also pulls through in the video. And yes, as far as video goes, you do get the creamy video that the iPhone is known for just better with iPhone 13, with the added benefit of the new "cinematic mode". I've written quite a bit about it on our iPhone 13 Pro review so you can refer to that for the same.
Similarly, performance is peachy thanks to the A15 Bionic chip. The iPhone 13 is incredibly fast, in fact, so fast that most apps still can't harness its power. It, however, does get a slightly different version of the A15 Bionic chip as it gets one less GPU core which makes a big difference on the benchmarks but that doesn't shy away from the fact that it still is the fastest smartphone chip around the corner. These iPhones are blazing fast and if anyone said, it is not, then they are smoking the same stuff Aryan Khan's friends allegedly have.
But the biggest leaps come in form of the boring things - battery life for instance. It is downright epic now on the iPhone 13, coming pretty close to 2-day battery life on the iPhone 13 and more than adequate for general use on the iPhone 13 mini. The mini is no more a liability in terms of battery life and that's going to be a big deal for many. If you like a compact phone, last year, Apple forced you to make a choice between a comfortable size and practicality. This year that choice need not be made. But if you're fine with a more modern 6.1-inch size, then things become even sweeter as this phone comes close to the battery life offered by the Pro Max.
As is the case with the "pro" models, the 5G bands supported are more - which will be an advantage that will bear fruit in the coming years. The speakers sound louder and clearer, and iOS 15 makes the overall operating system more functional but out of the gate, it was quite buggy something which Apple has already remedied at the time of writing this article.
So here's the rub: the iPhone 13 is going to be the iPhone for most people, as long as you're not someone who bought the iPhone 12. It does everything well, but don't expect any groundbreaking new tricks or a gorgeous new design. It is an "S" grade update which means everything is better for your betterment, but not astonishment. And the bigger deal is the iPhone 13 mini because many people will love this old school size which provides a better camera by virtue of its size and more pragmatic battery life which is better than the standard iPhone 12. They remain the best general-purpose smartphones in the world. And again, this time they start at 128GB.