Another year, another batch of iPhones – but how much has actually changed, and is it worth the upgrade? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the new iPhone 13, 13 mini, Pro and Pro Max models with last year’s iPhone 12 range.
Apple has followed the same format as last year, releasing four models: an entry-level mini, a competent middle tier, a more advanced Pro and an extravagant Pro Max. In terms of pure numbers though, very little has actually changed between generations – basically, this year’s models have faster processors, longer-lasting batteries, some display tweaks and a couple of new camera tricks.
So is it worth the upgrade? Read on to decide for yourself.
All four new models have the exact same dimensions as their last-generation counterparts, except that they’re all 0.3 mm thicker. The iPhone 13 mini is obviously the smallest, followed by the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro which are both 15 mm taller and 7 mm wider. And finally the Pro Max is the meatiest of all, adding another 14 mm to the height and 7 mm to the width.
They’re all a little heavier than last year’s models too. The iPhone 13 mini is 6 grams heavier than the 12 mini, the 13 is 10 g heavier than the 12, the Pro is 15 g heavier and the Pro Max is 12 g. For perspective, a US nickel coin weighs 5 g.
Once again Apple has chosen muted tones for its higher-end iPhones and more colorful options for the lower end. The iPhone 13 and 13 mini are available in classic black or white (which Apple now calls “Starlight” and “Midnight”), and the usual special edition red as well. The blue tone is a bit different from last year’s blue, and now there’s a new pink offering as well.
The Pro and Pro Max, meanwhile, are finished in fancier tones like gold, silver, graphite and a pastel Sierra Blue.
Like last year, Apple is also separating its low- and high-end iPhones with the materials they’re made out of. All four are made with glass front and back, ringed in metal – on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini that metal is aluminum, while on the Pro and Pro Max it’s stainless steel. The higher models also have a textured glass backing to give them a more premium feel.
All eight models are also built with Ceramic Shield, a layer that protects the display from cracks and scratches.
They also all have a water resistance rating of IP68, which Apple claims means they can be safely dunked to a depth of 6 m (20 ft) for up to 30 minutes. Of course we wouldn’t recommend testing that out yourself, but it should bring peace of mind that these expensive devices can shake off an accidental spill or swim.
The displays on the iPhone 13 range are basically the same as those on the previous models. They’re all made with organic light-emitting diode (OLED) tech, as are almost all other major phones. Each display is the same size as its last-generation counterpart – starting at a diminutive 5.4 inches on the mini model, a respectable 6.1 inches on the 12/13 and 12/13 Pro, up to a huge 6.7 inches on the Pro Max.
All eight iPhones manage to squeeze a decent amount of screen onto the front too, with small bezels around the sides and a notch cut into the top to house the camera. Their screen-to-body ratios are all between 85 and 88 percent.
The resolution of those displays remains unchanged between generations too. The iPhone 13 mini packs 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, at a density of 476 pixels per inch (ppi). The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, identical in many respects, boost that by a few hundred, and the 13 Pro Max a few hundred more.
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max do boast one upgrade to their displays though: their refresh rate has doubled to 120 Hz, using a technology Apple calls ProMotion.
As usual, Apple has upgraded the brains of the operation – the iPhone 13 range is running the new A15 Bionic chip. The company boasts that it’s up to 50 percent faster than “the competition,” running a six-core CPU, four-core GPU (or five on the Pro and Pro Max) and a 16-core neural engine.
That’s bolstered by a RAM boost too. Each model has gained 2 GB over their predecessors, bringing the iPhone 13 and 13 mini to a baseline 6 GB, and the Pro and Pro Max to a generous 8 GB.
The front-facing camera hasn’t changed this generation. It’s still a 12-megapixel (MP) depth-sensing camera with an aperture of f/2.2. The TrueDepth technology means that it projects a map of dots across your face to power the Face ID system, and to map augmented reality (AR) emojis and effects more precisely.
On paper, the main cameras don’t seem to have had much of an upgrade either. Like the iPhone 12 lineup, the iPhone 13 range is equipped with a pair of 12-MP wide and ultra-wide cameras on the back. The Pro and Pro Max models add a 12-MP telephoto lens, as well as a LIDAR sensor for depth.
But the real advances are hiding below the surface. The iPhone 13 range performs much better in low-light conditions, thanks to larger sensors. The 13 and 13 mini apparently let in 47 percent more light than the iPhone 12 range. On the Pro and Pro Max, the wide-angle camera now lets in 2.2 times more light, and the ultra-wide 92 percent more. The Pro models also have wider apertures than the cameras in the 13, 13 mini, and the whole 12 line, which helps capture more light. The LIDAR sensor also chips in for better night-time portraits.
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max can also shoot macro photos and videos too, thanks to a redesigned lens and autofocus system that allows the ultra-wide camera to focus at just 2 cm (0.8 in).
The iPhone 13 lineup has all the same photo modes as the 12s, and of course adds a few new ones.
Portrait mode users bokeh effects to artfully blur the background of shots to make the subject pop. The level of the effect can be adjusted after the photo is taken. This mode also has several lighting effects that can change the look of a shot after the fact.
Night mode takes longer exposures to brighten up dark scenes, and capture more detail and color.
Series of shots can be stitched together to create panoramas of up to 63 MP.
Deep Fusion is a mode where multiple exposures are overlaid to bring out finer details and textures.
AR modes – where virtual characters and objects are imposed over the real-world view through the camera – are enabled across all phones, front and back. That allows users to turn their faces into animated characters, catch Pokémon in the park or size up furniture in a room before they bring it home, among many other uses.
New modes on the iPhone 13 range include Smart HDR4, which can apparently recognize up to four different people in one shot and automatically adjust lighting, contrast and even skin tones for each of them.
Photographic Styles, also new to 13, allows users to create custom presets to apply to all of their photos. That includes things like Vibrant to highlight color, Rich Contrast to deepen dark areas and brighten light ones, or Warm or Cool to highlight yellow or blue undertones. These effects will apply to the parts of a photo where they’re needed, not the whole image.
And finally, there’s the zoom. The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the same zoom capabilities as the iPhone 12 and 12 mini – five times digital zoom in, and two times optical zoom out. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, meanwhile, have increased their figures over their last-gen counterparts – they both now have three times optical zoom in, two times out, and 15 times digital zoom in.
Again, all the same video modes carry across between generations, with the iPhone 13 range adding a few extras.
All eight iPhones can shoot video in 4K resolution, at frame rates of 24, 30 and 60 frames per second (fps), or in Full HD at 30 and 60 fps. The iPhone 13s add 25 fps options to both resolutions too.
They can all shoot in slow motion in Full HD, down to 120 or 240 fps. Or, speed things up with timelapse.
Dolby Vision is a grading technique that brings out high dynamic range (HDR), allowing darker blacks and brighter lights in one image. It’s normally applied in post-production, but iPhones, starting with the 12 line, can apply it in real time, something that even professional film cameras can’t do.
So what’s new with the iPhone 13s? The headliner is Cinematic mode, which automatically focuses on a subject and shifts focus when a new subject enters the frame. Focus and blur depth can be adjusted in detail after a video has been shot too. Cinematic mode also shoots in Dolby Vision.
All eight iPhones have optical and electronic image stabilization (OIS/EIS) built in to steady video, but the 13 range improves that with a sensor-shift system.
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are also the first smartphones to be able to record in ProRes, Apple’s proprietary video format that provides higher color fidelity and lower compression.
The iPhone 13 and 13 mini pack three times digital zoom in (down from five times on the 12 line) and two times optical zoom out. The 13 Pro and Pro Max have boosted the optical zoom in to three times, cutting into the digital zoom which is now only nine times.
Both generations of iPhones can be unlocked with a quick scan of a user’s face, through the Face ID system.
Apple has shifted the storage options up one slot – 128 GB is now the baseline, with 256 Gb and 512 GB options available on all four iPhone 13 models. The Pro and Pro Max meanwhile, are available in a massive 1 TB option, which could be handy if you plan on shooting a lot of video in ProRes.
Whichever option you go for, choose wisely – with no MicroSD card slot, you can’t expand that later.
Apple never publicly announces the battery capacity of its devices, but all is usually revealed when the first reviewers get their hands on them. Since that hasn’t happened yet for the iPhone 13s, the figures aren’t available at time of writing, but Apple does say they should last longer than last generation. The iPhone 13 mini and Pro should last 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 and Pro Max can last 2.5 times longer.
All eight iPhones are also capable of fast charging and wireless charging – but you’ll need to buy separate chargers to make use of those.
All of these phones can tap into the faster 5G cellular networks that are rolling out across the world.
Lightning is the only port you need anymore, according to Apple – that’s all you’ll find on any of the iPhone 12 or 13 lines.
The iPhone 13 series comes preloaded with Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 15. This refresh changes the way notifications are presented, adds new capabilities to FaceTime, such as screen sharing, and improves detail in Maps, among other upgrades.
Of course, the iPhone 12 line can be updated to iOS 15 too.
The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro were released back in October 2020, followed by the 12 mini and Pro Max in November. All four iPhone 13 models were released on September 24, 2021.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini have had a price drop of $100 each, which might attract the attention of bargain hunters. It seems that Apple has discontinued the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models, most likely to make the gap between generations seem larger. You could still find them elsewhere though, and they should be cheaper than the launch prices listed here.
As for the iPhone 13 series, the mini starts at $699 and the base model at $799, which is about on par for flagships nowadays. For the Pro and Pro Max, you’re looking at a grand and up, depending on how much storage you’re after.
Still undecided? Check out more of our phone comparisons.