iPhone 13 Pro review: The BEST smartphone in the world right now
GADGET geeks, prepare yourselves: Apple’s most expensive mobile is finally here, and it’s mind-blowing.
I’ve been testing the new iPhone 13 Pro Max and it’s a tour de force of tech.
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro 128GB (graphite) – £949 / $899.99
First, remember that the Pro Max isn’t for everyone – this is a Pro model, and it’s pricier as a result.
There are four new models this year: iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
The range starts at $699/£679, but this model will cost you anywhere from $999/£949 to $1,599/£1,549.
The Pro and Pro Max are about identical this year, so really you’re choosing between a 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screen.
I prefer the latter, but people with smaller hands, pockets or egos may prefer the standard Pro.
Not much has changed from last year’s iPhone 12 – or iPhone 11, for that matter.
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The notch that juts out into the screen is a little smaller (but it needs to go, and soon!), and there are new colours (including the delightful Sierra Blue).
But you’re getting largely the same premium build, with Apple’s Super Retina XDR display.
This time the screen has been upgraded with ProMotion tech, as borrowed from the posh iPad Pro.
That means the refresh rate of the screen adjusts right up to 120Hz to make scrolling and animations look better than ever. This refresh rate can drop as low as 10Hz when static, to preserve battery life.
Smoother scrolling is the big sell, but I noticed (and enjoyed) it more when switching between apps.
The display is also 25% brighter outdoors, rising to 1,200nits peak in some parts of the screen when viewing HDR content.
It’s an OLED display again, and it’s absolutely gorgeous – easily one of the most vibrant and accurate panels on the market.
You’ve got the tough Ceramic Shield screen (to stop breakages), and IP68 certification for water- and dust-resistance.
Really though, the good stuff on the Pro Max is what’s inside.
For a start, there’s a powerful new A15 Bionic processor, which Apple has managed to squeeze a whopping 15billion transistors in.
Computing benchmarks suggest it trounces every other smartphone on the market – including top-tier Android rivals.
Some efficiency gains help to give the Pro and Pro Max between 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours extra battery life per charge, too.
Of course, your iPhone being ludicrously fast is great – but not surprising.
Probably more interesting are the changes to the camera, which will turn even the shabbiest of snappers (myself included) into pro photographers – or thereabouts.
There are three lenses in total.
First up is Telephoto, for portrait-style photography – with a 77mm focal length, 3x optical zoom, and an f/2.8 aperture.
Next is Ultra Wide, with a 13mm focal length, f/1.8 aperture and a faster sensor, for wide and attractive shots.
And then there’s the more typical Wide camera, with a 26mm focal length, anf/1.5 aperture and sensor-shift optical image stabilisation.
One of the best new features is Macro photography, a long-requested and very welcome addition.
This utilises the ultra-wide lens to focus on objects at a minimum distance of 2cm.
Brilliantly, Macro works for video, too.
You can get very close, and capture levels of detail you just wouldn’t see with the human eye.
Getting the right focus and a steady image is a little tricky because of how close you are to the object – but you get the hang of it pretty fast.
Low-light photography has seen significant improvements.
That’s partly due to some computational goodness, but it’s also thanks to wider apertures and larger sensors.
It’s definitely in a great spot right now – low-light photography wasn’t always the iPhone’s strong suit.
But photos taken even in extremely low light show a surprising amount of detail, and a good level of brightness.
Importantly, you still get a feel for the original darkness of the scene, rather than an obviously fake brightness.
One of Apple’s big highlights during the keynote was Cinematic Mode.
First off, this lets you shoot footage with adjusted depth-of-field, which looks very cool.
But the main advantage is that the camera can tell when a new person has entered a scene, and will automatically shift focus between them.
It’s a Hollywood technique on your iPhone, and it works brilliantly.
Better yet, you can adjust the focus – or even change the background blur, or “bokeh” – after you’ve shot the footage.
And like before, you can shoot in Dolby Vision HDR. Swanky.
There are new Photographic Styles that let you choose presets created by Apple.
These include Warm, Cool, Vibrant and Rich Contrast, and they’re all attractive enough.
But they’re entirely optional, so you can stick to the straight shooter if you’d rather.
For the true camera geeks, there’s the option to film in ProRes, Apple’s high-quality video format (rising to 8K) for professional editing and broadcast.
The complete package
Storage is one of the other big stories of the year.
In particular, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max come in four different options.
You’ll get 128GB (which is enough for most normal people), 256GB, 512GB and a new 1TB option.
The latter will set you back a staggering $1,599/£1,549 on the Pro Max, but it’ll still tempt some power users.
It’s clearly aimed at a minority however, and I’d recommend going for 128GB or 256GB unless you’re using your iPhone professionally as a creative.
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max both support 5G internet, first introduced with last year’s round of smartphones.
There’s not much to say really: 5G is very fast, and getting quicker.
Coverage isn’t universal (or even close), but networks are expanding rapidly across the US and UK.
5G is widely bundled into regular phone contracts now, and you’ll soon struggle to buy phones that don’t support 5G.
In any case, if you’re coming from an iPhone 11 or older, this is a great time to upgrade.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max runs on Apple’s new iOS 15 mobile software.
It’s not exclusive, of course: even the original iPhone SE and iPhone 6S support the new update.
But it’s got some nice tricks you’ll enjoy, including a Focus mode to shut out distractions, as well as Portrait Mode for FaceTime calls.
iPhone 13 Pro review verdict – absolutely epic
Gadget geeks will rightly look at the iPhone 13 Pro and say “not much has changed from last year”.
That’s entirely correct: there are some big camera and battery life improvements, but not much else.
Of course, very few people upgrade their phones every year – and for those people, this is enough.
If you’re using a phone even as recent as an iPhone 11 Pro, this is a worthy upgrade.
And if you’re using something older like an iPhone 8, iPhone X or iPhone XS, this will be a massive leap. Especially for the former.
What Apple has done is refined an already good iPhone into something exceptional.
Apple has made huge strides when it comes to processing performance, and iOS is extremely competent – even the once-mocked Apple Maps is great now.
If you like iPhones, you will absolutely not be disappointed.
The Sun says: The ultimate iPhone for ultimate iPhone geeks – this Pro model lives up to its name, and delivers more greatness than ever before. It’s the best smartphone you can buy today. 5/5
The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are available for pre-order now, and are on sale from September 24. Check out our iPhone 13 deals page.
All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed. Always do your own research before making any purchase.
If you click on a link in this story we may earn affiliate revenue.
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Where to buy the iPhone 13
You'll find the SIM-free handsets available to buy on Amazon:
- Apple iPhone 13 256GB (midnight), Amazon – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Mini 256GB (midnight), Amazon – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro 256GB (graphite), Amazon – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 256GB (graphite), Amazon – buy here
In the US, all four handsets can be picked up at BestBuy, where you can buy them as a one-off cost or on a monthly plan.
- Apple iPhone 13 128GB (midnight), BestBuy, $699.99 – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Mini 128GB (midnight), BestBuy, $599.99 – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro 256GB (graphite), BestBuy, $899.99 – buy here
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 128GB (graphite), BestBuy, $999.99 – buy here
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