iPhone 13 Pro review

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iPhone 13 Pro

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Two-minute review

The iPhone 13 Pro isn’t Apple’s top-end handset right now, but it offers a fantastic all-round experience, with some of the best battery life we’ve ever seen in an iPhone, and some of the best performance we’ve ever seen on any phone full stop, which, along with a smattering of small upgrades, makes it an altogether exemplary smartphone.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max may be the option for anyone looking for the best of the best from Apple, but a lot of what makes that smartphone great is also available here, for a slightly cheaper price of $999 / £949 / AU$1,699.JUMP TO…

Release date and price
Design
Display
Camera
Software
Battery life
Should I buy it?

If you already have an iPhone, it’s likely the iPhone 13 Pro will be a big upgrade – unless you currently own last year’s iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max – with improvements to almost every feature.

One exception is the design, which remains similar to that of the iPhone 12 Pro. There’s a matte finish on the rear of the phone and stainless steel edges, which make the handset feel appropriately premium.

The new A15 Bionic chipset paired with 6GB of RAM delivered more than enough power to run even the most demanding apps you’ll find in the Apple App Store, while the phone starts at 128GB of storage, with options up to 1TB for those who need lots of space.

The iPhone 13 Pro also offers a fantastic camera experience, with a versatile array of cameras that can handle both daytime and night shooting with ease. The telephoto and macro cameras mean you can shoot at a variety of distances, too.

Battery life is one of the biggest upgrades, and we found that the iPhone 13 Pro was capable of lasting a full day, no matter what we threw at it. It won’t last quite as long as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it will last longer than any iPhone you’ve used before.

So the iPhone 13 Pro is a remarkably good smartphone – but so are all the iPhone 13 handsets, and if your budget won’t quite stretch to the Pro, the ‘standard’ iPhone 13 misses out on only a few of its specs and features, so you may find the cheaper handset suits you just fine.

But if your head has been turned by everything the iPhone 13 Pro offers – the 120Hz screen, improved cameras and a touch more RAM or storage – then it may well be the perfect phone for you, especially if you don’t want or need the larger screen size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

 iPhone 13 Pro release date and price 

The iPhone 13 Pro was revealed on September 14, and you can buy the handset now from Apple, as well as from a variety of retailers and carriers. The iPhone 13 Pro release date was September 24, 2021.

The price starts at $999 / £949 / AU$1,699, which gets you 128GB of storage. If you need more storage you can choose from a 256GB model at $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,869, a 512GB model at $1,299 / £1,249 / AU$2,219, or the 1TB variant at $1,499 / £1,449 / AU$2,569.

This is the first time we’ve seen a 1TB iPhone, and that price is correspondingly high. If you want a slightly higher-specced phone with a larger screen and battery, there’s also the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which starts at $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,849.

Design

The iPhone 13 Pro is the company’s most premium device yet that doesn’t include a Max in the title, and unlike the iPhone 13 Pro Max this is a more realistic size for one-handed use. If you’re looking for a new, mid-sized iPhone, this handset, or the iPhone 13, should suit you perfectly.

Apple’s design has been refined from the iPhone 12 Pro, but the differences are minimal.

It comes with stainless steel edges, a matte finish on the rear and Apple’s Ceramic Shield glass on both the front and back. Apple says that protection makes it four times less likely to break when dropped, compared to an iPhone without it.

We wouldn’t recommend dropping your phone to find out if that’s true, obviously, but it should give you an extra bit of a piece of mind if your phone does take a tumble.

The matte finish on the rear feels distinctly premium, especially when compared to the normal glass on the iPhone 13.

In our time with the iPhone 13 Pro we’ve found the design to feel good in the hand; it has a touch more heft than the iPhone 13, which helps it sit in our hand comfortably.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 are almost identical in size, but you can’t switch cases between the two as they have a slightly different rear camera housing.

The rear array on the iPhone 13 Pro does protrude from the body quite a bit, which may be an issue for some – it’s especially noticeable when you lay the phone down on a surface, so if you want to type on the screen when the phone is laying down, expect a touch of back and forth.

The right-hand edge of the handset houses the power button, while the left-hand side is home to the mute slider, volume buttons and SIM tray. On the bottom edge of the handset are the speakers, and a Lightning port for charging.

The phone is available in Graphite, Silver, Sierra Blue or Gold – the color pictured throughout this review. The Sierra Blue option is new this year, and it’s one of the most striking new colors we’ve seen from Apple in a while’. This is a good choice if you want a Pro phone that stands out.

Display

iPhone 13 Pro
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Like the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro comes with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display. This screen doesn’t feature the best pixels-per-inch rating of the entire iPhone 13 range – for that, look at the iPhone 13 mini – but it does feature 460ppi, and the image quality is correspondingly crisp.

A significant upgrade here is the introduction of a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, which means the on-screen image refreshes 120 times a second for a more fluid experience than we’ve seen on previous iPhones; it’s most noticeable when you’re scrolling through menus or system apps.Advertisementhttps://1bb88382f03791de109d82d9915681e5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

It’s a dynamic refresh rate, so it’s automatically adjusted depending on which apps you’re using – for example, most games will use a 120Hz refresh rate, while if you’re reading an ebook the rate could drop as low as 1Hz. The idea here is to save battery life when you’re using apps that don’t benefit from the high refresh rate.

We’ve found the new screen tech works well, although its availability is limited right now as a lot of apps aren’t optimized for 120Hz. Including this feature is something developers have access to, and we expect to see the feature introduced into more software as time goes on.

The faster refresh rate worked well with apps that support it though, and it’s a change you’ll notice when scrolling through Apple’s menus or apps made by the company. It’s not reason enough on its own to upgrade, but it’s a worthwhile feature, and will become more so as support is added for more apps.

Apple has also reduced the size of the notch on the iPhone 13 Pro. No, there’s still no under-display camera, but the notch here is 20% smaller than on the iPhone 12 Pro, meaning you’ve got a little more screen real estate to work with.

Every little helps, but it’s something you’re unlikely to notice unless you hold this phone up next to last year’s model – don’t expect to be wowed by the size of the notch when you take your new iPhone out of the box.

The camera setup on the iPhone 13 Pro comprises three 12MP shooters: the primary wide camera with an f/1.5 aperture, a telephoto camera with f/1.8 aperture that’s capable of 3x optical zoom, and an ultra-wide camera with an aperture of f/1.8 and a 120-degree field of view.

There’s also a 3D LiDAR scanner, which measures depth. This helps to make autofocus more accurate, and improves the precision of Portrait mode bokeh effects in by distinguishing between a subject and their background. Away from photography, the scanner also works with various augmented reality apps. 

The main camera is great, and while it may not look very different to the iPhone 12 Pro’s primary camera on paper, it does offer some important upgrades that make it one of the best smartphone cameras.

Overall picture quality is excellent, with shots taken in good light showing plenty of color and detail and a fantastic night mode when you want to shoot something darker.

The telephoto camera on the iPhone 13 Pro is capable of 3x optical zoom, while on 2020’s handset it was just 2x – the difference isn’t hugely noticeable, but we found the quality of zoomed-in images to be very good.

Apple has also introduced sensor shift optical image stabilization on the Pro model this year, which makes it easier to quickly take a snap without the image looking blurred. We found this to be noticeably better than the stabilization on the iPhone 12 Pro, but we should note that optical stabilization is also available on the cheaper iPhone 13.

The new macro mode is a big upgrade, enabling you to capture striking close-ups of flowers, insects and other smaller subjects. It’s a feature we’ve seen on a lot of Android phones, and it’s great to see Apple introduce it here.https://1bb88382f03791de109d82d9915681e5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

iPhone 13 Pro camera samples
An example of what the macro mode can do (Image credit: TechRadar)

To use macro mode, you just need to move the camera lens close to a subject and it’ll automatically be activated. It can be hard to keep the camera still for these shots, but we managed to get some interesting photos, and it’s one of Apple’s more accessible camera modes.

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