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iPhone 13 Pro review: better display, best camera and amazing battery life

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The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are phones for people who care about subtleties. The
enhancements compared to last year's iPhones are huge, but they're not clear from the outset.

As with the standard iPhone 13 and 13 Mini, the main updates to the 13 Pro are battery life and the
camera frame. 13 Pro adds a third major improvement – a screen with a higher playback rate.

The battery, camera and screen design changes seem like an iterative, yearly update. What's more,
the plans are practically indistinguishable from last year's plans for the iPhone 12 Pros. However,
these assumptions, or words alone, do not indicate how huge this evolution will be.

Updated on 5 October 2021 to reflect the results of long-term testing with the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Battery in iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max

The change that will probably have the biggest impact for the majority of people is battery life. Apple
is pleased to announce that the battery upgrade is due to a series of updates, including greater
availability of the new A15 Bionic processor and changes to the way the new presentation uses
power. We are delighted to announce that this is the case. However, we don't think the biggest
proponent is just that the battery is bigger than the year before.

The 13 Pro's battery is 11% larger, and the 13 Pro Max's battery is a whopping 18.5% larger. Apple
claims that the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are now capable of 1.5 hours and 2+ hours of use respectively,
an upgrade from the 12 Pro model, but the 12 Pro Max was a beast of a battery life at that.

The improvement in battery life isn't complicated, it's just that the battery is bigger.

I've had both phones for less than seven days now, so I've squeezed the majority of my usage time
into the smaller iPhone 13 Pro as my most pessimistic scenario test. Also, my results are in line with
Apple's case: on a day when I shot a lot of 4K video and abused the phone with maximum screen
glow, I had 20% remaining from early morning until 11pm, with a very long usage time of more than
4 hours of screen time in the following applications … Screen time after using applications exceeded
4 hours when used for very long periods of time, but on a day of infrequent use, we had 7 hours of
screen time before the low battery warning appeared.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is truly a monster. Unless you're deliberately shooting a lot of 4K video, you
won't be able to use this phone up in a day. It lasts a lot longer than last year's Pro Max. I'm always
torn about whether I should be so enthusiastic about battery life, as individual phone usage is so
varied, but there's no doubt that the 13 Pro Max will keep most people going the next day. The extra
battery does add a bit of weight, but I think it's a great thing.

My main concern is that you can be away from home all day if you don't have an external battery
pack. For me, the line that a phone has to cross is being able to go through a normal day without
being nervous about the battery, and the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max meet that criteria.

iPhone 13 Pro design and specs

Last year was a big planning update for iPhone, with Level Side, 5G and MagSafe charging. This year's
model retains all of that, but changes the plan in some minor ways. The most obvious is the on-
screen score. The on-screen score is a little more modest, but that's on the horizontal plane, and it
actually pushes down what we're checking in the same way. The space at the top, on the other hand,
saw no change whatsoever. This means you'll need to pull down on the control panel in order to see
the battery level.

Another change is that, compared to last year's model, the new iPhone is noticeably heavier and the
whole body is even thicker. However, the camera knocks on the two phones are essentially bigger,
meaning that the case on the 12 Pro won't fit the 13 Pro. I think the trade-off between battery life
and a more advanced camera framework is significant.

Instead of softly curved edges on the screen, as on many Android devices, Apple has created a slight
bezel around the screen. The edge rails are made of glossy, fingerprint-resistant steel, and the glass
on the back has a smooth, matt finish. The front has Apple's Ceramic Shield finish to make it more
resistant to cracking, and the camera focus point is sapphire – we think it's a beautiful phone, a big
step forward from the curved sides seen on iPhones from 6 to 11.

Other than the camera framework and screen, the other key specification is the new A15 Bionic
processor, which is undoubtedly faster. But, as with the iPhone, the fundamental role of that speed is
to ensure that the phone feels fast for years to come, not to make you think it's faster than last year's
gadget. That said, there are plenty of cameras that seem to have been powered up in the A15. There
are also five GPU centres on the 13 Pro model, up from four on the regular 13 model, but these extra
centres don't seem to have any obvious effect on speed.

Antalya, Turkey – September 14, 2021: Back view of new iPhone 13 white smartphone

Base storage starts at 128GB, but there's a further 1TB option on the top-end model. This is an
unusually large capacity for a phone, but if you expect to be shooting a lot of ProRes video, it's well

worth considering. Screen sizes and targets are roughly the same, with the 13 Pro's 6.1-inch screen
measuring 1170 x 2532 pixels and the 13 Pro Max's 6.7-inch screen measuring 1284 x 2778 pixels.

In terms of system management, Apple is focusing on expanding support for mid-band 5G, which is
more important than UWB systems, which are only available at certain intersections. This means that
in the US, the 13 Pro is ready for a 5G future, if the carriers keep their promises (they haven't so far,
but they might in a year). Of course, those who travel a lot should look out for groups that have
access to the few variants sold in different regions.

Finally, I know it's an exercise in futility, but to reiterate, I believe that Apple should change the
iPhone from Lightning connector to USB-C. I still believe Apple made a mistake in not making the
most of the undeniable opportunity to do so with the significant upgrades to the iPhone X and
iPhone 12. We understand why they didn't replace them, but we just can't argue with that. Especially
on the "Ace" phones, the standard link would be very useful and valuable, both for charging and for
connecting to another ornament without a connector.

Camera of iPhone 13 Pro

The camera frameworks of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are indistinguishable this year. That
means you don't have to buy a bigger, more expensive phone to take the best photos. And by best
pictures, we mean that there's no other phone that can coordinate with the iPhone 13 Pro. (At the
time of writing, Google's Pixel 6 has yet to be announced, but it will present a difficult, if not
impossible, challenge).

Apple is touting the 13 Pro's camera framework as "the most advanced ever." I'm not going to go
that far, but I don't know when I've said "wait a minute, look at this picture" as many times as I have
this time.

The best smartphone cameras

To show that the 13 Pro is a 'phone for people who value subtlety', we'd like to start with this camera
framework. On a clear day or in normal light, photos taken with these phones are indistinguishable
from those taken with the iPhone 13 or iPhone 12. In good light, all of the top-of-the-range phones
perform extremely well.

One of the things the Pro 13's camera framework focuses on is shooting in low light. The underlying
wide-point sensor was significantly redesigned this year, and while Android devices use "pixel
binning" after increasing the number of megapixels to achieve low-light shooting, Apple has
maintained the 12 megapixels it has used since the iPhone 6S in 2015. We're keeping it. The actual

sensor has 1.9µm pixels, which is similar in size to what we've seen in previous phones. In addition,
the aperture of the focus point is f/1.5.

These make the camera capable of capturing an overwhelming amount of light more quickly than
other mobile phones. In addition, Apple's tuning and upgrading of the computational photography
makes the 13 Pro's low-light exhibit the best.

Images are less distracting in low light, and more powerful in low and surprisingly medium light.
What's more, Apple tells us it's changed the way it handles dark areas. So shadow openings are more
accurate, too. 13 Pro can now accurately bring out the bright areas while leaving the dark areas
untouched. Where 12 Pro would force you into night mode to make everything easier, 13 Pro can do
it for you. There's no need to bother with it. What's more, the 13 Pro's open cycle is twice as fast
once you're in Night Mode.

We used this term in last year's 12 Pro Max survey, and we think it's even more true this year. In
recent years, as computational photography has become the norm, we've seen many camera frames,
including the iPhone, simply get overzealous and do unacceptable things in terms of openness and
tone. The iPhone 13 Pro has never been like that in my tests.

We should bring things back down to earth: will many people notice the contrast in quality between
the 13 Pro and a regular iPhone 13, or even last year's iPhone? In many cases, I think it's fair to say
no. On a phone screen, you have to zoom in and look at it pixel by pixel to see it. However, I think it's
a good idea to call the iPhone "Genius", because this super-wide point

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