Apple iPhone 13 review: Everything you need to know

The iPhone 13’s brighter display, longer battery life, and powerful cameras make it the best iPhone for the money. But we wish it had faster charging and the iPhone 13 Pro’s adaptive 120Hz display.

For

Brighter display

Great cameras

Compelling Cinematic video mode

Class-leading performance

Very good battery life

Against

Lacks 120Hz display

Slower charging than rivals

Cinematic mode capped at 1080p

The iPhone 13 (from $799) doesn’t seem very new when you first look at it. But when you start using this flagship, you realize that it delivers a lot more than a smaller notch.

The new iPhone’s display is brighter than its predecessor’s. The battery life is longer. And Apple has improved an already great camera with new sensors and computational photography features that make you feel like a pro (even on a non-Pro phone).

Yes, the A15 Bionic powering the iPhone 13 is once again the fastest chip in the land. But it’s more about what this chip lets you do. This includes Cinematic mode, which adds depth of field to your videos while automatically shifting focus, and Photographic Styles for changing the look of your pics.

More iPhone 13 reviews: Our verdict is in

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: The best new iPhone overall

iPhone 13 Pro review: Stellar cameras in a compact design

iPhone 13 mini-review: Small phone with big performance

The regular iPhone 13 has some flaws. The charging is still relatively slow compared to some Android phones. And I don’t like that only the iPhone 13 Pro models get a 120Hz display and telephoto zoom. But based on my in-depth iPhone 13 review, this new iPhone is the best phone for the money.

Check out our iPhone 13 mini-review if you want all the same features of the iPhone 13 in a smaller design. Want a 120Hz display and telephoto zoom? See our iPhone 13 Pro review. And our iPhone 13 Pro Max review is the place to go if you want the biggest screen.

Of course, if you decide you want to wait another year for the iPhone 14 before upgrading from your current Apple phone, then check out the seven biggest upgrades we want to see from the iPhone 14.

iPhone 13 review: Price and storage

Available right now, the iPhone 13 starts at $799 for 128GB of storage (up from a meager 64GB on the iPhone 12), and that goes up to $899 for 256GB and $1,099 for 512GB. In the U.K. the entry-level model starts at £779, with the 256GB handset coming ins at £879, and the 512GB model hitting £1,079.

These are hardly cheap phones but you can save with trade-in offers from Apple as well as from wireless carriers, and there are plenty of discounts available. Do make sure to check out our iPhone 13 deals page for the latest offers.

iPhone 13 specs: All models compared

iPhone 13 mini iPhone 13 iPhone 13 Pro iPhone 13 Pro Max
Starting price $699 $799 $999 $1,099
Storage 128, 256, 512GB 128, 256, 512 GB 128, 256, 512, 1TB 128, 256, 512, 1TB
Screen size 5.4 inches 6.1 inches 6.1 inches 6.7 inches
Resolution/PPI 2340 x 1080/476 2532 x 1170/460 2532 x 1170/460 2778 x 1284/458
Adaptive refresh No No Up to 120Hz Up to 120Hz
Processor A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic
Rear cameras Dual 12MP (Wide, ultrawide) Dual 12MP (Wide, ultrawide) Pro 12MP (Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide) Pro 12MP (Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide)
Zoom None / 5x digital None / 5x digital 3x optical / 15x digital 3x optical / 15x digital
Front camera 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth
Colors Red, Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Pink Red, Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Pink Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue
Size 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches
Weight 4.97 ounces 6.14 ounces 7.2 ounces 8.5 ounces
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68
Battery life (video playback 8: 41 10: 33 11: 42 12: 16

iPhone 13 review: Design and colors

The smaller notch makes the display seem more full-bodied

Different button placement

Blue and pink are prominent colors.

There are two major design changes worth noting in iPhone 13. iPhone 13. The first is that the cameras at the rear of the phone are now laid out in a diagonal fashion instead of vertically.

Then, and even most importantly, the notch has been made 20% smaller, while providing the same excellent TrueDepth cameras and Face ID you’d expect from the iPhone X ushered in this feature four years ago.

In reality, the smaller notch really doesn’t make any difference in daily usage for iPhone 13. iPhone 13. While watching movies in the landscape view, side-by-side with a full-screen display I couldn’t see the notch to be is distracting.

I do like the mini notch more using applications that have a white background in the portrait orientation, like Gmail. But, the screen notch of an iPhone 13 mini swoops down slightly more, despite being a bit smaller.

The placement of the buttons differs slightly on the iPhone 13 versus the iPhone 12. Its power button can be found situated lower on the right-hand side similar to what happens for the ringer switch as well as the button for volume on the left.

In addition, the iPhone 13 offers the same sturdy CeramicShield display on the front, as well as a durable glass back, and flat edges. You also get identical IP68 water resistance that you had before. The iPhone 13 isn’t perfect. iPhone 13 doesn’t offer Touch ID which a lot of us would’ve loved because Face ID isn’t compatible when using masks. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an additional sensor on the display, as many Android phones are now able to support as well as the Touch ID sensor embedded in the power button, like in the Mini 6 iPad could have been perfect.

It appears that it is the iPhone 13 is having an issue unlocking using Apple Watch. Apple Watch in some cases. Apple has admitted to the issue and said it will fix the issue in the near future.

iPhone 13 comes in five shades that include Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight, and (Product) Red. I have tested the blue version that is a great shade that isn’t too loud. It’s also a pleasure to use the aluminum frame that matches the colors Apple offers in its basic iPhones.

iPhone 13 review: Display

Better display, easier to see in sunlight

Brilliant colors and contrast

Unfortunately, the iPhone 13 doesn’t boast the adjustable 120Hz refresh rate that is available on the iPhone 13 Pro, but it’s still a great OLED display. The Super Retina XDR display is more bright than its predecessor the iPhone 12; it’s also classified as having 800 nits of brightness, as opposed to 600 nits on last year’s model.

Based on my research I don’t think the difference in brightness is significant however it could be helpful when trying to see the display on the iPhone 13 when it’s in bright sunlight.

The overall quality of the display is still top-quality. As I watched the movie trailer The Matrix Resurrections, I was captivated by the neon code that surrounded Neo as he strolled down the street. And in another scene, I could see individual hairs on Neo’s face while he gazed into the sunlight.

In our tests in lab, our lab tests showed that the iPhone 13 averaged 795 nits of brightness. This is compared with 569 nits in an iPhone 12 and 702 nits for the Galaxy S21. iPhone 13 also registered 78.1 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut, and 110.2 percent from the SRGG color spectrum which is where numbers that are higher are more favorable. The iPhone 12 hit 81.1 and 114.5 and the Galaxy S21 77.4 and 109.2.

It’s the iPhone 13 panel’s color accuracy is impressive, too with the Delta-E score of 0.26 (lower is more accurate.) It’s a lot better than 0.29 on both Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12.

iPhone 13 review: Cameras

Images that are vibrant and bright beat Samsung

The ultra-wide camera offers more scenes and a new night mode

Styles of photography allow you control over your creativity

There’s more to iPhone 13 cameras than just the latest design of lenses that are diagonal. The camera with a wide lens now captures 47 percent more light than iPhone 12, thanks to the larger camera that has 1.7mm pixels.

Another advantage is the fact that ultrawide cameras are able to be able to capture four times the amount of scene, and its upgraded sensor offers superior low-light performance and less noise.

You’re probably not a big fan of the iPhone’s standard color temperature or want to control the look of the photos you take, you’ll love this Photographic Styles feature. Within the Camera app, you can choose between different styles, such as regular, vibrant, and rich contrast, cool and warm.

I played around with the feature using a set of portraits and enjoyed the differences between the styles. For instance, the strong contrast mode made the appear less blurred, and the vibrant settings helped the coleus plants stand out more in the background, as did the trees that were in the background. It’s not easy to alter this effect at will by having a tap on a setting then choosing the style you’d like, but I like the fact that you can alter your style.

In this image that was taken at the Manasquan Reservoir in New Jersey, you can observe how much better the camera on the iPhone 13 is in comparison to that of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The water appears more vivid and translucent, while more vibrant and translucent, the iPhone 13 does a better job in rendering the shadows of the wood.

The iPhone 13 also delivered a more appealing image of these decorations for Halloween. The pumpkins in orange appear brighter and more vivid in comparison to the real-life pumpkins. It’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s pic is quite sharp, but it appears somewhat dull.

In a variety of shooting scenarios in many shooting situations, it was clear that the iPhone 13 was on par with the iPhone 12, but I noticed a significant improvement in night mode. While the final image is somewhat blurry side but iPhone 13’s iPhone 13 captures a brighter pink color in the hydrangea flower and the leaves around are much brighter.

iPhone 13 review: Video

Cinematic mode instantly changes the subject’s focus while also adding blurred images

Superior Dolby Vision HDR video quality

iPhone 13 is a rare smartphone that makes one feel like a director when you record videos. This is due to the new feature known as Cinematic mode. This effect adds the depth of field into your video and instantly shifts the subject of focus according to what’s happening in the frame, for example, the head of someone who is turning in conversation with someone else. It doesn’t require lifting the finger to use this effect, and it does (almost) as if by magic.

While shooting my three dogs alongside my child, I was surprised by the way that I noticed that the iPhone 13 placed the focus on the dog that was closest to me initially while he walked out of the frame, my daughter and older golden retriever were brought into focus. The effect of bokeh in backgrounds is something different smartphone makers have tried and have succeeded, including Samsung however Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t smart enough to shift the focus from one subject to another the subject in real-time.

Cinematic mode isn’t always perfect it’s not perfect, for instance, it’s not perfect, as the iPhone 13 sometimes took a second to detect a faster-moving subject (our young golden retriever). Another issue is that the mode can only be recorded at 1080p. You aren’t able to capture Cinematic modes in high definition. However, overall it’s an awesome feature that I’m sure lots of people will be interested to test, particularly for sharing social videos on TikTok.

The overall quality of the video of the iPhone 13 is excellent. The overall video quality from iPhone 13 is stellar, with enhanced noise reduction, a greater dynamic range, and more semantic rendering, which can distinguish skin, faces, sky, and much more. While I was cruising around the Manasquan reservoir using an iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 I noticed a lot less noise from the blowing leaves in the iPhone 13’s video. Also, in a 4K footage, I got lost in the calm waves that rubbed over the sandy shore.

iPhone 13 review: Performance and A15 Bionic

A15 Bionic is the fastest chip again

Performance of machine learning is significantly better

The A15 Bionic does not offer any significant performance improvements when compared to that of the A14 Bionic powering the iPhone 12 however, it doesn’t need to stay the most powerful chip on any phone. Similar to the A14 Bionic the A15 has a CPU with 6 cores as well as a 4-core GPU, however, it now has a 16-core Neural Engine to support Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. This is in addition to the 8 cores that were on the previous chip.

Apple states its iPhone 13’s processor is 50% more efficient than competitors, while the GPU can handle graphics rendering 20percent more quickly. Before we dive into tests, I believe it’s important to mention how fast this phone is during normal use.

In a game such as Genshin Impact — an open-world adventure title the particle effects and animations were console-like as I climbed up mountains while exploring vast landscapes, and fought off foes. I was also impressed with the Seek app, which immediately recognized plants as I aimed the camera at my backyard.

For Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance Geekbench 5, the iPhone 13 scored 4,129 and 1,684 respectively. It’s a lot higher than the scores of 3,859/1,593 put into by the iPhone 12, and it is a complete reversal of the Galaxy S21’s scores of 3,302/1,048.

The iPhone 13’s performance in graphics is also quite impressive. In the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark, the latest iPhone scored 55.9 frames-per-second. It’s a little higher over previous models, like the iPhone 12 (51 fps) However, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra mustered only 33 frames per second.

We didn’t notice much improvement over our test of editing video with Adobe Premiere Rush. iPhone 13 took 25.9 seconds to convert a video in 4K into 1080p as opposed to 26.5 minutes for iPhone 12. Galaxy S21 took Galaxy S21 took 1 minute and 2 seconds.

Take a look at the iPhone 13 benchmarks results page to see how the four models fare in comparison to Android rivals.

iPhone 13 review: Battery life and charging

10-hour battery with 33-minutes of life. This is 2 hours longer than iPhone 12

Apple states it’s the iPhone 13 lasts up to 1.5 hours more in comparison to its predecessor, the iPhone 12, thanks to larger battery capacity, a more efficient display, and the A15 Bionic chip. But our testing showed even better results.

In Tom’s Guide Battery Test, which requires continuous web browsing in 5G, at 150 nits brightness when using the cellular network (AT&T’s networks in this instance) the iPhone 13 endured for 10 hours and 33 minutes. It was more than 2 hours more than the eight 25:25 time was the time that iPhone 12 turned in. The most impressive time we got on Samsung’s Galaxy S21 was 9: 53.

To find out how the 4 iPhone 13 models fared, go through the iPhone 13 battery life results overview, which also includes comparisons with other Android phones.

The iPhone 13 offers the same charging speeds that it did before. The latest iPhone reached 51% capacity within 30 minutes using Apple’s 20W charging power. Other phones that are on our most charging phones list are significantly faster including those from the OnePlus 9 Pro.

Its 15W MagSafe charger is a little slower, but some might prefer it because it’s magnetic, and doesn’t use the Lightning port.

iPhone 13 review: iOS 15

SharePlay lets users stream videos and play music with your pals

Focus reduces distractions

iOS 15 delivers some welcome enhancements to your iPhone Many of them concentrate on sharing experiences. FaceTime is now had better audio quality and a better interface and the next update will allow you to listen to music or watch television shows or movies with family or friends. Additionally, the Messages app includes a newly added Shared by You section that includes images, articles, and more, making the task easier for you to remember the various links your friends send to you.

I personally like the brand-new Focus feature that’s in iOS 15 that allows you to filter notifications depending on the activity you’re in. The notifications have been improved along with a fresh summary view to ensuring you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the notifications.

Additional iOS 15 features include a new Safari (I really don’t enjoy the Address Bar on the bottom however Apple allows you to alter the address) A more robust Weather app and a redesigned Maps app that has more details along with better street views. Last but not least is Live Text bites off Google Lens by being able to recognize text in real-time through the camera whenever you need to look something up or find translations.

iPhone 13 known problems

So far iPhone 13 owners have encountered some issues. For instance, there are certain iPhone 13 users who are finding that their phone isn’t able to unlock when using Apple Watch. Apple Watch, though a solution is reportedly being worked on. Furthermore, certain iPhone 13 owners are complaining about the touchscreen not responding properly in certain cases it might be due to the result of an iOS 15 issue.

For the iPhone 13 Pros, there are complaints that the cameras automatically change lenses with no warning. Apple will soon release an update that allows users to switch off this feature. Additionally, it appears that ProMotion screens on iPhone 13 Pros are not operating at 120 Hz when using certain applications, something that Apple will address via an update. Developers must improve the performance of their apps, too.

Check out the iPhone 13 problems roundup for more information.

iPhone 13 review: What do you think of the Pixel 6?

The closest Android comes to the iPhone could be Google’s Pixel line that’s due to get a new design right the time. Although the Pixel phones don’t have numbers that would offer the iPhone 13 pause, they provide an impressive competition to cameras. Google and Apple battle over which camera phone is the most effective phone, and this year is going to be a huge contest.

With Google taking a page out of Apple’s playbook and implementing its unique silicon (named Tensor), we can see that how the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro come with some amazing machine-learning and AI capabilities. We’re yet to receive the Pixel 6, but rest assured that we’ll put it through the test to see how it performs with the iPhone 13. iPhone 13.

iPhone 13 review: Verdict

The iPhone 13 enhances what was already the top iPhone for the majority of users with a host of great improvements. I’m particularly impressed by the extended battery life, considering that the iPhone 12’s battery life was quite low for a phone with 5G. I don’t suggest that iPhone 12 owners upgrade to the latest iPhone but it’s worth the upgrade if you own an iPhone 11. iPhone 13 is definitely worth the cost even if you have the iPhone 11 or an older model.

I’m not sure that many will notice the smaller screen. The thing that really is noticeable on this iPhone 13 is the camera. Low-light performance is better, and the cinematic mode and the Photographic style flex the A15 Bionic muscles in ways that are way above benchmarks.

I’m also happy that Apple has doubled the initial storage at 128GB. That move was long overdue and put the new iPhone in line in comparison to Android flagships. I’d love to have Apple making charging faster the next time around and that could be by USB-C or MagSafe or even as a display that runs at 120Hz.

The final verdict can be said that it is clear that the iPhone 13 is a fantastic phone and sets the standard of the things you believe camera phones can accomplish.

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor-in-chief for Tom’s Guide and has covered technology for more than 20 years. In addition to managing the direction of Tom’s guide, Mark specializes in covering everything mobile and has examined a variety of smartphones and other devices. He has been a speaker at important industry events and has appeared frequently on TV discussing the most recent developments. Mark was the editor-in-chief at Laptop Mag, and his writing has appeared on Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

 

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