Now that Apple has officially taken the wraps off its iPhone 13 lineup, it’s time to decide whether you’re going to upgrade — and if so, which phone is the best for your needs.
iPhone 13 preorders began today, and will ship on September 24. Like last year, we didn’t get to have any hands-on time with the devices due to the pandemic, but you can expect to see more in-depth reviews and impressions in the coming weeks. We usually recommend waiting until then, but we get it. Sometimes you just really need a new phone ASAP.
The Best iPhone for Most People
The base 128 GB iPhone 13 ($1,349).
Why the iPhone 13?
This year, the major upgrades for the iPhone 13 lineup were all about the cameras. The iPhone 13 has two cameras, a 12-MP main camera and another 12-MP ultra-wide camera. This time around, Apple’s arranged them diagonally and they have the same sensor-shift stabilisation features as last year’s 12 Pro models. The new cameras have better low-light performance and the front-facing camera also supports new filters, Dolby Vision HDR recording, night mode selfies, and all that jazz. They also get the same Cinematic mode for videos that the Pro models do. Sure, the Pro models have an extra telephoto lens, but do you really need it? Be honest with yourself about the pictures you take. If you don’t obsess over your photos, have zero interest in editing them, and mostly take candid shots for friends and family, the iPhone 13’s cameras are good enough for your needs.
Performance-wise, all the iPhone 13 models will get the A15 Bionic chip and are 5G-compatible. The iPhone 13’s battery life is also pretty similar to the $1,699 13 Pro. It gets an estimated 19 hours of video playback (15 hours if streamed) and 75 hours of audio playback. The Pro gets 22 hours (20 streamed) of video playback and 75 hours of audio playback. And while the iPhone 13 Mini’s battery has improved this year, the iPhone 13’s battery life is more likely to last you the entire day. We think that’s worth the extra $350.
Apple’s doubled its base storage option on the iPhone 13 to 128GB. For the average person, a combination of 128GB and cloud storage is enough for your videos, music, and all those pet pics you took during quarantine. Meanwhile, the base Pro model is $350 more for an extra camera, variable refresh rate, and slightly better battery life. Most people would likely prefer the extra savings, and all-around the iPhone 13 offers a good set of features for $1,349.
So Who Should Go Pro?
The Pro models are meant for power users or anyone who needs a little extra to get things done. If you’re a gamer, the LTPO displays with their variable refresh rates (up to 120Hz) might be worth the splurge. If you need a good camera for work (or if you’re serious about photography), then the Pro models’ additional telephoto lens and ProRaw formats are worth the extra splurge. If you’re a filmmaker or amateur video creator, the ProRes format and extra storage options are also attractive options. The Pro models also offer more storage. While the regular iPhone 13 and 13 Mini max out at 512 GB, the Pro models go up to 1TB.
As for whether you should opt for the $1,699 Pro or $1,849 Pro Max, that’s going to come down to your individual battery and screen preferences. The Pro Max will get you a larger 6.7-inch screen compared to the Pro’s 6.1 inches. For battery, the Pro Max gets up to 28 hours of video playback (25 streamed) and 95 hours of audio playback. The Pro gets 22 hours of video playback (20 hours streamed), and 75 hours of video playback. You just have to decide if the Pro Max’s extra screen real estate and longer battery life are worth the extra $150.
What About the 13 Mini or the iPhone SE?
Rumour has it this is likely to be the iPhone Mini’s last hurrah. If you’ve always wanted a smaller phone, but aren’t a fan of the iPhone SE’s bezels, the $1,199 iPhone 13 Mini may be your last shot for a while. The new Mini has a bigger battery that promises an extra 1.5 hours of battery life over the iPhone 12 Mini, but 1.5 extra hours isn’t as much as we’d hoped and may not last you the full day depending on your usage habits.
Whether you get the Mini or SE will depend on your priorities for cost, camera, and 5G. There’s no question that the Mini will take better pictures, but in our review, we found the iPhone SE’s camera holds up pretty well. Cost-wise, the base SE is $679-ish, which is much cheaper than the Mini. However, the base iPhone SE only gets you 64GB of storage, while the base Mini gets you 128GB. You’ll have to pay $759 for a 128GB SE.
You still shouldn’t upgrade just to get 5G. If it’s not a priority, opting for the SE will save you some cash. If you do care about 5G, you might want to go for the Mini or hang tight for a 5G SE (if there is one).
Is It Worth Buying an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12?
If you’re set on saving some moolah by opting for a last-gen iPhone, we’d recommend the iPhone 12. Sure, the iPhone 11 is cheaper at $849, but the iPhone 12 is the better investment. It supports 5G, has newer hardware, and will retain a better trade-in value for longer.