iPhone 13 Review: There’s No Need To Drop Cash on a Pro

iPhone 13 Review: There’s No Need To Drop Cash on a Pro
Image: Apple
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Apple’s iPhone 13 range hit shelves in Australia on Friday, so in case you haven’t worked out which one you want yet, I’m here to help you choose. There’s too much to talk about across the four phones, so this iPhone 13 review will focus on the two base models: the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.

For a review of the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, head over here.

With The iPhone 13 And 13 Mini, Apple Delivers

You asked for a great camera, better battery life, more storage and a clear, vivid screen – and boy did Apple deliver. Besides all that, however, play time with the two base 13 devices tells me they aren’t much different to the 12, especially when iOS 15 is brought into consideration.

It’s unlikely any review of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini will convince a non-Apple user to make the switch, but Cupertino certainly knows how to keep its fans buying a new phone each year.

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are identical in almost every way – design, colours, processor, camera – except the mini is smaller, cheaper and has an inferior battery.

I have, however, declared the iPhone 13 the winner out of these two devices. Here’s the breakdown of what you can expect with a shiny new iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 mini.

Big Camera Improvements For The iPhone 13 And 13 Mini

12MP Camera

The first thing in the quartet of major upgrades you care about: the camera.

Apple has a list of what the phones pack over here, but I’ll drill into what some features actually mean.

The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the same 12MP camera: a wide-angle camera and an ultrawide. The wide has an aperture of 1.6 and the ultrawide camera’s is 2.4.

The cameras – now mounted horizontally – have lenses that are larger, basically allowing for more light to land. About 47% more for the wide camera, Apple touts. The result is essentially better colours in low light.

Night mode also now engages at a lower level, meaning you can hold it still for less time.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini dark mode
Image: Asha Barbaschow

The ultrawide camera is essentially the same as what you experienced on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But overall the shots are noticeably better, even with my shaky hands.

Smart HDR uses machine learning to understand the context of the image and pull different parts of the nine samples together to result in an image like your eyes perceive. This isn’t new, but this year we get an upgrade to Smart HDR 4. This upgrade is all around improved contrast and lighting on people – this means the ability to capture different skin tones.

A Shout Out To Photographic Styles And Cinematic Mode

Photographic Styles is a new feature that allows you to play around with the style of photos you want to take. Think filters but before you take the photo.

It allows you to decide on the default ‘feel’ of your pics, with options to modify the contrast and vibrancy, and play around with warm and cool levels. Once the shot is taken, you can’t revert the image back to an original state – this is now your new original state.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini trees
Image: Asha Barbaschow

Cinematic Mode, meanwhile, is a video feature. It builds on the introduction last year of Dolby Vision and allows you – either while you’re filming or in post-production – to determine the focus of the scene. You can select what gets the focus with a tap of the person or object, thanks to the two lenses, to create a depth map.

Apple is basically pushing this experience as democratising cinematography. A few tests of this feature have been less than impressive – my results are nowhere near as good as Apple’s, but with Sydney in lockdown, I’m not exactly able to organise a few friends in a room to test the feature properly. I also probably shouldn’t post my test of this feature on a bunch of unsuspecting extras while doing an ‘essentials’ shop.

Both phones have Portrait Lighting with six effects: natural, studio, contour, stage, stage mono and high‑key mono. Night mode, Live Photos and Panoramic modes still exist, and the shots you can take are more vibrant, to say the least.

After playing with the camera at length for this iPhone 13 review, I’m severely impressed with the camera kit the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini pack. And you’d be forgiven for forgetting this isn’t even the list of specs for the iPhone 13 Apple is pushing as its photographic beast.

More Colours And Storage But The Same Look And Feel

Most of what I described above comes thanks to the A15 Bionic chip. Aside from being a monster upgrade from the A14 Bionic chip, the A15 means 6‑core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores, 4‑core GPU and a 16‑core Neural Engine. Basically, it allows the phone to perform really well.

Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options.

Colours available are product red, starlight (white), midnight blue and pink.

Both devices boast a ceramic shield front with a glass back and aluminium design.

They have access to all the same apps, as well as accessibility, charging, language, biometric and sensor tech.

They’re both rated IP68 (maximum depth of six metres for up to 30 minutes), but Gizmodo Australia won’t be testing that one for you!

The iPhone 13 mini measures 5.4‑inches diagonally and boasts an all‑screen OLED display with 2340‑by‑1080-pixel resolution at 476 ppi. The iPhone 13 measures 6.1‑inches diagonally and boasts an all‑screen OLED display with 2532‑by‑1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi.

iPhone 13 And iPhone 13 Mini Battery Life Gets A Boost

Apple lists 19 hours of video playback for the iPhone 13 and 17 hours for the mini. When it comes to streaming, this is reduced to up to 15 hours and up to 13 hours, respectively. After seven hours, at full charge, full brightness, full volume and streaming straight from Amazon Prime, the iPhone 13 still had 49% battery left and the mini had 30%. The mini died first and the iPhone 13 needed to be brought back to life after 15 hours.

Audio playback for the iPhone 13 is listed by Apple as up to 75 hours and the mini is up to 55 hours. It’s worth mentioning the sound quality is good. It’s better on the iPhone 13 than the mini, however. That said, I would still hate to hear you playing music from them in public.

Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini made it through the day no trouble playing some Candy Crush, scrolling Instagram, watching too many TikToks, taking a ton of photos, testing Cinematic Mode and waking every time a notification went off.

They both charge pretty quickly, too. As an iPhone lifer, the only issue is the USB-C connection that the included charging cable comes with adding another cable to the mix.

The caveat with this iPhone 13 review is that they’re both brand new devices, so you’d hope the battery would be capable of going an entire day without reaching for a charge or switching on low power mode.

Stay tuned for an in-depth hit on the battery life across all four iPhones.

iphone 13 and 13 mini review
Image: Apple

The Verdict?

I really dislike calling the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini ‘base models’ because they’re actually great devices – one however, is an iPhone for ants.

The iPhone 13 mini is tiny. It’s rumoured to be the last of its kind, and I understand why – unless you’re an iPhone mini stan, you’re not buying this device, especially not when the 13 does everything the mini does, and better.

I do get the appeal of the mini – it fits in pockets easier – but for me, that’s where the ‘pros’ list ends and the ‘cons’ list starts. My hands are small and I still can’t text without a bunch of errors, I can’t read the screen easily without the text size boosted and watching videos isn’t overly enjoyable when everything is condensed.

You should get the iPhone mini if you want a small version of the iPhone 13, but that’s the only reason. The iPhone 13 is a great phone that can do a lot of what the iPhone 13 Pro can do, but cheaper.

After spending a few days with all four iPhones, my favourite is the iPhone 13 Pro, but the battery life on the iPhone 13 is better and the camera (if you’re not a camera nut) is more than fine, and that’s enough for the flagship to come in solid second place. Third is the iPhone 13 Pro Max, only because of how much of a beast it is, which leaves the mini to sit at fourth, purely because of its size.

And that is the level of nitpicking I’ve had to go to when it comes to reviewing and ranking the iPhone 13 range.

iPhone 13 And iPhone 13 Mini Pricing

Now the review is out of the way, it’s time for the brutal truth that is the Aussie dollar.

iPhone 13

From Apple’s website, the iPhone 13 will set you back $1,349 for the 128GB model, $1,519 for the 256GB model and $1,869 for the 512GB model.

To get the iPhone 13 on a plan with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, head over here to choose the right one for you.

iPhone 13 mini

From Apple’s website, the iPhone 13 mini will set you back $1,199 for the 128GB model, $1,369 for the 256GB model and $1,719 for the 512GB model.

To get the iPhone 13 mini on a plan with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, the pricing can be found here.