When Apple releases a new line of smartphones, all the phones except the suffix-less one get ample attention. The mini grabs the eyes for its size; the Pro gets the headlines for being Pro while the Pro Max gets max attention for both the reasons mentioned above. This leaves the basic numbered iPhone, which many dismiss as ‘just an upgrade.’

iphone 13 review

The iPhone 13 does not change this perception. When they think of the iPhone 13, many simply think of a slightly upgraded version of the iPhone 12 and not a completely new iPhone with its own identity. We used the iPhone 13 for about three months to see if this feels like a different phone or just like the iPhone 12 with some add ons.

Familiar, but still chart-topping looks

When it comes to all things familiar, the looks of the iPhone 13 top the charts. Apple has taken largely the same design blueprint that the brand used for the iPhone 12 and, with the addition of diagonally placed cameras on the back, has churned out the iPhone 13… or at least that is what it seems. If you have used the iPhone 12, this new phone would probably not feel all that new. It comes with the same flat slides made of aerospace-grade aluminum, while the phone’s front comes with ceramic shield glass, and the back is protected by toughened glass, making the phone pretty sturdy.

We put this to test during our long-term review, and if the phone managed to survive without too many scratches in our clumsy hands after a few accidental drops, we are sure that it will be able to stay with you long-term. That said, we would not want you to take any chances with a phone this expensive and would advise you to get this newbie a good, protective outfit.

Apart from the more obvious, diagonally placed cameras on the back, Apple has also added a few ‘nuanced’ changes to the iPhone 13, which may not hit you at first glance, but close inspection would bring them to the fore. The iPhone 13 is a tad bit chubbier than its predecessor, which we suspect is what makes room for that improved battery. The camera lenses on the back of the phone are diagonally placed and are bigger in size and protrude more, and the notch on the front is about 20 percent smaller. Perhaps one of the ‘looks’ highlights is the new color options, especially the Pink one. We really like this particular shade on the new iPhone.

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Other than that, the cosmetic changes remain mostly muted. So if you were thinking of giving up your iPhone 12 and swapping it for the iPhone 13 for the flaunt factor, we would suggest you wait for a slightly more substantially different-looking iPhone.

Same sized, but brighter display

What also remains the same is the display size. The iPhone 13 comes with the exact same display real estate as the iPhone 12 – a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display with a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels. Do not let the smaller notch fool you; it does not really add much to the display size as it has only been reduced horizontally. That said, FaceID works just as smoothly and securely as ever and can unlock your phone in a quick second.

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Apple is keeping the higher refresh rate reserved for the Pro variants, and the iPhone 13 brings a basic 60 Hz refresh rate to the table. This might seem a little underwhelming, especially considering some of the Android competition.

Just like the design, the display also comes with some changes that are only noticeable when noticed, like the brightness. The iPhone 13’s display comes with increased brightness and has gone to 800 nits max instead of 625 nits max on the iPhone 12.

The bright display allows you to read even under the harshest light, and it also produces deep color contrasts. The phone also comes with a set of stereo speakers, which with the display make it a delight to view content and play games on.

Classy cameras, as always, with a few new touches…

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Like many things on this iPhone, the cameras may also seem the same. After all, it comes with two 12 megapixel shooters on the back and one 12 megapixel sensor on the front, which is the exact same numerical arrangement we saw on the iPhone 12. But do not mistake them to be the same sensors– they are slightly bigger and perform visibly better than their predecessors.

The cameras on the iPhone 13 take some really well-detailed images, and the colors are as close to reality as we have seen a smartphone camera reproduce. We really appreciate how Apple does not bring different megapixel counts on different sensors, which simply means the quality of the image does not get compromised, no matter which camera sensor you use to take the image. The 12-megapixel wide sensor is perfect for everyday shots and snaps and focuses really quickly, while the ultra-wide sensor allows you to capture more real estate. The cameras do very well under most light conditions. Take a picture in well-lit conditions with the iPhone 13, and you are sure to get a good picture. The same applies to low-light photography. Even though the new iPhone still struggles a little with flare, the overall quality of photographs taken on the iPhone 13 in low light is seriously good.

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The camera still activates the Night Mode intelligently when it senses low light conditions (something we are not fans of – you can turn it off like this). The Night Mode on the iPhone automatically brightens up low light shots and makes them look more like twilight shots than night shots but both color and detail pop in these pictures. We wanted our night shots to look like night shots, so we manually turned off the Night Mode most of the time but even with the mode turned off, the cameras capture a lot of detail.

…including some Styles, literally!

For those who like their photographs slightly pimped out in terms of color, Apple has now added Photographic Styles to the camera app, which allows you to tweak colors in the photograph. There are four styles one can choose from: Vibrant, Rich Contrast, Warm and Cool, and you can select the one which you prefer for your photographs. The best thing about these Styles is that while they tweak the color in your photograph, they let the subject’s skin tone remain unchanged, which means they do not really mess up the color of one’s skin based on the Style you have on.

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These may look like filters that the iPhones have had for a long time now, but you have first to apply the photographic Style to the camera and then take a picture, and this cannot be removed or edited later.

Portrait Mode is something that became insanely popular when it was first introduced on the iPhone but had some problems, and while Apple has improved Portrait Mode over the years, it is yet to perfect it. On most occasions, the iPhone can take a decent portrait image with sharp edges and a perfectly blurred background, but there are times when it misses the mark and blurs the edges of the subject with the background and vice-versa.

Making videos cinematic

One of the most hyped new camera features of the iPhone 13 series is Cinematic Video. It has taken the smartphone video game to a whole new level as it allows you to move the focus from one object to another, both while shooting the video and after. The general video recording abilities of the iPhone 13 are pretty impressive as well. The cameras on the iPhone 13 churn out well-detailed video results, and the output remains impressive even in low light conditions.

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There is another 12-megapixel sensor on the front for selfies, FaceID, and video calls. The front camera follows in the footsteps of its siblings on the back and delivers really good selfies with a lot of detail and colors that are very close to the real setting. The good thing about the front-facing camera is that it comes loaded with the same features that are available in the back camera. This means you get Cinematic Video, Photographic Styles, Portrait Mode, Night Mode, and the works with the front camera as well.

Battery blues remain a thing of the past

The battery was one of the most problematic parts of an iPhone experience for the longest time. Many used to complain that an iPhone would run out of battery really fast. Fortunately, that narrative has changed over the past couple of years, and now the iPhones can last you at least a day of moderate usage. Apple has improved the battery life of the iPhone 13 as well. It can easily go hours past the battery life of the iPhone 12 and will have no problem making it to the end of the day on a single charge.

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The iPhone 13 comes with support for wireless charging as well, and one can use Apple’s MagSafe charger or any Qi-certified charger to charge the device. That said, Apple still lags behind when it comes to charging time. In the day and age of 0 to 100 percent charge in under 45 minutes, the iPhone 13 takes a good 1-1.5 hours to charge completely with a 20W adapter. The speed dips even further when charged wirelessly as MagSafe supports 15W fast charging but is faster than Qi chargers, which the phone supports only up to 7.5W.

Still scoring on software

The iPhone 13 comes with iOS 15 out of the box. The updated OS was released slightly before the new iPhones made it to the market and came with many improvements and new features. The much-talked-about changes include the Safari browser’s URL Bar going to the base (something one can change in the Settings), the more focused Focus mode, new and improved Siri, and more precise and accurate Apple Maps.

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Apple has also added a bit of editing muscle to the iPhone’s Gallery app. Along with letting you view pictures and videos, the app now gives you the option to go through editing like changing the length of the video, playing around with filters, switching orientation, making it a little more helpful than before.

But the best part of having an iOS device, in our opinion, is the fact that you are sure to get regular updates for at least the next four to five years, ensuring your phone does not become obsolete the minute a new OS is dropped.

Double the gigs of storage, but still a gig-antic price

With a starting price of Rs. 79,990 for the base 128 GB variant, Apple has basically introduced the iPhone 13 at a reduced price as compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 12, which was launched with the same price tag but came with a 64 GB base variant. That goes for other storage options of the device as well – you now have 256 GB (Rs 89,900) and 512 GB (Rs 1,09,900) variants, as compared to 128 GB and 256 GB in the iPhone 12.

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At that price, the iPhone 13’s biggest rivals are the Android flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Rs 76,999) and the Vivo X70 Pro+ 5G (Rs 79,990), while some might also be tempted by the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro. A flaunty few might even consider spending a little more and getting the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which is priced a little higher but has a unique show-off value.

iPhone 13 Review Verdict: An upgraded iPhone 12 really

But while most of these Android flagships bring comparative and even better hardware in some departments, they still trail the iPhone in the matter of software upgrades and consistent performance over a period of time. We have been using the iPhone 13 for over two months now, and it still purrs along smoothly. Given Apple’s track record, it is likely to continue being a great performer for quite a while and still get a good value when one finally decides to sell it.

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This is why we think the real challenge to the iPhone 13 is not the Android brigade but its iPhone 13 mini sibling, which brings exactly the same spec sheet but with a smaller display and form factor at a lower price; and the iPhone 12, which remains a formidable proposition even today. Of course, there are some visible improvements that the iPhone 13 brings to the table, with camera and battery topping the list, but that apart, this seems more like an upgraded iPhone 12 than a totally new device in its own right.

While those using the iPhone 11 or its predecessors should definitely upgrade to the new iPhone in town, those using the iPhone 12 can afford to wait for something much more radical or even slightly more radical. Or maybe save their bucks for the iPhones with a suffix. The iPhone 13 is a great phone but is more a small step forward than a giant leap for the iPhonekind.

  • Exceptional cameras
  • Improved battery life
  • Smooth sailing performance
  • Familiar design
  • Slow charging speed
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
Review Overview
Build & Design

It might not have the Pro "perks," but the iPhone 13 is a terrific performer in the best iPhone tradition, be it gaming, photography, video editing, or day-to-day tasks. Here's our iPhone 13 review.

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