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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: The beast just got better

Today we are looking at the iPhone 13 Pro, perhaps the most balanced iPhone in this year’s lineup. But should you pick one up? Let's find out in this review.

Devesh Arora Devesh Arora @aroradevesh
New Delhi Published on: October 05, 2021 16:52 IST
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iPhone 13 Pro features a LiDAR sensor just like the 12 Pro.

The iPhone is undeniably the most hotly anticipated product every single year. Despite numerous leaks every time, by the time the iPhone is announced, the excitement around it is immense. This year’s iPhone 13 lineup might look a lot like last year’s portfolio, but trust me when I say this, there’s a lot going on. Today we are looking at the iPhone 13 Pro, perhaps the most balanced iPhone in this year’s lineup.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Build and Design

At first glance, you wouldn’t know if you’re looking at an iPhone 12 Pro or an iPhone 13 Pro. The smartphone uses the same flat-edged design as last year’s smartphones, but the devil is in the details. The iPhone 13 Pro camera module is much larger than last years, meaning last year’s iPhone 12 Pro cases won’t fit the new ones.

Additionally, perhaps the biggest change this year in terms of the design is the much smaller notch. Other than that, the iPhone 13 Pro continues to use a design language that Apple has established over many years. What I mean by that is that the volume button are easy to reach on the left side of the frame alongside the silent switch. The large power button is on the right side of the frame, within easy reach for the thumb. 

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The alert slider sits on top of the volume buttons.

There really isn’t much to say about the iPhone 13 Pro’s design, except that if you’re looking to buy this iPhone to flaunt the “latest,” that’s just not going to happen. You would have to get the Sierra Blue colour, as it’s the only standout colour this year. It’s a pleasing colour for sure, but our review unit is a classy Graphite colour.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Display

The iPhone 13 Pro may not have a lot of changes on the outside, but it’s a whole different beast on the inside. For many years, we’ve been dying for Apple to bring its ProMotion feature to the smartphone. What you’re getting is a display capable of going all the way up to 120Hz refresh rate and boy does it look and feel good. iPhones have always had very smooth animations and transitions even though they were 60Hz panels.

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It has a 120Hz high refresh rate panel. 

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro brings the long-rumoured feature to the iPhone finally and it makes an incredible amount of difference. The whole UI is even more fluid now and yes, once you get used to the 120Hz, there is just no going back. 

The new display on the iPhone 13 Pro is also brighter and just one of the best to use, both indoors and outdoors. I could talk numbers, but the reality is, the iPhone 13 Pro’s display gets dim enough to be very comfortable to use in a pitch dark room, while also managing to be bright enough to enjoy watching content when you’re out under the mid-day sun. you will definitely also appreciate the smaller notch. In an ideal world, Apple would have figured out how to remove it entirely, but by now, an iPhone user is already used to the notch, so a much smaller is rather welcome.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Performance

Apple’s SoCs have always led the pack in terms of performance. This year’s A15 Bionic is no different. It blows everything out of the water when it comes to benchmark numbers. But the beauty of owning an iPhone is that you don’t need to care about the benchmark numbers. Just for context, in the last two week, I have run over 50 apps on the phone, and not needed to close any application that’s been left running in the background.

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iPhone 13 Pro looks classy in this Graphite colour variant.

Between the powerful hardware and the beautifully tuned iOS 15, background app management makes sure you always have enough performance to do whatever it is you’re doing at the forefront. You can play CoD Mobile, Injustice 2, Genshin Impact and anything else available on the App Store and even edit photos, edit 4K videos or even create AR models using the included LiDAR scanner. There is so much computing power packed into this smartphone that it's mind-boggling.

Just to give you some context, I have been using an iPhone 12 Pro and that phone continues to be a performance workhorse. So this is just context to let you know that if you get the iPhone 13 Pro, you can expect it to outperform flagships from next year, and continue to deliver a frustration-free experience for years to come.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Camera

Once again, the upgrades to what’s under the hood makes up for the lack of a flashy re-design. At the heart of the primary camera is a sensor that’s even larger than that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, with the pixel pitch increasing from 1.7µm to 1.9µm. At the same time, let’s not forget that the iPhone 12 Pro housed a regular, small-format sensor, so this is a massive leap. The aperture has also increased from f/1.6 to f/1.5, theoretically making this a great camera to use in low light. The ultra-wide-angle camera has also been improved and the telephoto lens is now a 77mm f/2.8 shooter. Besides the hardware, the software side of things have also been greatly improved, with a new, much-desired macro mode having been added.

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iPhone 13 Pro also comes with a macro lens.

After shooting with the iPhone 13 Pro for over two weeks, I have not looked back on the iPhone 12 Pro Max even once. This is a camera update that’s just incredible. While the normal day-time photos continue to be the best in the smartphone business, there are subtle improvements even there. The colours are more natural, the contrast is life-like and the dynamic range continues to impress. Taking portraits at both 1x and 3x does deliver incredible results, and should please anyone. Even the hair detection has gotten better.

The 13mm ultra-wide lens has also become better. The resulting images show lesser distortion as a 13mm lens. The larger f/1.8 aperture. The daytime images are fabulous, but the low light images, despite Apple’s software magic, definitely leave a lot to be desired. 

Lastly, we have the brand new 77mm telephoto lens. Apple’s managed to increase the focal length, while keeping the aperture the same as before, f/2.8. Thanks to this, the lens remains usable even indoors, as long as you have enough lights on. 

Perhaps the most standout feature of the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera system is its ability to shoot macro images. Apple is using the sensor behind the ultra-wide-angle lens to shoot these macro shots, just like how most Android smartphones achieve the result, but Apple takes two important steps to improve the results significantly. First, the field of view is reduced to 26mm of the primary lens. This eliminates any distortion from your macro shots.

The other is that since the ultra-wide angle camera features auto-focus, which allows you to frame your shots just the way you want. While the daytime shots look pristine, once the light levels drop, you can see the drop in quality too since the sensor on the ultra-wide angle camera. The one downside, however, is that the cameras switch between macro and non-macro mode automatically, sometimes making shooting very difficult and jarry. It would have been good if Apple had created a separate Macro mode in the camera interface, but for now, the best way to keep the macro mode from automatically engaging is by covering the ultra-wide camera. It's not the best solution, but it’s one that works.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Battery Life

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro features a 3085mAh battery, a paltry capacity by Android standards, but this is perhaps the most important upgrade to this year’s iPhone. I am getting an average screen on time of anywhere between 8-9 hours, and that isn’t even with Dark Mode enabled. Dark mode extends the life by another hour easy. Once again, Apple is showing us how numbers don’t matter, the real world usage does. This is Apple’s marriage of hardware and software at its very best.

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The notch is smaller on the iPhone 13 series.

Do remember that this battery life is being delivered on a phone with a  Super Retina XDR OLED display with a refresh rate of 120Hz. Sure, the display isn’t operating at 120Hz all the time, but even so, this is just down right impressive. Most Android flagships need atleast 25% more battery capacity to deliver the same amount of screen  on time. You can easily get through an entire workday on a single charge. The only downside to the battery angle is the relatively slow 23W fast charging, but if you’re going to charge the phone overnight, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review: Conclusion

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro may look like last year’s offering, but under the hood, it’s a whole new beast. It starts with the performance, which continues to be class-leading. The cameras themselves are also very good and as of now, it's clear that no android flagship comes close to the level of quality an iPhone can deliver. The display is also significantly improved, with a smaller notch and Apple’s ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate. But perhaps the most compelling reason to consider the iPhone 13 Pro is its incredible battery life. Seriously, don’t let the lack of a design change put you off. This is a phone that seriously delivers on more promises than one, in ways more than one.

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