iPhone 13 series decoded: Hands-on, first impressions and everything to know about Apple’s latest iPhones

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Updated: September 25, 2021 12:11 PM

From ProMotion display to improved cameras and big battery, here's your first look at iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 13 Mini.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleThe 2021 iPhones, especially the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, come with a bevy of hardware upgrades. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Apple’s latest and greatest iPhones–iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 13 Mini–are now shipping. Cupertino is making its entire iPhone 13 series available in India at the same time as markets like the US, UK and Canada which is to say, India’s getting them in the first wave. Something like this has never happened before, which underscores the country’s role in Apple’s roadmap–as also its commitment to the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.

The 2021 iPhones, especially the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, come with a bevy of hardware upgrades including a faster A15 Bionic system-on-chip and 120Hz ProMotion display, a more capable camera system that’s seemingly fine-tuned for advanced video recording and even more importantly, a bigger battery. Apple has also shrunk the notch and added more 5G radios although the latter’s not all that useful–just yet–if you’re in India at this point in time.

Also Read | Apple iPhone 12 Pro review: There is only one reason why you should buy it

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini are more incremental updates, but those updates surely add up to offer a more well-rounded package which is always nice for those coming in from older-generation iPhones. They have a brighter screen for instance. They have the same powerful A15 Bionic SoC as the pro iPhones–with a toned-down GPU–and bigger batteries when compared with last year’s models. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini also pack some new photography chops, those they share with the pro iPhones.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 13 India prices

The iPhone 13 Mini starts at Rs 69,900 for a version with 128GB storage. The top-end model with 512GB storage will set you back by Rs 99,900. The iPhone 13 also comes with 256GB storage at a price of Rs 79,900. The iPhone 13 meanwhile starts at Rs 79,900 for a version with 128GB storage. The top-end model with 512GB storage will set you back by Rs 1,09,900. The iPhone 13 also comes with 256GB storage at a price of Rs 89,900.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleIndia’s getting them in the ‘first wave.’ (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will be available in four configurations: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and for the first time, 1TB. The 128GB iPhone 13 Pro India price is Rs 1,19,900. A version with 256GB costs Rs 1,29,900, 512GB costs Rs 1,49,900 while the 1TB model will set you back by Rs 1,69,900. The 128GB iPhone 13 Pro Max meanwhile costs Rs 1,29,900, 256GB costs Rs 1,39,900, 512GB costs Rs 1,59,900 and the 1TB model will set you back by Rs 1,79,900.

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max first look, impressions

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are virtually the same phones with different screen sizes. The iPhone 13 Pro is a 6.1-inch iPhone while the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a larger 6.7-inch screen-same as the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Not a lot has changed from a design perspective, so we’re looking at the same matte frosted glass back, ceramic shield front, stainless-steel sides and IP68 water and dust resistance.

There is a small difference though. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are slightly heavier and thicker than the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max:

  • iPhone 13 Pro: 203g (versus 187g), 7.65mm (versus 7.4mm)
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max: 238g (versus 226g), 7.65mm (versus 7.4mm)

This is majorly because both these iPhones are packing slightly bigger batteries. Apple says the iPhone 13 Pro will last up to one and a half hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max will last up to two and a half hours longer than iPhone 12 Pro Max on single charge.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleiPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are the first iPhones to come with a high refresh rate display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Moving on, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are the first iPhones to come with a high refresh rate display, a feature that Android phones have had for a few years now. Both these iPhones pack a ‘Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion’ which is to say they have an adaptive OLED panel that can switch anywhere from 10Hz to 120Hz depending on the content–and it works as advertised. Not that iOS needed this jump, but, next-gen gains are always nice to have and it comes as no surprise that the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are visibly more fluid and responsive than any other iPhone in the past.

Also Read | With iPhone 13 launch, Apple discontinues what was once its ‘most affordable’ flagship iPhone

The resolution remains unchanged but Apple has cranked up the max brightness to 1000nits (this was 800nits in the older models). While at it, it has also made its TrueDepth camera system-housing up to 20 percent smaller. The selfie camera is still 12MP behind an f/2.2 aperture lens–which is a bummer–but it has a couple of new photography chops that it shares with the main cameras on the back.

This includes an all-new Cinematic mode which is basically portrait mode for videos. Not only can the pro iPhone 13s record these–1080p @30 fps–videos in Dolby Vision HDR, Apple will also allow you to edit the depth-of-field effect in iMovie for macOS and Final Cut Pro through a future update. Additionally, both iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will be able to record videos in ProRes at up to 4K 30fps (1080p 30fps in case of 128GB storage option), again, through a future update.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, ApplePhotographic Styles may seem like filters but they are not. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Apple is also introducing something it calls Photographic Styles that may seem like filters–but they are not. You know how iPhone photos have a certain look, a look that’s starkly different–subdued if you will–when compared with a high-end Samsung Galaxy or a Google Pixel. Photographic Styles are designed to change that by giving you complete control over how you want your photos to look right out off the gate which is why Apple gives you an option to choose a particular style or tone the first time you fire up the camera app–you can also tweak this later. Apple says Photographic Styles will benefit from its multiframe image processing to ensure elements like skin tones are preserved. Although be sure, you can’t change a style in post, at least not without any workaround.

As for the camera hardware itself, both iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max come with new sensors and lenses for all three rear cameras. The resolution remains unchanged–which is 12MP–but the wide camera uses a larger sensor with 1.9 µm pixels and sits behind a wider f/1.5 lens for up to 2.2x better low-light photos when compared to iPhone 12 Pro and nearly 1.5x when compared to iPhone 12 Pro Max. Sensor-shift optical image stabilisation (OIS) comes as standard across both pro iPhones this year. This was limited to the Max model last year.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleSensor-shift optical image stabilisation (OIS) comes as standard across all iPhone 13s. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The ultra-wide-angle camera is similarly getting a wider f/1.8 lens and autofocus which brings dedicated macro photography to the iPhone for the first time. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max can also shoot macro videos across Slo-mo and Time-lapse settings. The telephoto camera is getting a refresh with a new 7mm lens–although it has a smaller f/2.8 aperture when compared to iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max–that would allow for up to 6x optical zoom range on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. We will take a detailed look at these cameras at length in the days to come, for now, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of promise here.

At their heart, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have the 5nm A15 Bionic SoC with a 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second. Apple claims up to 50 percent faster performance than the ‘leading’ competition though at this point, we all know Apple’s custom silicon can wipe the floor with any new flagship Android phone out there, so not a lot to complain there. Both pro models come with 6GB RAM.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Mini first look, impressions

Coming to the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini, the story here is also about all-round refinement keeping the base elements constant. This means the iPhone 13 is still a 6.1-inch iPhone while the iPhone 13 Mini has the same 5.4-inch screen as last year’s model. Apple hasn’t tweaked the design a lot except changing the camera alignment on the back–this is possibly to accommodate the larger main camera sensor.

We’re still basically looking at the same shiny glass back, ceramic shield front, aluminum sides and IP68 water and dust resistance. Again, the proportions are slightly heftier than last year to fit even bigger batteries–something that should benefit the mini, we’re assuming. Apple says the iPhone 13 will offer up to two and a half more hours than iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 Mini up to an hour and a half more than iPhone 12 Mini on a single charge.

  • iPhone 13 Mini: 140g (versus 133g), 7.65mm (versus 7.4mm)
  • iPhone 13: 173g (versus 162g), 7.65mm (versus 7.4mm)
iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleAll iPhone 13s pack A15 Bionic SoC. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Coming to the screen, the resolution remains unchanged but Apple has cranked up the max brightness to 800 nits. Sadly, Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion is reserved for the pro models which means the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini are sticking to a conventional 60Hz panel. The notch, again, is smaller and it houses the same 12MP camera as the last models but there are a couple of new photography chops to talk about here as well.

Apple’s new Cinematic mode is supported on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini. They also support Photographic Styles. They do lack ProRes recording though.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleThe notch is now smaller. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

As for the camera hardware, both iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini have more or less the same 12MP dual cameras as their predecessors but Apple is using a larger 1.7 µm pixels main sensor with the potential of capturing up to 47 percent more light. Sensor-shift optical image stabilisation (OIS) is also available. The ultra-wide-angle camera seems largely unchanged which is to say, it doesn’t get autofocus and therefore no dedicated macro photography mode either like the pro iPhones.

Both iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini pack the same A15 Bionic SoC as the pro iPhone 13s but with a slightly slower GPU–4 cores versus 5 cores. Both come with 4GB RAM.

iPhone 13 series: final thoughts

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 series, AppleThe iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini are more incremental updates. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Unlike last year, the pro iPhones seem better equipped to justify their pro moniker. There are updates across the board that are meaningful and finally bring the iPhone up to speed with the times in almost every sense of the word. Apple seems to have really doubled down on video recording while opening up its signature style to allow for more granular personalisation when it comes to still photos–something that we will be testing out in detail in the days to come.

Also Read | With iPhone 12 Mini, Apple made small phones great again

As for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini, their story isn’t as exciting, but there’s still a lot in there for purists looking to get a premium, no holds barred iPhone minus the premium price tag of the pro models. That 128GB storage jump at the entry-level point is a welcome move, one that will surely attract a lot of buyers.

Watch this space for our full review of the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 13 Mini coming soon.

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