It’s hard to keep things under wraps these days, even if your company is known for its secretive culture. When Apple developed the first iPhone, the project was considered so top secret that engineers recruited from within the company didn’t even know what they were agreeing to work on until they signed up. The phone was finally revealed in January 2007 at MacWorld, months before it went on sale.
Fast forward to the iPhone 13, and that gap is down to less than two weeks. So it’s not surprising that details of the new iPhone leaked in advance of the launch.
The iPhone 13 Pro is one of four new iPhone models, and it is what you’d expect from Apple at this point: good camera, decent battery and an excellent display, wrapped in the usual aesthetically pleasing casing.
Described as “the most Pro iPhone ever”, the new phone is less of a revolution and more of an evolution. That’s not a bad thing, though; the 13 Pro takes what worked in its predecessor and addresses a few of the complaints.
For example, the 6.1-inch display now includes Apple’s adaptive ProMotion technology. Previously a feature of the iPad Pro, this is the first time that Apple has put the technology into a phone, although it has made its debut on the iPad Pro. ProMotion ranges from 10Hz refresh rate to 120Hz, refreshing up to 120 times a second depending on what you are doing with the phone.
For example, if the screen is idle, or you are looking at text, the refresh rate will automatically bump down to preserve the battery; once you start scrolling or using apps, it dials back up again.
The difference it makes is obvious, even when just scrolling through apps on the home screen. It is noticeably smoother and transitions are more fluid.
But that is probably secondary to what most people are looking for: a decent camera. This is something that Apple has a good record for, and the 13 Pro is no exception. The new set-up is designed to let more light in, with a bigger sensor and wider aperture on the wide and ultrawide cameras, and night mode now available on the 77mm telephoto lens. Side-by-side comparisons with the iPhone 12 Pro showed less noise on the new phone, better colour and, in most cases, sharper focus, even in the poorest lighting conditions.
The new cinematic mode gives you a film-maker’s edge when it comes to shooting your videos. It shoots a shallow depth of field, automatically bringing your subject’s face into focus as they enter and exit the camera’s field of view. If you have two subjects in the frame and the one in focus looks away, the focus will automatically shift to the remaining subject. It works quite well; in the tests we put it through, the phone distinguished between the subject of the video and a stuffed toy. Don’t like the final result? You can edit it after the fact and shift the focus manually.
Another new addition is the macro mode. The new mode allows you to get as close as 2cm to your subject so you can take incredible close-up shots of flowers, insects and whatever else you can think of.
It works across the three cameras, and it also works in video mode, including time lapse and slo-mo.
The good news here is that there are very few differences between the Pro and Pro Max model. Screen size, physical size and battery capacity are the obvious differences, but you get the same camera and capabilities in both Pro devices. The real differences are between the iPhone 13 Mini and the Pro models.
While Apple hasn’t talked too much about the comparison between last year’s A14 chip and this year’s A15 Bionic in terms of computing power, there are some things to note.
The A15 in the iPhone 13 Pro has five GPU cores, compared to the four in the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini.
The new chip is also behind one of the new camera modes. Cinematic mode relies on the ability of the new 16-core neural engine in the chip to find faces and switch focus as you film, and to gather all that information that allows the retrospective editing.
The upgraded camera brings macro mode and the new cinematic mode. Both are exclusive to the iPhone 13 range for now at least, with the latter depending on a mixture of software and hardware. The sensor-shift optical image stabilisation is also included across the cameras, which means you’ll get better images across the board.
The display is buttery smooth, and while it’s not an essential, it is nicer to look at. And even taking that new 120Hz refresh rate into account, the iPhone 13 Pro battery is, so far at least, holding up well compared to its predecessor’s early days. It’s only a matter of an hour or so, but it can make all the difference at the end of the day.
The not so good
Is it enough of an upgrade to persuade users to shell out for the new iPhone? This may not be the big bang some people were holding out for, but it fits with Apple’s previous “tick tock” schedule for updates for the smartphone. So for iPhone 11 users and older, this may be a good choice.
New iPhones mean new colours, and the 13 Pro is no exception. The new device is available in sierra blue, silver, gold and graphite.
The phone also supports Apple’s MagSafe charger and other accessories.
If you need extra space, you can go up to 1TB in storage on the Pro, assuming you have deep enough pockets.
It may be getting harder to impress people but the iPhone 13 Pro hits all the right marks. Four stars from me.