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iPhone 13 hands-on: Refining a familiar recipe


The iPhone 13 is faster, has a bigger battery, and gets a new camera sensor that captures more light (with support for new video features as well). Along with more storage options, it also incorporates all the new features of iOS 15. And it’s been my primary device for just a little over 24 hours! And I thought now would be a good time to share my first impressions of the new iPhone 13.

Good

  • OLED screen with deep blacks
  • Bigger battery
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max main camera
  • IP68 certification

Bad

  • 60 Hz display
  • Bigger and heavier

Recycled design, underwhelming display

The display used on the iPhone 13  is, perhaps, the least exciting feature of the device. But I think it still deserves to be highlighted simply because of the upgrades that it has received over the 2020 model
. Even with the ‘upgrades,’ note that the phone (still) lacks a high refresh rate display – a feature that is now common even on mid-range Androids. And this is glaringly obvious when you use the phone for the first time.

The OLED display used on the iPhone 13  is the same size as its predecessor. It measures 6.1 inches across and has a resolution of 1,170 x 2,532 pixels. One thing that is definitely noticeable is the notch used for the sensor array, which is now 20% smaller.  That’s a significant size reduction.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 notch
The notch on the iPhone 13 is noticeably smaller compared to last year’s model / © NextPit

However, not all apps are adapted to the new size, which causes some videos in 18:9 format to show a small tooth of the notch out of the indentation margin. That being said, watching videos on streaming services like Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime video was not a problem, and this issue was only noticeable on YouTube.

While the display still refreshes at 60Hz, I do admit that the OLED panel is of good quality and that it offers deep blacks. The iPhone 13’s display is also exceptionally bright. All this makes the usually mundane job of surfing the internet pretty exciting. Even without high refresh rate, it is a great screen to consume content.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 display
A display with standard refresh rate, but excellent brightness and deep blacks / © NextPit

The resized notch aside, very little has changed as far as the front of the iPhone 13 is concerned. In fact, the same can be said of the phone’s overall design, which is highly reminiscent of last year’s iPhone 12. This is by no means a negative thing, and on the contrary, this makes the phone – at least in my opinion –  very beautiful and elegant. However, the increased battery capacity does make the phone a bit thicker and heavier than the iPhone 12 so forget using iPhone 12 cases on the iPhone 13.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 back
The cameras are aligned diagonally now and mark the difference between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 / © NextPit

The big exception is the camera module, which no longer brings the lenses aligned, but diagonally. This is due to the size of the wide-angle camera sensor, which is larger. I believe this is the fastest way to differentiate this year’s model from last year’s.

The iPhone 13 is also IP68 rated for water and dust resistance. In the past 24 hours, I also noticed that the glass-clad rear panel of the iPhone 13 is a massive fingerprint magnet.

Excellent performance, as always

The iPhone 13 totes Apple’s brand new A15 Bionic processor, which on paper claims to be 50% faster than the current leading competitor. The graphics performance also sees a boost and is now claimed to be 30% faster than its immediate rival. Our interpretation is that Apple is referring to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 here – which – as you know, is the most powerful processor in existence for Android smartphones.

Despite this claim, in day-to-day life, it isn’t easy to prove this. However, there is no denying that   
the iPhone 13 offers excellent performance. However, there is always this nagging feeling in the back of your mind about how ‘smoother’ the phone would have felt with a 120Hz display.

And one more thing.; in 2021, Apple has finally removed the 64 GB version of the phone. You can now only buy the phone in 128, 256, and 512 GB variants.

On the software front, the update to iOS 15 has brought more consistency to the system. It is easier to use the Safari browser, the Focus mode offers the possibility of having fewer interruptions, and FaceTime has expanded video conversations with people who do not own an Apple device. On the privacy front, features like Live Text, text, and image recognition are all done on the device itself without data being sent elsewhere.

Thanks to Apple A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone 13 now gets enhanced image processing capabilities, support for a bunch of AI-related features, and overall impressive performance in everyday tasks.

As outlined earlier, I penned this quick hands-on after spending a mere 24 hours with the iPhone 13. You will learn more about how the phone behaves in the long run when I complete the full review of the phone.

The main camera is the highlight

Besides performance and battery life, the iPhone 13 certainly stands because of its camera capabilities. Without mystery, Apple opted for a dual-camera setup that includes a 12MP wide-angle camera and another 12MP sensor mated to an ultra-wide lens. Pertinent to note is that the main (wide-angle) camera, inherited from the iPhone 12 Pro Max, uses a sensor that can capture 47% more light than the iPhone 12 – and this naturally means better photos at night!

More than that, we have more stability in videos thanks to Sensor-Shift Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) technology. In OIS by sensor shift, the camera sensor moves to compensate for minor shakes, thereby leading to smoother videos and better low-light shots.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 camera
The big highlight of this generation is the camera: the primary sensor is a straight lift from last year’s Pro Max model / © NextPit

On the software side, two features really caught my attention; Photo Styles and Cinema Mode. First of all, I must say that when opening the iPhone 13 camera, everything is really very intuitive. In the upper corner, you can quickly set the style of the photo, for warmer or vivid tones, or even higher contrast.

Cinema Mode, on the other hand, proved to be less complex than I expected – let’s face it, Apple’s presentation was really pompous in this regard. Simply put, this function allows you to change the focus of objects that appear in the foreground of a video. This can be done manually or automatically, and if, in the end, you want to change the result, you can do so using the iPhone’s editing app or an Apple software like Final Cut.

Cinema Mode is basically the bokeh effect for videos, and Apple has done a good job here
!

iPhone 13’s front-facing camera is basically the same as the iPhone 12’s, and it does a good job. You also get the Photo Style feature which works great for FaceTime – which now offers the option for video calls with people who don’t own Apple devices.

iPhone 13: Image gallery

Overall, the camera setup on the iPhone 13 is very good, although we don’t have the versatility found in the Pro line. The latter, as you might be aware, gets a telephoto camera in addition to other advanced features. The photos are sharp, with excellent contrast, and the post-processing is very well done by the software.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max was voted the best on a smartphone in our recent blind test. And that speaks volumes about the quality of the iPhone 13’s lens and sensor array, even if it doesn’t have the same versatility as Apple’s most advanced phone of 2020.

Battery is 15% larger

The battery of the iPhone 13 is bigger
. To be precise, it is 15.1% bigger compared to the predecessor model. Apple claims that this difference is big enough for the iPhone 13 to last 2.5 hours more compared to its predecessor. Of course, this has had an impact on the design of the device, which is now thicker and a little heavier. However, most people will appreciate the gain in battery life over the addition of a few grams of weight.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 side
The iPhone 13 is a little thicker and a little heavier, but the battery is bigger / © NextPit

I received the device with the battery at 60%, and after 4 hours of screen on time, the device still offered 23% charge. Charging time, on the other hand, is nothing surprising. To get from 23% to 98% charging, it took about 1:30min.

Since this is still a preliminary review of the iPhone 13, I’ll stick to saying that the 37% charge consumption for 4 hours of screen time is really good at first glance. However, you have to consider that the display is a standard 60Hz panel, and the fact that we have an OLED display with deep blacks is a big plus.

iPhone 13 on paper

  2021
Product
Photo Apple iPhone 13
  6.1-inch OLED display ,1,170 x 2,532 pixels (460 PPI) at 60 hertz
Processor Apple A15 Bionic (5nm)
Apple 4-core GPU
Memory 4GB RAM
128GB, 256GB, or 512GB internal
Micro SD No
Main Camera 12 MP | f/1.6 | 26 mm | 1.7 µm | Dual Pixel Autofocus | OIS with SensorShift
Ultra Wide-angle 12 MP | f/2.4 | 120° | 13mm focal length
Telephoto n/a
3D n/a
Video Max: 4K at 60 fps | HDR | Dolby Vision HDR | Cinema Mode
Selfies 12MP at 23mm
Audio Stereo Speakers
UWB Yes
Battery Approximately 3,240 mAh
Up to 19 hours of video playback
Corded recharge Max. 20 watts
Cordless charging Max. 15 watts
List price From $799
Check offers* See the price

First impressions: Apple has refined the series in 2021

The iPhone 13 is a classic upgrade and an incremental one over the iPhone 12, which – as you know – was a significant update over the iPhone 11.  But get this: This is a faster smartphone, with better battery life and a real upgrade in terms of the camera. My first impressions couldn’t be more positive.

Of course, it would have been better to see the same screen refresh rate as the iPhone 13 Pro on the “more basic” line or the removal of the notch altogether. However, it looks like that’s reserved for the next generation of the iPhone. I am thankful we do not have to contend with the 64GB variant anymore.

The pricing of the iPhone 13 starts at $799 for the base model and goes up to $1099 for the 512GB top variant.

So, at first glance, what is your opinion about the new iPhone 13? Share your opinion in the comments below; I will certainly consider them during my review.

 

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