Thirteen things you need to know about Apple's iPhone 13 line-up

Longer battery life, enhanced cameras and 1TB of storage – are these enough to keep Apple's momentum going?

Apple's roll out of the iPhone 13 series after months of speculation will help boost sales during the coming holiday season where smartphones are among the hottest gift items.

The four models – the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max – come with a number of interesting features that have enticed crowds to queue for hours.

The threat of iPhone 13 production stalling because of persisting supply shortages in the chip industry looms, and could be a reason why sales of the new devices continue to grow.

Here's a review of some of the features on the iPhone 13.

Teeny-weeny design changes

Not since the iPhone 5 have we seen this flat and curved form. The design is similar to the iPhone 12 except for the smaller notch and bigger cameras.

Ever since 2017’s iPhone X, the notch (a trend that Apple started and others followed) has divided opinion, drawing favour and fire alike. The notch is 20 per cent smaller on the iPhone 13, allowing for more screen space.

Meanwhile, the camera block and lenses are slightly bigger. On the iPhone 13 and mini, the placement is now diagonal, against the 12’s straight stacking. On the Pro versions, they remain in the distinguishable triangle format.

Cinematic mode

Apple's Cinematic mode on the iPhone 13 adds Hollywood-level video creation capability.

You can now shoot videos on the iPhone 13 with bokeh, or blur effects, and it can identify when a new subject enters the frame, to which it will automatically shift focus. Most importantly, you can edit the subjects and the blur effects after recording the video – making it the only smartphone to have this capability.

As iPhone 13 saves videos in the RAW format, this means they are saved in layers, letting you edit the focus even on other devices.

The ‘dark’ side

Like their predecessor, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have dual 12MP cameras and reveal more detail in the dark and capture 47 per cent more light. Meanwhile, the Pro collects 92 per cent more light and, for good measure, each of the three lenses now has night mode.

As an added bonus, night mode is now also on portrait mode.

Zoom further

Specific to the Pro models, the iPhone 13’s telephoto camera now has 3x optical zoom and 6x optical zoom range, up from the previous 2x and 5x, respectively. This will be a big advantage, especially when taking shots in portrait mode and for subjects that are farther away.

With 25 per cent brighter colours and peak brightness of up to 1,200 nits, Apple promises that content will be more vivid than ever.

Up close and personal

Believe it or not, iPhones did not have macro mode – close-up shots – until the iPhone 13. When the device detects something within the 2-centimetre detection zone needed for macro mode to activate, it immediately switches to the wide-angle lens and you’re ready for those really close shots, which results in images with excellent detail.

Here’s the problem: since it’s there by default just waiting to be triggered, using this in video mode (yes, it’s also available for video) means your recording will also capture the transition to the wide-angle lens, potentially ruining your video. Apple has said it will roll out a software update in the autumn that will automatically turn off this automatic switching to macro mode.

Durability, take two

Normally, iPhone iterations feature increased durability. The iPhone 13, however, retains the features found on the iPhone 12, including an IP68 rating (maximum depth of six metres up to 30 minutes) and a Ceramic Shield front, developed with Corning.

Apple says this is still the most durable combination of materials on an iPhone, but note that it isn’t swim-proof like the Watch Series 7. And please keep it out of saltwater.

A15 Bionic

Any futuristic-sounding gadget should have the wares to back it up. Apple’s A15 Bionic chip has 15 billion transistors, can crunch 15.8 trillion operations a second and has a CPU and GPU that are 50 per cent and 30 per cent faster than the competition, respectively. It also has a faster Neural Engine, and new video encoder and decoder.

To put it simply: it’s fast.

It won’t be that obvious, but long-time iPhone users will immediately notice the smoother feel upon swiping up to unlock the device and the apps slide into their place. This is a major advantage for those who rely on the smartphone to perform tasks, particularly for work.

Longer-lasting

In recent years, batteries on the new iterations of iPhones practically remained the same, but this time around we’re getting a significant boost.

According to Apple’s listing for streamed video: for the mini, it lasts up to 13 hours, while on the 13 it’s at 15 hours – both a couple of hours longer than their 12 counterparts. The 12 Pro and Pro Max, meanwhile, clocked in at 11 hours and 12 hours, respectively. On the 13 Pro and Pro Max, these go up a whopping 20 and 25 hours, respectively. At official listings, the 13 Pro and 13 mini lasts up to 1.5 hours longer, while the 13 and 13 Pro Max can stay alive for up to 2.5 hours more.

Naturally, we put it to the test. With minimal use – and by that we mean using it only to respond to messages, take calls and play games sparingly, take photos and check emails – the iPhone 13 Pro Max conked out late at night of the second day. Decrease its use further and it has a good chance to spill over into a third day. As for the rest of the iPhone 13 units, they had no problem hitting over a day-and-a-half, with still lots to spare despite heavy use.

1TB of storage

As usual, Apple really doesn’t care if it’s late in offering something that's already been in the market for a long time. Count internal storage into that category, as the company decided eventually to release an iPhone with 1TB of storage. Some would argue that 512GB is already huge – Apple has a very good file compression system – but given the explosion of content and the growing appetite to save more on your device, 1TB seems a viable option nowadays.

Of course, Samsung did that trick before with 2018’s Galaxy S10+; add in its 512GB capacity for a microSD card and that’s a whopping 1.5TB of storage. But Samsung wasn’t the first to launch a 1TB phone – that title belongs to China’s little-known Smartisan with their Nut R1. Smartisan, however, didn’t last long, selling off some assets to TikTok parent ByteDance, which said the move was made with the intent of making its own smartphones. Unfortunately, that “dream of beating Apple” is dead after ByteDance suspended its device business.

FaceTime makeover

With the popularity of conferencing and collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, Apple decided to join in the fun by giving FaceTime a major upgrade. There’s now a grid view for chats with several people, and spatial audio makes it seem all of you are in the same room. And those you invite can join even if they are using an Android or Windows device, and even via Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome.

You’ll need to upgrade to iOS 15 to enjoy this feature.

Wild Safari

Another iOS 15 feature, Apple’s web browser Safari now has the tab below the screen, which makes it definitely easier to reach and type out URLs. Swiping left or right on the address bar will let you switch between tabs, while swiping up reveals all open tabs. If you wish to go back to the classic single-tab format, head over to the Safari wing in settings and select it.

Hearing aid compatibility

While this feature isn’t new, it does fly under the radar. All iPhones, way back to the iPhone 4s and iOS 6, work with compatible hearing aids. The feature allows people with hearing difficulties to stream and enjoy sound and content, as well as use it in cases of emergencies.

Value for money?

This question is more specific to the iPhone 13 Pro Max: it’s priced at an eye-watering Dh6,819 ($1,856). It can be argued that all the new features – longer battery life, Cinematic Mode, 1TB storage – may well justify the price tag.

But consider this: the 512GB variant’s price remains at Dh5,969, on par with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 13 Pro’s 1TB option, with all the same good features but in a smaller frame, will set you back “just” Dh6,319.

At this rate, the only other device we can say rivals this price-point level is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, although that has a unique proposition.

Remember when everyone was up in arms when the iPhone X launched at $999 in 2017? Guess what, folks – we’re nearing the $2,000 level.

Updated: October 22nd 2021, 5:00 AM
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