iPhone 13 Review: Lowkey Great!. All right, so right off the top, I’m… | by Ali Raza | Sep, 2021

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Ali Raza

All right, so right off the top, I’m just gonna say it, Most people don’t upgrade their phones every single year, right?

Of course, smartphones have been commoditized
Do people buy the new Toyota Camry every single year?
No, of course not.

But a new one comes out every single year,
and every single new one is a little bit better than the last one so that when people with older cars finally do decide to upgrade, they can upgrade to the newest one .and they’re everywhere, but it’s to the point where now people basically can pick and choose when they feel like they wanna upgrade. It’s like cars

It’s to put it alongside something that you already know.

And so that’s what I’m gonna do with this year’s iPhone review.

Because let’s face it,

if you already have an iPhone 12, you can skip the 13.

Pretty easy. But there’s a lot of other things that have changed about this phone for people with older phones. And if you’re considering an iPhone 13.

This is the iPhone 13 and the 13 mini.

So the funny thing about keeping the same design as last year is people can immediately dismiss it as a pretty minor update. Which it is, let’s be clear. The phone looks and feels and operates almost the same as last year, just with a few extra grams it feels a little denser in the hand and a quarter of a millimeter of extra thickness. But also, they did happen to do their three biggest upgrades on the 13on the three most important parts of a phone:

the screen, the battery, and the cameras.

It was pretty good for a minor update.

I also like this design a lot already anyway,

so I’m kind of glad it’s the same mostly with the squared-up design, the matte aluminum rails.

I’ll be reviewing the 13 Pro as well pretty soon

and that build is a little more different

But yeah, same Lightning port down here at the bottom,

same speakers, there’s a slightly lower button placement, and the cameras, which I’ll get to, have a diagonal orientation now.

But let’s be real,

most of you will be putting a case on the phone anyway, so you probably won’t notice any of these things for more than a second side from maybe the new colors, which I got to say, I’m not normally a blue phone guy, but I have been liking this new blue.

So the one part you may or may not care about

is the notch at the top. Yes, it is smaller, but here’s how it’s smaller. It’s all the same sensors, all the same, Face ID stuff, same selfie camera,

but they’ve rearranged them and compressed them a bit

and the earpiece is now up top in the middle. So the total area is about 20-ish percent smaller, maybe a little more, but that’s entirely in left to right savings.

The new notch is slightly taller than last year,

which is evidenced by the fact that it pokes into full-screen videos slightly more. But you know, honestly, this doesn’t matter much. The display being brighter is kind of nice, but the extra real estate,

Apple didn’t do anything with it.

It’s the same icons up top. There is no battery percentage option. The icons are the same size they just rearranged the notch. Fine. We’ll have to wait for a little longer for Face ID to get any faster, or work out more angles, or for them to add maybe a Touch ID fingerprint reader underneath the glass, or an always-on display or any of that stuff.

For now, pretty much the same familiar iPhone design.

But the insides are where you start to see those upgrades. So there’s a new chip inside. It’s the A15 Bionic. It’s a very powerful, fast, high-end chip again. And here’s your benchmark scores to prove that.

The new iPhone is zippy and quick as usual,

but I’m more impressed by its efficiency. So this year, they’ve combined the new chip with a physically larger battery, and that’s why the phone is slightly thicker and heavier, but the results are incredible.

The iPhone’s battery life got way better.

So Apple in their event was quoting 1 1/2 more hours of use in the 13 mini and 13 Pro, and then 2 1/2 more hours in the 13 and 13 Pro Max.

We weren’t exactly sure what that would mean

or how that translates, but I am having a great battery experience with this phone.

Five hours of screen on time without a problem

Six hours too pretty regularly before getting down into the low battery and often creeping up towards seven. I only actually killed it in a day once during my testing with a heavy day with a lot of unplugged, max brightness navigation.

That’ll do it.

But also, my car has a wireless charger in it,

so it’s pretty hard now in my daily use ever get worried about this phone’s battery life. I’m convinced, I think I could go on a weekend trip and get two full days of light use out of this phone. That’s a really big improvement. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about an iPhone battery before. And the Pros are even better, even more impressive.

So, the battery is a meaningful change

to something that everyone who gets this phone will care about. Now it still charges pretty slow,20 watts over Lightning, 15 watts over MagSafe, and only 12 for the mini, and nothing else about this battery experience has changed. There is no split, superfast charging batteries or stronger magnets for MagSafe.It’s just the simple stuff, just straight up bigger battery, more efficient chip.

Just works.

If you were thinking about getting an iPhone mini,

this would be the best year to do it just because number one, the battery life of the 12 minis was the weak point, and now it’s much better.

It goes from bad to perfectly normal.

And this is suspected to be the last year that Apple does a mini iPhone for a while because of relatively weak sales. So this is probably the last of a dying breed of smallish pocketable phones with flagship specs and flagship cameras. So this is a good year to get the mini. So this year’s iPhone is mostly about the cameras.

iPhone 13 has all new cameras throughout the whole line,

and there’s both a noticeable difference in camera quality and camera features. So to hit on quality first, the sensors are all bigger and the primary camera has the sensor-shift stabilization that was only in the Pro Max last year.

That’s why it’s offset like this

’cause it’s so much bigger. And those new sensors have massive pixel sizes and they’re letting in a ton of light. In regular lighting, it won’t make a huge difference. I mean, they’ve been great for a while. So if anything, they’re a little bit sharper, but it does mean I was able to observe slightly quicker shutter speeds in dim lighting versus the 12.

So that’s pretty sweet.

The 4K video also still looks pretty great.

I expected to see maybe a noticeable difference in stabilization from this new sensor-shift stabilization, but it also looks about the same as last year.

Again, it’ll make more of a difference with low light

and keeping that shutter speed fast. Also, sadly, there’s still plenty of flaring nighttime video That hasn’t gone away. The bigger quality jump comes with going to the 13 Pros.

And I’ll just say before I even make that video.

The 13 Pro is the best camera system I’ve ever tasted in a phone. Just straight up, it is.

Now with a slightly lesser ultra-wide and no telephoto,

this one’s not as good, but it’s close. But yeah, it’s pretty great. It could change in like a week or two whenever the Pixel 6 comes out, but I’m just telling you how I feel. But let’s talk about the new features though, because I think they make a bigger difference than the quality difference.

So there are some new camera features,

number one is called Photographic Styles,

and these are interesting. So there’s yet another new button in the Camera app. You hit the arrow to expand settings and there’s this multi-frame-looking thing. And this lets you switch between five preset “Photographic Styles,” as Apple calls them, they are all slightly but noticeably different.

There’s the Standard style,

which looks like every other iPhone, pretty flat. But then there’s Rich Contrast, Vibrant, Warm, and Cool. So it says it’s adjusting, as you can see, tone and warmth, and then you can fine-tune these even further with that slider to dial them in the way you like. And then once you do, you start taking pictures, and that setting sticks.

That picture profile will stay as many times

as you close and open the Camera app until you go back in and change it again. So why is this so interesting? This look is baked in. It’s not a filter on top of a neutral capture that you can change later.No, this is a full-time adjustment to the actual processing of the photo.

And so I realized

you know how the Pixel and the iPhone might have very similar daytime image quality, but someone like me constantly leans towards the Pixel because it’s got this nice, confident contrasty look.

Well, now you can sort of adjusting the tune

of the iPhone’s processing to look like the Pixel. This Rich Contrast picture style, to me, looks like the Pixel and it looks really good. I’ve been leaving it on full-time specifically because it does achieve that same look.

It doesn’t affect faces or skin tones too much,

but the overall tone of the images is a bit darker in the shadows, a bit brighter in the highlights, and it retains all that information. And that makes a bigger difference to me in the iPhone’s photo than the bigger sensor might a lot of my shots.

It reminds me of picture profiles

like a mirrorless or DSLR camera. You’ve got PP1 or PP3, and each one of these pictures profiles has a slightly different contrast curve and sharpness and color settings, and then you can take the edit from there. But instead of PP1, PP2, PP3, you have Rich Contrast, which, to me, feels like the Pixel.

You’ve got Vibrant mode,

which maybe that’s a Samsung phone.

You’ve got warmer, you’ve got cooler,

you can dial them the way you want.

This tweaking of the photos tuning

in the actual processing is interesting to me. So it’s curious that this isn’t gonna be in older iPhones.I figured it’s like a pretty straightforward thing for a single shot, but it’s not. So this is iPhone 13 series only. But that’s a pretty interesting feature.

So then the other feature is in the video department

and it’s called Cinematic Mode.

Okay, so there’s a lot of talk about what this is exactly

and what it’s good for. So it is yet another new mode added to the camera. Now you’ve got portrait mode photos, regular photos, regular videos, and then Cinematic Mode shows up right next to that, which I believe most people, not you, of course, watching this review, but most people will take one glance at it and think,

“Oh, okay, portrait mode video.”

Truth is, it’s doing way more than that on the phone,

but just to be blunt, it’s not very good at any one of those things it’s supposed to be doing. So when I saw the iPhone was making Cinematic Mode, just from the name, I got pumped because I like to advocate for starting to make videos on your smartphone.

And the iPhone has already had the best quality video

in any smartphone for a while now, even without going 8K. And so I was thinking, “Okay, this is gonna be the best way for creators to have the most control over their videos and make better stuff for their YouTube channel.”

’Cause I know this isn’t a Hollywood camera replacement.

Let’s be realistic.

But yeah, Cinematic Mode for a YouTube creator sounds great.

Well, first of all, Cinematic Mode is shooting Dolby Vision HDRand is doing constant processing to add that fake blur behind subjects.

It’s like portrait mode but for every frame.

That’s a lot of processing.

So it’s limited and completely locked to 1080p 30fps. Checkmate 24fps Stans.Apple thinks cinematic mode is 30p. But also why isn’t there a 24fps option? Not that I would use it, but that’s less processing, right? And then you start shooting with it, and even if you can get over the kinda shaky focus tracking that’s supposed to track faces and how hard it struggles in lower light, and the fact that you can’t use the ultrawide at all, and the fact that the depth of field is only adjustable in a post in Apple-made apps, there’s just not enough manual control for me to consider this particularly cinematic.

Or maybe you can call it cinematic mode

since the blur is all nice to look at, but maybe I was hoping for a manual mode.

Or I know, maybe a pro mode, but that’s still not here.

I mean, the autofocus tracking is a pretty cool trick and it looks pretty dramatic and fun when you turn the blur up. And sometimes it does nail a focus transition when people look at the camera the right way and then look away from the camera at the right times.

But if you’re a creator looking to get started

and use the iPhone as your only camera and learn the fundamentals of audio levels and ISO and shutter speed and things like that, this ain’t it.

But, yeah, Cinematic Mode, for now,

is a really basic 1080p portrait mode video with a manual exposure slider. But it can get better from here.

All of the newest iPhones are getting it right now

and I’ve been using it for over a month now.

I’ve enjoyed it.

The most impactful new features, to me,

have been the Focus Modes and the new notifications. So even though there are nowhere near as good as any Android phone, I am happy with the improved notification organization here.

And the Focus Modes are nice.

I do have a do not disturb, I have a home, and work, of course, asleep oneOnly Slack can get through to me. Otherwise, it does not disturb mode.

But, yeah, you can add as many as you want.

It’s always encouraging you to add another one and they’re all triggered via unique different things. Like the workout, one is triggered when I start a workout on my Apple Watch.

Driving mode is triggered

when you’re moving at a certain speed. So it’s cool. It’s all nice. And it syncs across all your devices quickly. Feels kind of like a power user feature. And, the feature that feels the absolute smartest was so smart that it got kind of annoying, it’s funny.

So you know how the Live Text feature finds text

in images now and lets you click on that text, copy it and paste it and take action? Well, my habit when I’m holding the phone with one hand to zoom in on a photo is just to double-tap and then it zooms in, but now there’s so much text I’ve realized in so many of my photos that when I double-tap the photo, it just selects some texts I didn’t even realize were there.

So I guess now my zoom habit is gonna have to be a pinch,

which is sort of a two-finger action, but, yeah, minor complaint.

Look, the iPhone 13 is a really good Camry,

or a smartphone, I should say. They took a phone that was already damn good last year, didn’t change much aesthetically, some new colors, whatever, and they changed the things that count the most to the final user: screen, battery, and cameras.

And that’s a pretty good minor update.

It’s funny the disappointment so many people have is,

“It’s called the 13 but it looks like the 12,

and so it should have been called the 12S.”But Apple’s done with the S names.

And honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s not too long

before they stopped giving it numbers altogether and it’s just the new iPhone whatever calendar year it is. But all that being said, as much as many nice things, that I’ve said about this phone and as much as I’ll probably actually be recommending it, for me, it’s all about the Pros.

So the iPhone 13 Pro review is coming very soon.

That has an even better screen and even better cameras and more camera features. I think it’s safe to call that the best camera in any phone like I said and even more impressive battery stuff too.

So that review’s coming up soon.

But for now iPhone 13, it’s a good Camry.

As you may remember, I found out kinda the hard way

that Ceramic Shield isn’t invincible. Rule number one of smartphone displays is over a long enough time, scratches are inevitable.

And so the iPhone 13 is no exception.

It’s got the same Ceramic Shield as last year’s iPhone 12.

Thanks for reading.

Catch you guys in the next one.


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