It’s been two months since Apple abandoned the iPhone 13 lineup, which includes the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. And the deals for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and this holiday shopping season have never looked better. But which iPhone should you buy?
The 13 and 13 Pro are both great flagship smartphones, but how do the two compare and which one is better? Has Apple learned from its mistakes of last year and properly differentiated its Pro model this time?
We scored the iPhone 13 a bit higher than the iPhone 13 Pro, but that doesn’t mean it’s the better phone. It’s going to take some unpacking.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Price and Availability
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro both hit stores on September 24, 2021.
The price of the iPhone 13 starts at $799 / £799 / AU$1,349 for the 128GB model, goes up to $899 / £879 / AU$1,519 for the 256GB and $1099 / £1079 / AU$1,869 for the 512GB.
The 128GB model of the iPhone 13 Pro will cost you $999 / £949 / AU$1,699, while the 256GB model will cost you $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,869 and the 512GB model will cost you $1,299 / £1,249 / AU$2,219. But there are plenty of iPhone 13 deals to be had on both models.
It’s no surprise that the iPhone 13 Pro is by no means the most expensive phone of the two. But it gains its own with the introduction of an additional 1TB model for $1,499 / £1,449 / AU$2,569.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Design
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro sport a similar design, as we’ve come to expect from Apple. What’s more, they’re barely replaced by the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro before them, with the same striking flat-edged look.
Both these phones are equally proportioned at 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.65mm. However, the iPhone 13 Pro 174G is slightly heavier than the iPhone 13 at 204G.
One reason for this is the use of materials. The iPhone 13 Pro has a shiny stainless steel rim, while the iPhone 13 uses a lighter and less flexible aluminum chassis.
The iPhone 13 comes in Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight and Product Red, while the iPhone 13 Pro comes in Graphite, Gold, Silver and Sierra Blue. To tell the truth they’re all a bit muted, though the iPhone 13 Pro’s Sierra Blue and the iPhone 13’s Pink are stand-outs in their respective categories.
Both phones increase the size of their camera modules over their iPhone 12-series counterparts, although the iPhone 12 Pro module is the larger of the two. It is a beast in every sense, as we will discuss later.
Both phones feature Apple’s Nano-crystalline Ceramic Shield screen technology on the front, which makes them super tough. You also get an IP68 rating with both, which means they can be submerged in six meters of water for up to 30 minutes.
Both phones have reduced the size of their notches by 20%, though it’s not the most consequential design advance we’ve seen, to say the least.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Display
Both these phones pack a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED screen with the same 1170 x 2532 resolution. But unlike their immediate predecessors, this time around there is a huge difference between them.
The iPhone 13 Pro can hit 1,000 nits faster than the iPhone 13’s 800 nits under normal conditions, and both can hit 1,200 nits when watching HDR content.
But that’s not the big difference we were talking about: It will be the introduction of the 120Hz promotion refresh rate with the iPhone 13 Pro, while the iPhone 13 is stuck with the same old 60Hz refresh rate.
The difference is most noticeable when you’re scrolling through menus or system apps, and as a result going back from the iPhone 13 Pro to the iPhone 13 can feel a bit jarring. But most people won’t be making that backwards transition, and will find the iPhone 13 display completely fluid.
Those tiny notches give you a little more screen real estate than before, but it’s not a game changer in any case.
Overall, the iPhone 13 Pro’s faster response rate and higher brightness make it a comfortably better panel than its non-Pro sibling. But should this warrant a price jump, you’ll probably have to try both the phones side-by-side at the Apple Store and decide for yourself.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Cameras
Both these phones make great improvements in the camera department. The iPhone 13 borrows some key components from last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max for its dual 12MP system, while the iPhone 13 Pro’s triple 12MP system takes it a step further from that point.
The iPhone 13’s main sensor can draw in 47% more light than before, and produces larger 1.7µm pixels instead of the iPhone 12’s 1.4µm. But the iPhone 13 Pro’s wide sensor gets even bigger, producing 1.9µm pixels instead of the iPhone 12 Pro’s 1.4µm.
Both the camera systems pack in the Sensor Shift Stabilization system that made last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max so special in low light conditions. Night mode on both phones is worth a look, though the iPhone 13 Pro is the prince of darkness here again.
Both ultra-wide sensors have improved, but the iPhone 13 Pro also benefits from a 12MP 3X telephoto lens for zoomed-in shots. That’s a big advantage over the iPhone 13, which has to be cropped over the main sensor for this kind of close-up.
Of course, any new iPhone camera is as much a beneficiary of Apple’s software advances as any hardware improvements. As such, both phones get the new Photographic Style feature, which enables you to radically change the tone of your Snaps, whether you’d like them to be warmer, cooler, more vibrant, or more contrasting.
Both phones also get a new rack focusing on ‘Cinematic Mode’, which essentially has the same effect on your videos as Portrait Mode does on stills. This enables you to change focus in a scene, even in post-production, and predict when a subject is about to enter the frame and even follow a subject’s gaze.
The feature worked well in our testing, and is likely to be most useful to budding vloggers and filmmakers, even if it’s not quite the Pro Tools Apple is positioning it as.
When we’re talking about video, one feature that’s unique to the iPhone 13 Pro – or once it’s rolled out – is ProRes. It is a professional video codec that packs in more detail for more editing possibilities. We’ll have to update this piece once we have a chance to test it, but one thing worth noting is that it will be limited to 1080p on the 128GB iPhone 13 Pro.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 12: Specs and Performance
Apple hasn’t traditionally made much of a difference when it comes to performance, with its Pro models tending to get the exact same A-series chip as the non-Pro series. It’s true again this year, but with one interesting exception.
Both the phones get a 5nm A15 Bionic processor, which packs a six-core CPU that is 50% faster than the flagship Android competition. But the iPhone 13 Pro gets an additional GPU core (5 vs 4), making it faster overall.
In practical terms, we challenge you to tell the difference. Both phones are fast enough to render the comparison an academic exercise, and there’s certainly no game on the App Store that gets anywhere close to hitting the performance limit.
But the iPhone 13 Pro undoubtedly has more headroom this year than the previous iterations. It’s likely to feel sharp for a while, especially when it comes to more intense tasks.
In our Geekbench 5 multi-core tests, the iPhone 13 scored 4688 against the iPhone 13 Pro’s 4718. That’s a slight edge for the Pro, but the main thing that no other phone comes close to is raw performance.
Both phones support more 5G bands than before, so more countries will be able to use them to access 5G networks. However, only the US model gets mmWave support, and relatively few Americans will be able to take advantage of those speeds anyway.
As we already mentioned, both phones give you 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage. But the iPhone 13 Pro is better able to offer the 1TB option.
iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro: Battery
One major improvement that applies equally to both these phones is the battery life.
Both cells are larger than their predecessors. With the A15 Bionic’s efficiency improvements, this means both last significantly longer than before.
In the case of iPhone 13, you get a 3240mAh cell, while in the iPhone 13 Pro you get a 3095mAh battery. You might think that, given the smaller battery to the Pro handset, this seems a bit counterintuitive. But while it seems like the Pro’s 120Hz display should be the more power-hungry component, that’s not necessarily the case.
Apple has implemented Smart Variable Refresh Rate technology so that the iPhone 13 Pro’s display can scale up to exactly 10Hz for the use case. It only goes full 120Hz in scenarios that warrant it, like scrolling home…