Apple iPhone 13 Review (2024)

Apple's iPhone 13 (starting at $799) is a battery life beast, with far greater longevity than previous midrange smartphones. While we appreciate the greater pocketability of the iPhone 13 mini, unimpressive sales of the iPhone 12 mini taught us that most people prefer long battery life to a petite form factor. So even though other upgrades from the previous generation are nearly unnoticeable here, the battery boost is so profound that it's definitely worth the $100 premium over a standard-size iPhone 12. And if you're upgrading from an earlier iPhone, you'll find a lot of welcome enhancements in power and camera quality. That makes the iPhone 13 the best bet for most buyers, as well as the winner of our Editors' Choice award.

Design: Subtle Improvements

The iPhone 13 looks a lot like the iPhone 12. At 5.8 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and 6.1 ounces, it's pretty much the exact same size as the iPhone 12, but a third of an ounce heavier. Because of slightly different side button positioning, some cases designed for the previous model work, and others don't.

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There's one difference to note on the front, and one on the back. On the front, the "notch" at the top for Face ID is slightly smaller—20% smaller, according to Apple. On the back, the two camera lenses are slightly larger, and staggered diagonally rather than stacked vertically.

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The iPhone 13 (front) has a smaller notch than the iPhone 12 (rear) (Photo: Molly Flores)

There are five color options, including blue, pink, red, "midnight" (a blue so dark it can read as black), and "starlight" (a subtle off-white, like eggshell).

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Like the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 has a gorgeous 6.1-inch, 2,532-by-1,170-pixel OLED display with a wide color gamut and Apple's True Tone color management. Apple says typical brightness is now 800cd/m2 as compared with 625cd/m2 on the iPhone 12. I can't see a difference when eyeballing it; we'll rely on DisplayMate Labs' testing to double-check that number when their results come out.

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The iPhone 13 (right) has diagonally arranged cameras, as opposed to the iPhone 12 (left) (Photo: Molly Flores)

One of the differences between the standard iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro models is that the 13 has a 60Hz display, while the Pro phones have 120Hz displays. If you've never experienced a 120Hz display, this won't be a big deal. 60Hz displays have been standard for many years, and the iPhone 13's display is fluid and smooth.

But I've been using 120Hz displays on OnePlus and Samsung phones for nearly a year now, and I found dropping back to 60Hz a bit disconcerting; scrolling web pages felt like they were tearing a bit as I read through news articles. But again, unless you're used to using a recent flagship phone, you probably won't think twice.

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Performance: iPhone Is as iPhone Does

Apple's A15 CPU is made on the same 5nm process as the previous A14. Apple says that its 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU have the fastest performance ever.

On the Geekbench benchmark, I only saw an 8% improvement in single-core CPU performance and a 13% improvement in GPU performance over the iPhone 12. However, I did see a much bigger improvement in the real-world Basemark web browser benchmark, which jumped from 766.86 to 1042.93 as the phone sped through web page loads.

The fact is, Apple's tight integration between hardware and software always leads to new iPhones having impeccable performance, at least at the start. It's years down the road when they may run into trouble. Nothing I could throw at the iPhone 13 in its first week fazed it, from Microsoft Office to Genshin Impact.

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The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the same performance. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max both add a fifth GPU core, which in our benchmarks also led to disproportionately better test performance. But if apps run just fine with the four GPU cores, why do you need the fifth core? It's for the 120Hz screen, one of the difference-making features offered by the pricier Pro series.

We have many more details on performance in our full iPhone 13 benchmarking story.

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(Photo: Molly Flores)

Battery: This Is Why You're Here

Apple made a major jump in battery management and capacity with the iPhone 12 series, but a lot of that got lost in real-world usage with the transition to power-hungry 5G. The iPhone 13 series rights the ship, giving true full-day battery life with the iPhone 13 base model, and two-day battery life with the 13 Pro.

In this case, it's not about battery size. We don't have the technical details of the iPhone 13's battery capacity, but it's not much larger than the 12's. But the new A15 processor and X60 modem appear to be much more efficient than the A14 and X55 in the iPhone 12 series, leading to much longer video playback time, and much longer real-world usage time.

Now, even the iPhone 13 mini is better than the standard iPhone 12. But there's still a huge delta between the 13 mini and the standard 13, and I think that's the main reason you'll end up wanting to buy a standard 13.

After using the iPhone 13 for a weekend as my primary device, I felt no battery anxiety. It was pretty much always ready to go, unlike my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, which was frequently running down. That shows the confluence of Apple's efficient hardware and software. One of Apple's "secrets" over the years has been that iPhones bleed much less battery while in standby than Android phones typically do.

The phone somewhat-fast-charges, just like the iPhone 12 does. If you hook its Lightning port up to a 20-watt USB-C PD power adapter, you can get relatively fast charging speeds; it's also compatible with 7.5W Qi wireless charging, and the 15W magnetic MagSafe charging introduced with the iPhone 12 series.

Radios: The Same, But Different

The iPhone 13 uses the Qualcomm X60 modem, the same as in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and other leading smartphones this year. It has Wi-Fi 6, just like the iPhone 12, and Bluetooth 5.0. There are five different international models with slightly different 4G and 5G band support. We have full details on these differences in a separate story.

There's not much to say about the iPhone's call quality, which has been fine for several generations now. The iPhone supports all of the voice codecs and calling strategies (such as voice-over-Wi-Fi and voice-over-LTE) that all three US carriers support, and its speakerphone is relatively loud and clear. I used the iPhone 13 extensively with Jabra and Plantronics Bluetooth headsets and didn't get skips, pops, or dropouts.

The phone has one physical SIM slot, and can load either one eSIM subscription or two. (If you're going with two eSIMs, the physical SIM is disabled.) To load an eSIM, you need to get a QR code from your wireless carrier—you can't just pick the carrier from a menu like you can on the iPad.

In testing, I couldn't find any noticeable, reliable difference in performance on today's networks between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. That said, I think the X60 upgrade is part of the equation leading to the iPhone 13's superior battery life.

If you're upgrading from a model before the iPhone 12, as most people will be, there are huge performance differences from the iPhone 11 and earlier. 4x4 MIMO, present on the iPhone XS and 11 Pro but not the XR or standard 11, dramatically improves 4G data performance in many circ*mstances. And while 5G only really matters for T-Mobile subscribers right now, our Fastest Mobile Networks tests showed that it's a huge benefit for T-Mobile subscribers, and it's likely to have similar effects for AT&T and Verizon subscribers starting next year.

For more, I have another story on the relatively subtle differences between the iPhone 12 and 13 radios, and what they could bring iPhone 13 owners in the future.

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(Photo: Molly Flores)

Software: iOS 15 Is Smooth As Butter

The iPhone 13 runs iOS 15 as of this writing, although by the time you read get it, it might be running iOS 16, 17, or 18. That's one of the iPhone's strengths: It's going to be supported in software for at least five years. So iOS 15 isn't a differentiator for the iPhone 13—you'll get the same OS features on an iPhone 12, 11, or XR.

We'll have a full iOS 15 review soon, but it isn't a huge change from iOS 14—here are some of its top new features. The most aggressive change I found is Apple's constant attempts to destroy third-party apps' reliance on targeted advertising.

Compared with Android, I'm struck by how smooth the iOS interface continues to be, especially in scrolling and task switching. But it's more difficult to use than Android when it comes to sorting and dealing with notifications, sharing information between third-party apps such as multiple photo/video editors, and arranging useful information on your home screen.

As always, the more deeply you bake yourself into Apple's ecosystem, the better. iPhones very badly want to back up your photos and data on iCloud, have you play games on Apple Arcade, and listen to Apple Music—all for a $14.95/month Apple One subscription. You can certainly populate an iPhone primarily with Google or Microsoft services, but you may have fewer options to easily share your content and will find your cloud services less closely plumbed into the OS.

Cameras: Tough to See a Major Difference

Let me be clear: I take a lot of photos with my phones, but I'm not filming Hollywood movies or viral TikToks, and my photos are generally to mark memories, not create art. I mostly want my photos to be clear, in focus, and effortless—and as far as that's concerned, I think I'm in line with most iPhone owners.

Apple has improved a lot of specs in the iPhone 13's camera, but I had real trouble seeing those specs translate into better images. The new hardware consists of a bigger sensor that captures 47% more light than the iPhone 12's, as well as better sensor-shift optical image stabilization for videos.

Like the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 has two 12-megapixel cameras on the back: a main f/1.6 camera and a 120-degree ultra-wide f/2.4 lens. On the front, there's a 12-megapixel camera with LiDAR depth mapping for Face ID and augmented reality. Video recording goes up to 4K at 60fps on both the front and back.

Flagship smartphones reached a level of basic perfection a few years ago when it comes to outdoor photography in decent light. Take a look at this skyline shot taken with an iPhone 13, an iPhone 12, and 2018's iPhone XR. I can't tell the difference. So if you mostly take photos in good light at 1x, you've basically been solid since 2018.

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Left to right: iPhone 12, 13, XR

Most of the action in phone cameras recently has been in three areas: night modes, zoom, and video.

Low-light performance is very important to many people. There's good news here: Apple has made at least subtle improvements to low-light performance every year. The big jump was between the iPhone XR and 11, when Apple started its computational night mode, which quite literally makes light out of darkness. Between the iPhone 12 and 13, low-light differences are pretty subtle. Mostly, it's that there's less noise on the iPhone 13. That's nice, but not a "run out and get this" kind of feature.

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Left to right: iPhone 13, 12, 11

In terms of zoom, the iPhone 13 (like the iPhone 12) falls down on the job. The 13 has two lenses, a standard wide and an ultrawide, which most of the competition has moved past by now. To get the 3x zoom which is common on Android competitors, you have to step up to the $999 iPhone 13 Pro.

With the ultrawide lens in good light, colors are truer than on the iPhone 12—sometimes, not all the time—and edge distortion is about the same. Neither phone has the cool edge distortion correction that the OnePlus 9 Pro has.

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Left to right: Front-facing portrait mode with iPhone 11, 12, 13

In terms of video, the big new feature is "cinematic focus," which supposedly shifts focus between different subjects in a video. Like "photographic styles," which are amped-up filters, I couldn't find much use for this feature. It seems to be aimed at people making complex, narrative videos, and I just don't have the subjects or mindset for that.

But I don't want to downplay the iPhone's video excellence here. With many phones available to me, I frequently turn to iPhones to make my own professional videos because I can trust its focus decisions more than I can with other devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. I just don't see much of a difference between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13.

Along with a zoom lens, the other things you give up by not going Pro are ProRes video—an arcane format used by professionals—and macro photography. Macro is another thing I just don't get; I've never felt the need to take a close-up picture of a flower, although if that's your thing, get the Pro model; the regular 13 cannot focus at sub-6-inch distances.

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The iPhone 13 fits well in a pocket, though the mini fits even better (Photo: Molly Flores)

Should You Upgrade to the iPhone 13?

If you've been annoyed at your iPhone 12 mini's battery life, first of all, I personally apologize to you for recommending it, and second, this is your solution. The iPhone 13 is a reasonably sized iPhone with enough battery life to go the distance.

If you have an iPhone 11 and you're on T-Mobile, you really need 5G. Our 30-city Fastest Mobile Networks tests showed massive performance improvements with mid-band 5G on T-Mobile, and low-band 5G on T-Mobile now extends rural coverage. You should trade up.

If you have an iPhone 12, or an iPhone 11 on AT&T or Verizon, you can wait a year.

If you have anything earlier than an iPhone 11, the battery improvements and the camera night mode here are strong reasons to upgrade. Really, the difference in low-light shots between an iPhone 13 (or 12) and an XR (or earlier) is just immense.

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(Photo: Molly Flores)

Should You Switch to the iPhone 13?

If you're an Android user and nothing has won you over to iOS yet, the iPhone 13 won't be the phone that does. There are a lot of great Android options out there, most notably the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the OnePlus 9 Pro, and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 FE and Google Pixel 6, and they're often offered with deep discounts or great trade-ins.

Apple has two major advantages over these otherwise-leaders. One, Apple's cameras are always just a bit more responsive and reliable; they typically load more quickly and have more guaranteed focus than even the best Android cameras. Two, Apple's data management practices tend to be a bit more circ*mspect than Google's.

But the iPhone 13 isn't new on any of those fronts. It doesn't have any key elements that would change your personal decision if the iPhone 12 didn't.

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Left to Right: iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max (Photo: Molly Flores)

Not Groundbreaking, But It's Best iPhone for Most People

The iPhone 13 is a refinement, not a revolution. Compared side by side with the iPhone 12, it's not going to shock you with anything other than stellar battery life. That said, the additional juice is absolutely worth the $100 premium over the still-on-sale iPhone 12 or the iPhone 13 mini, making the standard iPhone 13 our Editors' Choice winner. It's about having less stress, and in 2021, nobody needs more stress. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, meanwhile, should be the choice for professional and wannabe-pro content creators who rely on iPhones to add beauty and entertainment to the world. Its additional zoom lens, big screen for viewing and editing content, and nearly immortal battery life makes it a true "pro" content creation studio. So this year, go big. You won't regret it.

Apple iPhone 13


Editors' Choice

Check Stock$786.43 at Amazon

MSRP $699.99


  • Long battery life

  • Fast, smooth performance

  • Camera makes it easy for anyone to take good photos


  • Not much of an upgrade over the iPhone 12

The Bottom Line

Apple's iPhone 13 delivers the best blend of performance, camera quality, and battery life at the right price for most people.

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Apple iPhone 13 Review (2024)


Apple iPhone 13 Review? ›

Conclusion. In 2024, the iPhone 13 remains a wise investment for those seeking the latest features and performance. While the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 still hold their own in various aspects, the iPhone 13's advancements in performance, camera capabilities, battery life, and durability make it a standout choice.

Is the iPhone 13 still worth buying? ›

Conclusion. In 2024, the iPhone 13 remains a wise investment for those seeking the latest features and performance. While the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 still hold their own in various aspects, the iPhone 13's advancements in performance, camera capabilities, battery life, and durability make it a standout choice.

Which is better, iPhone 13 or 14? ›

The iPhone 14 offers minor improvements in camera, battery life, and processing power, but at a higher price. If you prioritise affordability and excellent performance, the iPhone 13 offers better value.

Is the iPhone 13 worth buying in 2024? ›

Conclusion: A Solid Choice for Most Users

If you want to buy a new iPhone without breaking the bank, the iPhone 13 is among the best value-for-money iPhones in 2024.

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