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Like clockwork, there’s a new batch of smartphones from Apple in town. The iPhone 13 Mini, 13, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are all up for preorder now and keep a similar design to the iPhone 12 family. The updates focus on a smaller notch, improved cameras and better performance.
Preorders for the iPhone 13 family are now available from Apple directly, carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon and a range of retailers. The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are available in 128GB, 256GB or 512GB storage options, while the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB configurations. The 13 and 13 Mini are available in blue, pink, Midnight, Product Red or Starlight, while the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max come in gold, graphite, silver or Sierra Blue.
And like the iPhone 12 last year, there are a range of deals and ways to upgrade to the iPhone 13 right now. If you’re wondering if the upgrade makes sense for you, read our breakdown below and see our decision guide here.
If you’re someone who likes to get a new iPhone every year, the iPhone Upgrade Program is a lease with a credit check required that lets you just do that. After 12 payments (equivalent to 12 months), you get the ability to upgrade. Just pick your iPhone, storage size and carrier as well as AppleCare+ plan that makes the most sense for you. The latter is a bonus, as it’s a monthly cost for the warranty versus an outright expense.
If you’d rather do a normal lease (over a 24-month period) or buy the device outright, there are some ways to save. With any carrier or with Apple directly, you can trade in eligible devices to get credit toward your new device. Via Apple directly, you can save up to $1,000 — if opting for an iPhone 13 — with eligible trade-in.
Another option is to trade in your old device with a service like It’s Worth More or Decluttr. With either of these you’ll get an estimated value for your device after answering some questions, and receive a prepaid label to send your device in. Right now you can get an additional 10% on your trade-in value with code “CNN2021.”
When buying directly from AT&T, you can trade in to get an iPhone 13 Mini, 13 or 13 Pro for as little as $0 when paired with an Unlimited plan. Those who want the 13 Pro Max can get it for as low as $99. Either route is a pretty significant discount and equals out to up to $1,000 off.
On T-Mobile, the carrier known for its wild promotions is giving Magenta Max plan subscribers an iPhone 13 for free with eligible trade-in. It’s a pretty solid deal, and pushing it further is a promise for up to $800 in trade-in every two years as long as you remain a Magenta Max subscriber. The company is also offering other trade-in deals to make the upgrade affordable regardless of plan.
Lastly, Verizon will let you take up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 family when you’re on select Unlimited plans — mainly you can’t be on starter or kids. That equals out to a base iPhone 13 Mini, 13 or 13 Pro being $0 a month on installment, or a 128GB 13 Pro Max for $99. Verizon will also be accepting damaged phones as eligible trade-in devices. Customers on Verizon’s Unlimited plans have offers for free Apple Music and Apple Arcade subscriptions for a limited time. Verizon’s preorder option is available at the Apple Store directly, along with AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s as well.
We will also note that we’ve been seeing some customers express frustration on Twitter with the preorder process this morning. Specifically, those with an Apple Card haven’t been able to successfully check out for the iPhone Upgrade Program via the Apple Store App, and we have a family member who had the same issue. It seems it’s also spreading to some of the carriers, which might be under stress with demand for the new devices. Our best advice is to keep with it and keep trying to process the order while also reaching out to support.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini look nearly identical to the iPhone 12 with a slight shift in the camera layout on the back, and new colors. We were fans of the modern flat design on the iPhone 12, as it made the device easier to hold and get a grip on. Regardless of size, it keeps a Ceramic Shield layer over the screen for scratch and drop protection, along with an IP68 water resistance that lets the device survive a drizzle or a quick drop in the pool.
Arguably one of the bigger changes is the upgraded True Depth Sensor and camera on the front. It opts for the same 12-megapixel front lens and sensor stack that’s been on previous iPhones but packs it into a 20% smaller notch. It’s not as small as a pinhole notch as on the Galaxy S21 or an under-display notch on the Z Fold 3, but it does show Apple moving in the direction of a less distracting screen.
And it’s baked into an OLED display on the front that’s 6.1 inches on the 13 or 5.81 inches on the 13 Mini. We expect it to be nearly the same as the iPhone 12, with vibrant colors and deep blacks that offer an engaging and immersive picture. And for a $699 or $799 smartphone, it’s still great to see an OLED panel in either device. Apple is promising the big improvement will be a 28% brighter display.
As mentioned above, Apple is shifting the cameras on the main module. They’re now in a diagonal layout to accommodate a larger sensor, and you can definitely notice when looking at photos of the 13 Mini in comparison to the 12 Mini.
On the subject of cameras, let’s take a look at the stack:
- A 12-megapixel wide lens: It features the biggest sensor in an iPhone yet, which means it lets in more light, which leads to less blurry and more detail-filled images. It should make a big difference in performance and is paired with sensor-shift stabilization for images. The latter will help to keep shots clear even if the phone or your hand is shaking. Big takeaways here are the potential for a wider color range along with crispier details in clearer images when compared to previous iPhones.
- A 12-megapixel ultrawide lens: This lens keeps a 120-degree field of view, and Apple says it can let more light into a given shot over the iPhone 12. It’s essentially a 0.5x shot in comparison to the standard 1x shot with the wide lens. This lets you capture more in a shot without moving and lets you get creative when taking images, as it can be a unique way to frame a shot.
In terms of camera hardware, it’s a similar set of lenses to the 12 with the ability to capture more light for better images overall and stabilization for clearer shots. Apple’s promising better low-light performance over the 12, thanks to the refreshed sensors, and we’d be bullish on the main wide lens, thanks to the size of that sensor. It’s the first time Apple has increased the size since 2018 with the iPhone XR and XS. On the software side, Apple is adding in Photographic Styles, which are essentially preset shooting modes. This way you can shoot in Warm, Cool or Rich to add your style to the camera while it is shooting. It should eliminate some of the heavy lifting with image edits after you press the shutter button and is really the first hint of customization we’ve seen in the iPhone’s camera app. On paper, photography performance on the 13 and 13 Mini should be pretty in line with that of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini.
Apple is adding Cinematic mode, which lets you record a racked focus shot from a device in your hand, essentially rapidly switching the focus of a shot from the foreground to background, or background to foreground, with a tap of a button. It’s a defocusing element that can let you add more style to a given shot. We can only imagine the TikToks. The iPhone 13 will be able to make these changes in real time, letting you mix it up on the fly. Cinematic mode works on top of Dolby Vision HDR, which was introduced with the iPhone 12. And no, Cinematic mode doesn’t replace the normal video mode, which still sits alongside time lapse and slow-motion recordings.
Powering the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini — along with the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max — is the new A15 Bionic processor. It’s a 5-nanometer chip like the A14 Bionic on the iPhone 12, but it features a 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine. This should let the iPhone 13 glide through all sorts of tasks and increase the overall efficiency. Given the similarities to the A14 Bionic, though, we’re expecting a slight improvement in overall performance when compared to the iPhone 12 or even 11. Apple’s chips perform really well for generally as long as their software supports it. And it goes back to Apple building out the software at the same time as creating these chips, as they’re tuning them to coexist properly. And as is the norm, those with older iPhones like an XS or even a 7 should see some big improvements in day-to-day tasks and power-hungry ones.
Apple’s packed a bigger battery inside the iPhone 13, though the company isn’t specifying an exact mAh size. The 13 Mini should last an hour and a half longer than the 12 Mini, while the 13 aims to last two and a half hours longer than the 12. The iPhone 12 lasted for 12 hours and 30 minutes in our battery test, with the 12 Mini lasting 15 minutes longer. That’s near the top of our battery tests across multiple smartphones, with only the Pixel 5a with 5G stretching the battery past the 13-hour mark. Given the performance of 2020’s iPhones and the A15’s focus on efficiency, we expect Apple isn’t overpromising with the battery life here. The iPhone 13 will still charge via a Lightning port on the bottom and supports wireless charging through MagSafe or the Qi standard.
The iPhone 13 is a 5G-capable smartphone with support for mmWave and Sub-6 out of the box. For those in the states, the latest iPhone will work on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon with ease. You might just be hard-pressed to find the network, especially the ultrafast speeds of mmWave networks.
As is the norm now, Apple’s also releasing the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. And like the 13 and 13 Mini, these keep a similar design to the 12 Pro and deliver updates to the display, camera and performance.
The iPhone 13 Pro features a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, while the 13 Pro Max extends to a 6.7-inch display. The latter is still the largest display ever in an iPhone. Year over year, the display should still perform as an OLED, with vibrant colors and sharp blacks. The exciting news comes with the long anticipated arrival of a 120Hz-capable screen on an iPhone. While Android phones (even budget ones like the Galaxy A series) have featured 120Hz screens, Apple has stuck with 60Hz. The advantage is a more natural and fluid-looking experience when using the device. It’s most noticeable when scrolling through a list of emails, notes or even a webpage but is also evident when gaming or watching a movie.
The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are capable of just that with ProMotion on board, which let’s it scale between 10Hz and 120Hz. We’ve seen adaptive refresh rates before, which change based on application; this is typically how Samsung integrates the feature. Apple’s take here is the ability to track your finger speed to match how you’re moving or interacting with the device. We’ll need to test to see the impact here, but Apple’s offering doesn’t let you just set the device to 120Hz forever. It’s taken Apple several years to deliver 120Hz, but we’re eager to try it on the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Still, though, why not offer this on the regular iPhone 13 or 13 Mini?
One possible explanation might be that the A15 Bionic chip inside the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max is slightly more powerful. It keeps a 6-core CPU and a 16-core Neural Engine, both of which power everyday tasks and enable iOS 15 features like the ability to scan for text in an image. The higher-end iPhones receive a 5-core GPU over a 4-core GPU in the base 13s, which is an extra punch against graphical tasks. It’s possible that Apple is using that extra core to power ProMotion here.
As a whole, though, the A15 inside the 13 Pro or the 13 Pro Max isn’t going to necessarily leapfrog over the A14 with performance. It should be a smooth and efficient experience that runs iOS like a champ, but those coming from an older iPhone should notice more day and night differences. We do anticipate that extra GPU core should improve the experience with gaming and creative tasks.
With the camera, Apple is upgrading the experience with new hardware, enhanced AI and new shooting styles. It’s still a three-camera system that consists of a wide, ultrawide and telephoto lens with a LiDAR sensor.
- 12-megapixel wide lens: Like on the iPhone 13, this is the largest sensor in an iPhone and will let you capture more light to create an image. It also packs a wider aperture or lens opening, which can let even more light in. This should yield to more vibrant images that pack a lot of details. And with sensor-shift image stabilization, Apple wants to combat shaky hands for clearer images. We expect it to perform in line with, if not better than the main camera on the iPhone 12 series.
- 12-megapixel ultrawide lens: This is a classic example of an ultrawide lens on a smartphone, as it captures photos in a 0.5x or 120-degree field of view. It can be a unique way to frame a shot or to capture a lot more without physically moving. The difference year over year is Apple’s promise of capturing up to 92% more light in a given image. The other key change is “Phase Detection Auto-Focus,” which is a fancy way of saying that this ultrawide lens can also capture macro images by changing the focus of an image quickly, meaning that you can get up to 2 centimeters away from a given subject (animate or inanimate) and capture with new clarity. It also means for the first time that an iPhone can shoot macro images.
- 12-megapixel telephoto lens: This is an upgraded 77mm optical zoom lens that features a 3x zoom function. This moves past 2.5x on the 12 Pro Max and 2x on the 12 Pro. Apple is inching closer to 10x, which is commonly found on other smartphones in this price range, but still absent here. It’s still better than just digital zoom on a Pixel, though.
So what does this all mean for everyday shooting? The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max should represent the most versatile camera system that Apple has released with images that offer more details, better color accuracy and sharper shots as a whole. It also keeps the LiDAR sensor, which in our testing delivers a big jump in focusing times and Night mode shots. We’d hedge that we need to test this new hardware to see direct comparisons as to just how much of an impact this has over the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max from last year. On paper, it is a significant jump mainly from larger sensors and wider apertures, along with new shooting modes.
On the subject of macro, it’s interesting to see Apple’s approach of using the ultrawide camera, which is already on board. We’re used to almost writing this feature off with Android phones, as they simply have a low-quality 2- or 3-megapixel lens that acts as a macro camera. Apple’s sample images, if believed, offer some pretty incredible shots like a high level of detail on a leaf that the human eye can’t necessarily see. We’re eager to try this out as well as the camera as a whole here. Like the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini, you’ll be able to use Photographic Styles as well as Cinematic Video here.
Lastly, Apple is promising the 13 Pro will last one and a half hours longer than the 12 Pro, while the 13 Pro Max lasts two and a half hours longer than the 12 Pro Max. This is thanks to a physically larger battery inside (Apple isn’t sharing the specific sizes, though) and efficiency with the processor. Apple is not including a power brick in the box, for the second year in a row, but the Pro iPhones still charge with a Lightning cable or a Qi wireless charger like MagSafe.
Preorders are open for the iPhone 13 Mini, 13, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, with deliveries set to begin on Sept. 24. Neither the 13 nor 13 Pro are a significant redesign that presents the iPhone as a whole new device, but improvements to the displays, cameras and performance are set to enhance the experience.
On paper, it’s not an immediate go-out-and-upgrade if you got a new iPhone last year or recently got any member of the 12 series. We’d want to put the cameras in head-to-head tests to see how the performance actually shakes out. But if you have an iPhone XS, 8, 7 or 6, now is shaping to be an excellent time to upgrade.