Why Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Is (Just Barely) The Best iPhone Yet

The iPhone 13 Pro boasts longer battery life and enhanced camera capabilities.

Apple

Another year, another iPhone. This time around, Apple has again opted to shove all of their best hardware and innovation into a Pro version while also offering the lesser iPhone 13 for a more moderate price point.

Unlike the iPad lineup, the Pro version of the iPhone isn’t just for professionals that use these devices in their business; they’re just the best version of the iPhone Apple has to offer.

“The best iPhone ever” is something that gets thrown around every year, it seems. It’s not a lie, but it IS a truer statement in some years than others. This seems like one of the “less true” years, where polish and upgrades are the focus over overhauls and innovation.

A major indicator of this year’s moderate update from iPhone 12 Pro to 13 is the form factor of the phone and the fact that it’s nearly identical to its predecessor. Hell, the iPhone 13 Pro actually fits in the iPhone 12 Pro cases, it’s that similar.

Looking at the two side-by-side, the only major differences are a smaller notch on the screen and larger lenses on the camera array. While those two changes do improve the function of the iPhone 13 Pro, in the hand it feels identical.

Apple

And that’s ok because the design is excellent. It’s actually reminiscent of the now-legendary iPhone 4 with its squared metal bezel and exceptionally durable build quality. Apple always toes the line between radical redesigns and sticking with what works. That was easier in the days of S-models, where gentle changes were expected. The iPhone 13 Pro might carry a different name but it does feel like an 12 Pro S in many ways.

So what does feel new? Battery life. Short of running active GPS on maps for 12 hours straight, this iPhone can do heavy lifting all day long without running out of juice. As we’re all on our phones more than ever, it’s a welcome upgrade that’s likely to be downplayed because, like so many of the best upgrades, it eliminates a quality-of-life problem instead of offering some flashy new novelty.

Apple

Possibly the biggest upgrade to the technology in the iPhone is the 120hz screen that doubles the framerate of the previous Pro iPhone and delivers on the promise of a more responsive touchscreen experience, both in terms of touching it and looking at it. It feels smooth. When scrolling through Instagram or playing games with lots of action, it actually makes a difference in the overall experience.

Because the screen is absolutely integral to every app, every video, and every game, it’s a huge change that can feel like it’s flying under the radar. Use the phone for a day and it becomes so natural to experience the iPhone with a faster refresh rate, it’s damn near unnoticeable…until you look at any previous iPhone and feel the choppiness of a diminished framerate.

Apple

Similarly, there’s a big camera upgrade baked in here, though it’s not overly obvious. Instead, there’s a macro lens that eliminates those moments when the phone was too close to focus on a subject. There’s a new quickness to that focus that eliminates tapping on the screen to force the iPhone camera to do its job. There’s a video mode that helps create more cinematic experiences directly from the camera app.

These are small but wonderful upgrades that might feel subtle to those switching from last year’s pro model but are absolutely light-years ahead of phones as recent as the iPhone 11.

Apple

Possibly the best part of the iPhone 13 Pro is that it makes no sacrifices and includes all the upgrades that have come before. So MagSafe wireless charging is still here and still amazing. Portrait mode and low-light shooting are better than ever. iOS15 comes installed and it adds a ton of software upgrades like new FaceTime group activities and iMessage tweaks that streamline Apple’s proprietary messaging app.

At the end of the day, the iPhone 13 Pro might not blow the minds of anyone upgrading from last year’s 12 Pro, but it’s worth upgrading for anyone moving over from an iPhone 11 or older.

Starting at $999 for the 128GB base model and going to $1499 for the new 1TB version, the iPhone 13 Pro is available now.

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Brandon friederich