We’ve reviewed a lot of phones, but the iPhone 13 Pro is the best one yet.
Apple’s latest handset raises the bar so much that it’s hard to find any true fault with the iPhone 13 Pro except maybe the lack of Touch ID and that the charging speed still maxes out at 20W.
Price: Starts at $999 Display: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED (2352 x 1170) Refresh rate: 10-120Hz CPU: A15 Bionic RAM: 6GB Rear cameras: 12MP (f/1.5) main, 12MP (f/1.8) ultrawide, 12MP (f/2.8) telephoto with 3x optical zoom Front camera: 12MP (f/2.2) Video: Up to 4K 60 fps, 4K 30 fps ProRes (256GB+), 1080p 30 fps ProRes (128GB), 1080p 30 fps (Cinematic Mode) Battery life (hrs: min): 11:42 Charging: 20W wired, 15W
But consider what the iPhone 13 Pro does bring. From an excellent and bright 120Hz OLED display to the A15 Bionic’s crushing performance, this is one powerful device. If you’re a fan of slender phones, this is about as good as it gets for a phone with a 6.1-inch screen. Best of all, there’s no feature disparity between this model and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Both phones have the same telephoto zoom capabilities and all four iPhone 13 models have sensor-shift optical image stabilization. You’re not losing anything by opting for the cheaper and smaller iPhone 13 Pro.
In this iPhone 13 Pro review, we’ll walk you through why this is one of the best phones you can buy — it is the best if you want a smaller screen.
As with every iPhone, the iPhone 13 Pro is available from nearly every carrier in addition to Apple. The iPhone 13 Pro arrives on September 24, starting at $999 for the 128GB model. From there, a 256GB version costs $1,099, while the 512GB sets you back $1,299. For the first time ever, Apple offers a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro, which costs $1,499 — as much as a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 chip and a 512GB hard drive.
We encourage you to check out our best iPhone 13 deals page to ensure that you get the best offer, whether you opt for a trade-in, payment plan, or buy the phone outright.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Design
The iPhone 13 Pro looks remarkably similar to the iPhone 12 Pro except for two key differences: the bigger camera hump and the smaller notch. The former is pretty self-evident. The lenses and the square around them stick out quite noticeably — the phone is far from flat when laying on a table or desk.
The smaller notch is worthy of note, though. Apple says it’s about 20% smaller than the one we’re all used to. In practice, you can definitely tell the difference when you hold up the new phone next to an iPhone 12 Pro.
On that note, a serious omission on the iPhone 13 Pro is Touch ID. Rumors suggested that Apple was testing in-display fingerprint technology similar to what you find on many of the best Android phones. In a world where the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging and many of us are heavily encouraged to wear masks, we think Apple failing to offer an unlock alternative to Face ID remains a problem. The Apple Watch workaround introduced with iOS 14.5 earlier this year isn’t good enough.
A stainless steel frame gives the iPhone 12 Pro a serious heft. It feels heavier, more solid, than the 7.19 ounces Apple lists as the phone’s weight.
Because the iPhone 13 Pro’s design is largely unchanged, it feels more like an iterative upgrade over its predecessor instead of one pushing the boundaries. We think Apple played it safe this year, instead of focusing on the display and camera enhancements.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Display
With the same size OLED panel as its predecessor, the iPhone 13 Pro packs a lot of pixels in a screen that measures 6.1 inches diagonally. Apple calls this the latest version of its Super Retina XDR technology, and it sure is pretty. Colors pop, there’s plenty of contrast, and the viewing angles are stellar.
Whether playing the anime-inspired, saturated Genshin Impact or watching the harsh orange scenes in the latter part of Blade Runner 2049, the iPhone 13 Pro’s display delivered in every regard. Even vibrant cyberpunk or retrowave images with their bright neon pinks, magentas, and purples looked stunning.
Here’s how the iPhone 13 Pro’s screen stacks up against the Galaxy S21 Plus and iPhone 12 Pro in-display benchmarks.
iPhone 13 Pro
Galaxy S21 Plus (Vivid / Natural)
iPhone 12 Pro
212 / 104
150 / 74
0.31 / 0.18
The iPhone 13 managed similar color saturation to its predecessor, and its Delta-E color accuracy score (where 0 is perfect) was about the same as the iPhone 12 Pros. But pay attention to the max brightness we measured in our lab: 1,024 nits are insanely bright.
Of course, the star this year is the 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate on both the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The ProMotion experience is really nice. The iPhone 13 Pro’s display can automatically jump between 10Hz and 120Hz, offering a smooth experience that adapts to not only the content on screen, but also how fast your finger swipes across the glass.
Once you experience a 120Hz display, it’s hard to go back to a 60Hz one. The same holds true for the iPhone 13 Pro, which has a noticeably smoother screen than the 12 Pro. Side-by-side, we strongly prefer the ProMotion display. Not only is it easier to read text on a web page while scrolling, but the crisp animations jumping between emails in Gmail or just unlocking the phone all make for an extremely premium experience.
We wouldn’t say that the iPhone 13 Pro has the best display on the market, but it’s certainly very, very good and more competitive now thanks to ProMotion.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Cameras
The iPhone 13 Pro comes equipped with three 12MP rear cameras, including a telephoto lens offering a 77mm focal length and 3x optical zoom. The main shooter features a larger sensor and wider aperture this year at f/1.5, so it can let in more light than before.
The 12MP 120-degree ultrawide also received a larger sensor, as well as autofocus for sharper super-wide-angle shots. It’s in the low-light where the new phone really shines, especially over its predecessor and the competition.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Video
For the last several years, the iPhone has been the phone to get if you cared about video recording. New with the iPhone 13 Pro in Cinematic Mode, which is essentially the portrait video we heard rumors about. This new model is much more than that, though, offering a truly professional and artistic way to shoot videos. Cinematic Mode not only applies a bokeh effect around the subject but it tracks said subject as you shoot.
For example, it can tell when a subject enters or leaves the frame, dynamically shifting the focus accordingly. Or if the subject looks behind them, the iPhone 13 Pro will shift to the area that the person is looking at. In this mode, you can record at 1080p 30 fps. Cinematic Mode is really cool in practice, and expertly shows off the power of the A15 Bionic’s Neural Engine, but I’m not sure how often an average user will take advantage of it.
For a more traditional video approach, the iPhone 13 Pro supports Dolby Vision HDR at up to 4K 60 fps. You can also shoot in the ProRes format, which lends itself well to professional-grade editing — which you can also edit on the iPhone 13 Pro, thanks to the phone’s processing power. However, ProRes in 4K 30 fps is only available on the 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB iPhone 13 Pro models. The 128GB version is limited to 1080p at 30 fps for ProRes.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Performance
New with the iPhone 13 series is the A15 Bionic system-on-chip. It features a six-core CPU and a 5-core GPU on the Pro models, plus an upgraded Neural Engine. (The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini make do with quad-core GPUs). Paired with 6GB of RAM, the iPhone 13 Pro is a veritable powerhouse, leagues ahead of the best Android have to offer. The A15 crushes the Snapdragon 888 and further proves the quality of Apple’s deft hand with silicon.
The iPhone 13 Pro’s graphical prowess is not to be underestimated. The GPU in the A15 Bionic is powerful, with Apple claiming it’s 50% faster than the competition (likely referring to the Snapdragon 888 and its Adreno 660 GPU). It’s difficult to measure real-world gaming performance since iOS doesn’t let you track framerates in games, but the more intensive titles like Genshin Impact and Asphalt 9 look great on the iPhone 13 Pro.
iPhone 13 Pro
Galaxy S21 Plus
iPhone 12 Pro
Geekbench 5 (single / multi-core)
1733 / 4718
1116 / 3300
1585 / 3669
Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs)
3DMark Wild Life Unlimted (Score / FPS)
11,963 / 70
5571 / 33.3
8619 / 51
3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited (Score / FPS)
2766 / 16.5
1447 / 8.5
We included the iPhone 12 Pro in this comparison so that you could see the generational improvement from last year. Not only has the A15 Bionic improved over the A14, but it is several leaps ahead of the Snapdragon 888 in the Galaxy S21 Plus. Nothing in Android land can hold a candle to the A15, even if synthetic benchmarks aren’t necessarily analogous to real life.
Using Adobe Premiere Rush, we try to get a sense of real-world performance by having a phone transcode a 4K video file to 1080p. The iPhone 12 Pro could already knock out the test in a blistering 27 seconds while the Galaxy S21 Plus lags far behind at a flat minute. The iPhone 13 Pro managed to perform the transcode in just 26 seconds. It’s not a huge jump over the A14-equipped iPhone 12 Pro, but it furthers Apple’s lead over Qualcomm.
The Extreme Unlimited benchmark brings any phone to its knees, even the iPhone 13 Pro. But the average framerate in the original Wild Life Unlimited test shows a huge boost over the A14, and a massive step ahead of the Galaxy S21 Plus.
This all to say, the iPhone 13 Pro is the most powerful phone you can get right now (along with its big brother, the iPhone 13 Pro Max). Android and its multitude of devices certainly have their own strengths, but the hardware backing the ecosystem has a hard time keeping up with Apple’s own chips.
Apple upgraded its phones’ 5G capabilities this year, furthering the steps made with the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 13 Pro features more 5G bands this time around, meaning it can work more places and on more carriers. Smart Data Mode returns, letting your phone switch to LTE when 5G isn’t needed (and theoretically saving on battery life).
We’re still in the early days of 5G and, thanks to some rollout issues, it’s not always an improved experience everywhere you go. But that’s a carrier problem. Rest assured that the iPhone 13 Pro has the hardware chops to handle future network improvements.
We don’t know the iPhone 13 Pro’s battery capacity because Apple doesn’t disclose that information. Teardowns will fill in that info, but we do know from Apple that there are bigger batteries in this year’s iPhones
To that end, Apple says the iPhone 13 Pro lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro. Apple is usually fairly conservative in its battery life estimates.
The larger battery in the iPhone 13 Pro certainly pays off, increasing the phone’s longevity by nearly 3 hours over its predecessor and more than 2 hours longer than the Galaxy S21 Plus for a total time of 11 hours and 42 minutes. For reference, the last iPhone hit 9 hours and 6 minutes while the Galaxy S21 Plus managed 9 hours and 41 minutes
This is a major benefit for people looking to upgrade, seeing as the iPhone 13 Pro landed on our best phone battery life list even with an adaptive display and power-hungry 5G connectivity. Seeing such a jump over the iPhone 12 Pro’s lackluster battery life is certainly impressive — even the Galaxy S21 Plus can’t compare.
Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t figured out how to include faster charging on this phone. The iPhone 13 Pro maxes out at 20W wired and 15W via MagSafe. In a world where the OnePlus 9 Pro can charge at 65W over a cable or at 50W wirelessly — or where Xiaomi has gotten to 120W — Apple’s paltry offering is just disappointing. The iPhone 12 Pro only hit 53% in 30 minutes in our testing.
The iPhone 13 Pro still uses a Lightning connector instead of USB-C, which even the new iPads use. There’s no charger in the box either, continuing a trend Apple started with the iPhone 12 release.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Software and iOS 15
The iPhone 13 Pro ships with iOS 15. We’ve covered the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS quite extensively since we got our hands on the beta over the course of the summer. There are quite a few features to take note of, such as a tweak to notifications, Live Text/Visual Look Up, Focus, FaceTime enhancements, and improvements to many of the core apps.
iPhone 13 Pro review: Verdict
The iPhone 13 Pro and its bigger brother are the best phones you can buy right now. This smaller Pro model is better suited for people who balk at larger phones. The battery life has vastly improved over past iPhone models, which is a serious point in this device’s favor. And Apple has proven its prowess with cameras, with the iPhone 13 Pro producing some beautiful photos and videos.
We have two gripes with this phone, though. We’d like to see faster charging, but more importantly, we really wanted to see Touch ID this year. Despite the annoyance of unlocking the iPhone 13 Pro manually, and a second time to use Apple Pay, though, the iPhone 13 Pro has basically everything else going for it.
If you want the absolute best experience on a phone possible, this is the device to get. Assuming you’re used to iOS, you won’t be disappointed.