Don’t you just love Apple introduction videos? I know I do. It’s thanks to one of them that I bought my first MacBook Pro in 2008, and I’m sure it’s the main reason many of you do the same.
Thing is the iPhone 13 Pro was a pretty complicated launch because it took quite a few software updates for a lot of these features to reach your phone. Pro Res took a month, you couldn’t switch Macro Mode off until December, and the same happened with all the iCloud improvements. Point is, it’s become a common practice for this phone to ship incomplete, and even if you’ll hear a lot at WWDC, all those improvements won’t reach your phone officially until the fall.
POCKET NOW VIDEO OF THE DAY
I guess the biggest question is if it’s really worth it for anyone to pay extra and go pro, and after 9 months of using one, I think I have a pretty good idea.
I’m going to start off by admitting that I was really looking forward to this phone. The only way to get all the best camera features in 2020 was going for the 12 Pro Max and I was pretty verbal on our After The Buzz that I didn’t really enjoy the experience. Sure the tricks sounded cool on paper but in real life it wasn’t really that much better than even the regular 12. It was great for 2021 to give you the choice to not have to deal with the heft or the price of the Max for the same features.
Size and build
I think the honeymoon started great, and for the most part, that actually remains. Seriously think about how many flagship smartphones are left that you can fully handle with one hand? I wish we had at least some of this on Android, but RIP Pixel 5. I’ve always been a two phone kind of guy, so while the Z Fold 3 is serving my large screen needs better than any other phone, the iPhone has always been the communicator my BlackBerry used to be, so easy handling is essential. I love the look and feel when its bare, I think this matte finish in Sierra Blue is just too elegant to cover up, but even when I dress it up with either a combination of a leather case and one of the MOFT Wallet stands or just the latter, I love that it’s so small that it won’t add bulk. This color has aged far better than my experience last time with silver, there are no scratches in the stainless steel whatsoever, but I can’t say the same about the front. I know ceramic shield is pretty epic in preventing breaks from falls, but I wish it did the same for scratches like this one I got in the first month.
One of the things I love the most is that even if this phone is comparably small, I think this display size is the sweet spot. See, At 6.1-inches diagonal and slightly more pixel density than the Pro Max, you see the exact same amount of content here, it’s just not as blown up, so you’re not really missing out on anything. At 1200 nits in peak it does a better job than most in direct sunlight, and Apple continues to lead the pack in color reproduction. I can’t say I noticed much benefit from the variable 120hz adoption was pretty slow, and yeah even if this notch is somewhat smaller, it actually does get a bit more in the way of content than on the Pro Max. Still, I think the overall implementation is pretty great once you match content with these speakers.
And then another thing I didn’t think I’d like as much but did is iOS 15. Fine it’s not perfect so let me start with the things I like. Focus Modes is by far what I probably use most on this phone. I love switching off all social media from 10am to 7pm and having an entire home screen disappear to not be disturbed. Sleep mode is great cause I seriously do need to be reminded to wind down 30mins prior. I think the new notifications are far better visually and in how easy it is to mute the ones you don’t want. I think it’s helped me a lot in taking control of my screen time and not falling victim to all the social media app tactics to keep you locked in. Even if Apple was pretty late to live text, I also feel the implementation was pretty great. I’ll also admit I even get freaked out about how cool spatial audio can be, which is only proof that Apple continues to be the king of ecosystems in how well its products interact with each other.
And listen, let me rephrase, it’s not that I don’t like things, but there are features I either didn’t care about or use at all. All the FaceTime enhancements for SharePlay I ignored. I didn’t create a single Memoji cause meh. I will never pick Apple Maps over Google Maps no matter how 3D it gets. The Face ID with a Mask arrived too little too late and it’s not that great, and a lot of the iCloud+ features promised took a while to launch and are still in beta. In Apple’s defense though, features like Digital Legacy are still years ahead of anything on Android. That’s the thing about iOS. In some things like widgets and the app tray it was late but is better now, and in others it remains the trend setter.
And sure, it’s not the only thing I’m mixed about. While I do feel endurance on this phone is miles better than last year, it’s still not as amazing as the Pro Max, so I get why some of you pick the larger phone. Battery health is still at 99%, has aged far better than the 12 variants, but a full day on data or phone calls will leave you in fumes before the day ends, as opposed to it going beyond while mostly on Wi-Fi. If anything I’ll give it to Apple for launching this phone with a processor no one has still been able to catch 9 months later, and for giving you decent storage and other specifications without needing to pay extra.
That said, I say needing because if you did want to take advantage of some of the Pro features these cameras are all about, you had to go 256 gigs or more like I did. In typical Apple fashion this set of cameras is the reason why you go Pro, with this year being probably the most dramatic boost in specifications all around. Obviously what you care about most is results and that’s where I’m actually a bit mixed.
On the positive front, the second reason I always carry an iPhone is because they’re the perfect B Camera for video. Not sure what it is about this codec, but its quality matched with in-body stabilization makes this video good enough for shots where you don’t want to deal with the complications of a camera. Even if you were to switch to the selfie camera you can’t tell there’s a loss in quality or dynamic range, making this the perfect VLOGing phone, even up to how well it captures your audio, and since iPhones handle social media apps better than that Android, you kind of need to carry one if you plan to do any of that seriously. Obviously if you want that lossless ProRes in 4K you do need the extra storage, but in all honesty, I can’t say it served any purpose for me as this continues to be a phone camera where physics get in the way of better optics for it to truly make a difference. Same thing with cinematic video which is a nice version of portrait video, but locked at Dolby Vision quality which regular humans can’t edit, and let’s be real, which professionals wouldn’t use a phone for.
Where I’m mixed is mostly in photography, but not necessarily during the day. At first I was bothered by that Macro switch forcing its way into making you lose the dramatic bokeh you want in close ups, but that got fixed, and seriously these optional Macros are pretty awesome. The added optics of this ultra-wide now contribute to far better quality when you’re trying to get more in the shot,.. With that added character that the other lenses don’t necessarily provide in all scenarios. Sure I do wish the telephoto had that same punch, but it still is good enough for street photography and portraits, and computational photography does help you get decent shots if you don’t push too far. I also love to drift to using these photo modes, with Rich Contrast being my favorite, mainly because it gives you those Pixel results on an iPhone only when you want them.
Deep fusion is also a major reason why I love this phone for selfies. From some of the best skin tones, to that great separation, and the fact that a wider lens helps you not look like you’ve gained a few pounds, and I think it’s why most of my selfies, if not all have come from this phone.
I think my problem is in night photography and it goes back to that promo video. (play video on night photography).. It turns out that even with decent lighting, those extra optics on the ultra-wide didn’t really do much, and which obviously means the telephoto is only worse. All marketing aside, I wouldn’t trust this phone for night shots on anything other than the primary, and even there, Apple hasn’t addressed those green lens flares as well as most Android phones have. Sadly this is one area where I wish the results were as good as the marketing in real life.
To conclude, what can I say? I think the iPhone 13 Pro has been great for me, but not necessarily for the reasons that make it Pro. I love how the handling and the feel, but that means the iPhone 13 would do a better job as the aluminum on that one is even lighter. I love the display, but I can’t say the 13 doesn’t have most of its benefits. I love the specs, but nearly everything is also offered on the 13 as well. I love most of its camera features, but then the benefits of video are also on the 13th.
Point is, you don’t need an iPhone 13 Pro. If we’re honest, this is the phone you get for two reasons: one, because it’s the best iPhone if you can afford it, and two, because those three camera lenses serve better for bragging rights. I gotta hand it to Apple for knowing how to differentiate its Pro products so well that people will drift to them, but not necessarily because they are miles better than the regular variants.
So yeah, I will admit I’m one of those people that has fallen victim to appearances. If I had to recommend an iPhone to you, I’d say the 13 is almost as good for a lot less money. I’d say most people don’t need the extra storage just for ProRes as well. That said, for reasons that are hard to explain logically or monetarily, I love it. I do think this is the first time I have zero regrets about my choice for an iPhone. I’d say it has easily replaced the iPhone 4S as my favorite iPhone ever, even if it took Apple three iterations to get these Pros right. Yes, I do struggle with calling them Pros for a couple of their marketing selling points not met, but still, it’s probably the most mature and well implemented iPhone to date, even if not necessarily worth the extra money for most people.
iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro packs Apple’s best processor and camera hardware in its Stainless Steel chassis to provide buyers with the most robust iPhone experience yet.