Battery, Camera, but not screen: iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini review

Last year, writing a review of Apple’s new smartphones was pretty simple. The “basic” iPhone 12 turned out to be so successful that the Pro practically had no arguments in its favor. It was possible to give a simple advice: if you choose an iPhone, choose the base model.
With the 13th generation of the iPhone, such advice is more difficult to give.
12S: design
I’m sure it wasn’t just me after Apple’s September presentation that I got the feeling that instead of a new generation, we were shown a device that would be more suitable for the name iPhone 12S, not 13. It seems that everything has become “better”, but at the same time it does not work out quickly to find an answer to the question “Well, what is so new there?”.
Of course, if you start looking closely, there will be changes. The iPhone became a little thicker and a little heavier, the protrusion for cameras, the size and location of the lenses changed, which immediately gave rise to a lot of jokes.
The perfectionism of Apple designers has won the final victory over the standards of regulators — in the 13th generation, not a single technical inscription or logo remained on the iPhone case. For example, in a smartphone last year, it was possible to detect several technical symbols on the side face.
On the one hand, changes in the appearance of the device are almost invisible. On the other hand, they are enough so that the iPhone 12 case does not fit the iPhone 13, so be careful.
Perhaps the most significant external improvement of the iPhone 13 is the reduced “bangs”. The speaker moved closer to the edge of the screen, and the vacant space was occupied by Face ID sensors. As a result, the “bangs” decreased by 20%.
I’ll warn you in advance – you probably won’t immediately notice the loss of these percentages. For example, when I first got acquainted with the device, I had a question: “So, and now I have definitely picked up a new model, and not an old one?”
Even with the iPhone mini, where every pixel is worth its weight in gold, the free screen space remains unnoticed. One of the reasons for this perception is that the space that appears on the screen is not used in any way – iOS just slightly increases the icons of the signal level and battery.
13: capacity and battery
“Inside” are two key changes that are worth dwelling on. The first is to increase the minimum internal memory of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. Now, for 80 thousand rubles, Apple offers a starter model with 128 GB. In 2020, the company sold an iPhone 12 with 64 GB for the same money.
I think it was not only me who was annoyed when buying an iPhone that 64 GB was somehow too small, and the additional 64 GB was clearly not worth increasing the check by 15 thousand rubles. Now, the basic iPhone 13 model with 128 GB should be enough for most needs.
The second change is a physical increase in the battery. It is now 15% more for the iPhone 13 and 9% more for the mini version. Translated into the duration of work, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will work two hours longer than last year’s model, and the iPhone mini — by one and a half.
No one will argue that increasing the battery capacity is, of course, very good. But in the case of the iPhone 13, the extra two hours of work are perceived rather as a pleasant addition, because the iPhone 12 already held a charge perfectly throughout the day. But in the case of the iPhone 13 mini, an increase in capacity has become an urgent need.
Last year’s iPhone 12 mini was often enough only for the first half of the day of active use, so an external battery was a must-have accessory for owners of a miniature smartphone.
I do not conduct special tests and measurements on the efficiency of batteries, but, as usual, I share my general impressions of everyday use of the device.
On the first day of testing at lunch, I charged the iPhone 13 mini to 100%. During the day, I downloaded apps in lazy mode, photographed the cat, sat in the Telegram, Reddit and Instagram feeds — in a word, I spent the day with benefits for services and advertisers. Before going to bed, the red battery indicator indicated 3% residual charge.
After a couple of days of using the mini version, I would stop at such an intermediate conclusion: the increase in capacity is noticeable, but the smartphone seems to lack one or two additional hours so that I can feel more confident going out with it all day from home.
Additional hours of operation, according to Apple, are provided not only by the increased size of the battery, but also by the new energy-efficient A15 Bionic chip. This year, the processor is notable for the fact that instead of receiving a matryoshka doll (when Apple compares the performance of the new model with the previous one), the company switched to comparisons with abstract “other smartphones”.
For example, the site claims that the processor speed is up to 50% higher, and the graphics are up to 30% faster than “many other smartphones”. And in general, the new chip is second only to the chip installed in the iPhone 13 Pro.
It is difficult to confirm or refute such statements — it is unclear what is meant by “other smartphones” and how the measurements were carried out, so I will record a couple of observations here.
Yes, a test in the Geekbench app confirms an increase in computing speed compared to the iPhone 12. No, you won’t notice an increase in power if you switch to a new smartphone from the 12th or even 11th generation. This is because Apple produces smartphones with a large margin of power, which is enough for years to come.
And, by the way, one more “no”: I did not notice any differences in the speed between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. Everything works quickly, smoothly and, it is worth believing, the power of the new phones will be enough for the next five years.
12 Pro Max: Camera
In short, Apple took the main camera sensor from the iPhone 12 Pro Max and ported it to the iPhone 13. And since the pictures on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it seems, were praised by all the reviewers, the same result turned out for the iPhone 13.
The phone is guaranteed to give a good result for everyday shooting: night mode, rich frames with an abundance of details, fast focusing. The large sensor, which migrated from the most expensive iPhone model of 2020, gives predictable advantages — it captures more light, so the result is impressive.
By the way, it is the size of the sensor that explains the diagonal location of the cameras — in order to leave a compact square cutout, we had to place the cameras diagonally.
The ultra-wide-angle camera has also been updated to work in poor lighting conditions, but the improvements are not as noticeable as with the main camera. And in general, I realized that I use an ultra-wide-angle camera extremely rarely and would prefer the appearance of a telephoto camera in the iPhone 13 that allows me to zoom in on objects.
From the new: two settings have appeared in the Camera app, which are available only to owners of the iPhone 13 – photographic styles and the “Movie Effect” mode, which received a lot of attention at the presentation.
“Movie Effect” is the same portrait mode, only packaged to work with video. It recognizes the person in the frame and smears the background around. But its key function is an automatic change of focus during shooting.
It works like this: the iPhone recognizes when the main character of the frame shifts his gaze to another person and automatically turns the focus on him — without any action on the part of the operator. It is noteworthy that the speed of changing focus will depend on the distance between objects: the farther the objects are from each other, the slower the focus shift will occur.
Such effects are created using algorithms that recognize objects in the frame, their location, movements, etc., and apply appropriate effects to them.
It does not use “iron” assistants like a second camera or any sensors. Therefore, when editing a picture, you can change the object in focus or adjust the intensity of background blur — because this “movie effect” is primarily software.
The “Movie Effect” works without any pitfalls. It recognizes the main objects in the frame well and quickly focuses on them. Its weaknesses are the same as those of the “Portrait mode”: when shooting in poor lighting conditions, graininess appears, and the hair is not always correctly separated from the background.
But I don’t think the “movie effect” will become a “wow” feature worth buying an iPhone 13 for. Rather, it is a funny innovation that is interesting to play with at the moment when you remember about it – something like the “slow motion” or “tImelapse” mode.
The second setting – photographic styles, it seems to me, will be used more often. Although they resemble ordinary filters – like those used in Instagram — they work quite differently.
Firstly, filters in most cases are applied to the entire frame at once, while photographic styles take into account the objects in the frame and, for example, do not change the skin tone of the model and do not paint the sky in unnatural colors.
Secondly, styles are part of the computational shooting process. An image in a modern smartphone goes through an infinite number of stages from the moment it hits the camera sensor to the moment it is stored in the phone’s memory.
Algorithms combine images with different exposures into one, select white balance, contrast, recognize objects, and so on. Photographic styles apply their settings already at these stages and are “stitched” into the final picture. This, by the way, also means that after creating a photo, you will not be able to go into editing and change the style.
13 Pro: “basic” set
In the review, I constantly compare the iPhone 13 with the iPhone 12, and when comparing the set of improvements is limited to pumping several basic functions of the smartphone. The new camera, which last year was installed in the most expensive Apple smartphone, a couple of new functions for shooting, additional hours of battery life and a larger amount of internal memory.
For owners of older models, of course, there will be much more innovations: a new design and a compact form factor, an OLED screen and the MagSafe ecosystem (developing slowly, but still).
However, my main question is whether it was possible to make the list of “basic” functions in the iPhone 13 more extensive. For example, last year, answering this question about the iPhone 12, I would have answered “no”.

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