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iPhone 13 series complete guide: Everything you need to know

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iPhone 13 series complete guide: Everything you need to know
Everything you may want to know about Apple's newest 2021 iPhone 13 models – the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

The short version

The iPhone 13 series consists of Apple's four newest flagship smartphones, running on the latest iOS 15 operating system and packing the latest features, which we'll take a look at below. The Pro models sport smooth, adaptive 120Hz OLED displays, while all iPhone 13 variants have also been upgraded to Apple's A15 Bionic processor, pack bigger batteries and twice the base storage options over last year.

The latter allows for making longer video recordings, taking more photos, and downloading more movies and music directly on the iPhone, to be available for watching and listening even when offline.

In addition, while the iPhone 13 models still have a display notch that holds the selfie camera and Face ID tech, it's now smaller and notably more narrow than it was on last year's iPhones.

Jump to section:

iPhone 13 series features, summarized

  • 120Hz ProMotion OLED display (iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max) / 60Hz OLED display (iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini)
  • Double the base storage (over last year's models)
  • 20% smaller notch (over last year's models)
  • 5G support
  • Larger batteries, battery life improvements
  • Improved cameras with Cinematic Mode, faster Night Mode

iPhone 13 release date

Announced on September 14, 2021, the iPhone 13 is available for pre-order right now. Shipping starts September 24.

For reference, below we have a comparison of Apple's iPhone announcement and release dates from 2017 up to 2021:

iPhone 13 price and pre-orders

Starting Tuesday, September 14, the iPhone 13 series is now available for pre-order, please see our article on how to pre-order the iPhone 13 for more details.

The price of each iPhone 13 model depends on the storage option you choose. For reference, below are the iPhone 13 prices at launch, for each available storage option.

Want to get the new 2021 iPhone at a discount? Check out the best iPhone 13 deals available right now, for all models. In addition, you may particularly be interested in seeing all the active iPhone 13 trade-in price and carrier deals.

Should you buy the iPhone 13?

You should buy the iPhone 13 if you're satisfied with what it brings to the table over the previous generation. Notably, better cameras with Cinematic Mode, more storage, twice as smooth 120Hz ProMotion display on the Pro and Pro Max, as well as improved battery life performance.

The camera system of the iPhone 13 Pro models supports 3x zoom, and in addition, the iPhone 13 Pro models come with up to 1TB of storage, more than on any other iPhone to date.

Thus, if you're currently often finding yourself having to clear storage on your iPhone, it might be worth upgrading to the iPhone 13 and taking advantage of the fact that all models have higher base storage capacity, starting at 128GB.

You should not buy Apple's 2021 iPhone if nothing we've mentioned on this page gets you excited, however. The iPhone 13 arguably isn't a major upgrade over its predecessor, so using a 12 model for another year is perfectly fine.

We expect bigger upgrades for next year's iPhone 14, so you may want to hold on to your current iPhone for another year and upgrade only when Apple actually introduces something that you find truly new and exciting.

Should you upgrade from an older iPhone to the iPhone 13?

In our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 comparison we concluded that although getting the 2021 iPhone over last year's iPhone 12 won't be a huge upgrade, it will bring some appealing new features. Unfortunately those don't include a smoother display, which remains at 60Hz, but you will be getting a larger battery (longer battery life), larger screen sizes on all 2021 iPhones, a more powerful and efficient A15 Bionic processor and the new Cinematic Mode camera feature.

In case you're looking into upgrading from last year's Pro model to the iPhone 13 Pro, you'll find our iPhone 13 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro comparison helpful. Ultimately, with this upgrade you'll be getting a smoother 120Hz display, a faster A15 Bionic chip and better battery life, as well as new camera features like Cinematic Mode and Macro.

If you're currently rocking the iPhone 12 Pro Max, be sure to read our iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison. Most notably in this scenario, if you upgrade to the iPhone 13 Pro Max you'll be able to enjoy a 120Hz display, twice as smooth as the 60Hz display of the 12 Pro Max. In addition, the battery size of the new iPhone 13 Pro Max has been increased, and its A15 chip is more power-efficient, which, according to Apple, makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max last 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Currently using the iPhone 12 mini instead? We've got you covered too, with our iPhone 13 Mini vs iPhone 12 Mini comparison. Unlike with the Pro models, there's less incentive to upgrade from the iPhone 12 mini to the iPhone 13 mini – both have 60Hz OLED screens, so no notable display upgrade here. However, the iPhone 13 mini has a 20% smaller, narrower notch, which really makes a difference when it comes to the mini models. Plus, of course, the 2021 mini comes with a faster A15 Bionic processor, more base storage and a larger battery, so it will offer better battery life over its predecessor.

But what if you're using a Pro Max model from two generations behind? Yet again, we can help with our iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 11 Pro Max comparison. In this case there's plenty to be excited for, in terms of upgrades. Unlike the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has the new flat-edge design all Apple products have slowly morphed into as of late.

Aside from the more modern look, an upgrade to the iPhone 13 Pro Max will get you a larger, more fluid 120Hz OLED ProMotion display, the two generations newer A15 processor and better battery life performance. In addition, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has new camera features and 5G support, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max is only 4G.

If you're on the fence about upgrading from the older iPhone 11, you may find our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 11 comparison helpful. Upgrading from the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 13 you'll be getting the newer, flat-edge phone design with smaller bezels Apple has now moved on to.

The iPhone 13 also has a notably better OLED display with more vibrant colors and pitch blacks, as opposed to the iPhone 11's LCD display. Aside from also the usual processor and its dual camera quality upgrades.

Should you switch from an Android phone to the iPhone 13?

As we pointed out in our Google Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro comparison, the Pixel 6 Pro, or any Android phone compared to an iPhone is likely to feel quite different at first. Phone designs aside, Android is a more "open" operating system that lets the user almost fully customize it, download apps from third party sources other than Google's own Play Store, and more.

The 2021 iPhones run on iOS 15, which prides itself in being a highly secure and privacy-respecting operating system, but it provides much less customization options to iPhone users and they're only allowed to download pre-approved apps from Apple's App Store.

While this is restrictive, it can also be considered a solid security measure, as it is much more difficult for an iPhone user to accidentally download and run a malicious app. In addition, iOS allows iPhone users to out of tracking, thanks to the App Tracking Transparency feature that Apple introduced back on iOS 14.5.

In our Android vs iOS: The state of software support article we concluded that in most cases, you can expect many more years of software updates on an iPhone than on an Android phone. This means that depending on the company behind your Android phone, you might be getting only two years of updates in some cases, if not even less.

Apple, however, has a good track record of at least five years of software support, so if you're looking to buy a phone with the intent to keep it for a long time, the iPhone 13 is arguably the better choice.

In any case, we do have two additional comparisons you may find useful if looking to switch from Android to the iPhone 13 lineup – Google Pixel 6 vs Apple iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra.

iPhone 13 series overview

Announced on September 14 of 2021, the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are Apple's newest flagship smartphones, successors to the 2020 iPhone 12 series.

Below we'll take a look at all iPhone 13 models, including their specs, to see what makes each one stand out, and which might be the right model for you.

iPhone 13 overview

The iPhone 13 is the model that most people are likely to get – not too small and not too large. It comes with a 6.1-inch 60Hz display, which uses OLED technology like the other models.

iPhone 13 Pro overview

The iPhone 13 Pro has the same screen size as the iPhone 13, but comes with more built-in storage and notably, a display with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. It's an adaptive display, meaning it can intelligently change between a low refresh rate, which saves on battery, and its highest 120Hz refresh rate, which makes the motion of UI elements and content that support 120Hz (e.g. games) appear super smooth.

iPhone 13 Pro Max overview

As the name suggests, iPhone 13 Pro Max is the biggest and most expensive model in the iPhone 13 series. Unlike the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro with their 6.1-inch displays, the iPhone 13 Pro Max sports a 6.7-inch one. The display is also higher-resolution – 2778 by 1284 pixels and runs in adaptive 120Hz refresh rate.

In addition, the iPhone 13 Pro Max's maximum storage is higher than on any iPhone released to date – 1000 gigabytes (one terabyte). But with that in mind, the iPhone 13 Pro Max with the 1TB storage option is also the most expensive iPhone to date, starting at $1599.

iPhone 13 mini overview

The iPhone 13 mini is the most affordable and smallest phone in the bunch, but that doesn't mean its dual camera system or performance are any lesser than on the iPhone 13, in fact, the two are about equal in everything but size. The iPhone 13 mini is perfect for anyone looking for a small flagship phone, light and easy to carry.

One of the iPhone 13 mini's noteworthy downsides is the fact that due to its smaller size, its battery is smaller too, so it might not last you as long as the bigger models will. In addition, typing on its small 5.4-inch display is a more challenging experience than on larger phones that can display bigger on-screen keyboards.

iPhone 13 design

Key iPhone 13 design features:

  • Flat edges
  • Glass back and Ceramic Shield front
  • Aluminum frame
  • IP68 water resistance

Key iPhone 13 design changes from last year's models:

  • 20% smaller, more narrow notch
  • Slightly thicker design to accommodate larger batteries
  • Diagonal camera layout

The iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro / Max retain the same design language as their predecessors. They still have the familiar flat edges, aluminum frame and glass backs. The camera modules are a bit larger in size than last year's iPhones, and the sensors inside are now rearranged diagonally. The phones are also a bit thicker this year.

From the front – the signature notch is smaller than ever on the iPhone 13 series, significantly reduced from last year's iPhone 12 models. The smaller notch makes a particularly notable difference on the iPhone 13 mini as compared to last year's model, where the wider notch on its already narrow screen forced some display icons to feel cramped.

iPhone 13 Face ID and notch

The iPhone 13 series have a 20% smaller notch than last year's iPhones. This is especially welcome on the mini and a noticeable upgrade from last year's iPhone 12 mini, as its larger notch is taking arguably too much space on an already small 5.4-inch display.

Regardless of the smaller notch, all iPhone 13 models still pack the familiar Face ID technology inside of it. Face ID is used to recognize the user's face for securely unlocking the phone, and can do so even in complete darkness.

Although some rumors hinted at Touch ID making its return on the iPhone 13, in the form of an under-display fingerprint sensor, this is not the case. However, Touch ID might still return on the 2022 iPhone 14, likely as an alternative option to Face ID.

iPhone 13 colors

The iPhone 13 color options range from the familiar Product Red to new and exciting ones like Sierra Blue. However, it's worth noting that not all color options are available for every iPhone 13 model; some colors are only available to the iPhone 13 Pro models, for example.

For reference, we've listed all of the iPhone 13 models with their respective available color options below.

Of course, you don't have to stick with the default iPhone 13 colors. Check out our dedicated article on the best iPhone 13 cases you can get right now, which will not only to protect your brand new flagship phone, but give you new and unique color options to choose from. Note that your older iPhone 12 cases won't work with the iPhone 13, due to its larger camera module, larger camera bump and overall thickness increase.

iPhone 13 display

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max come with twice as smooth 120Hz displays over their predecessors. However, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini remain with 60Hz displays.

While the 120Hz ProMotion screen on the Pro models means you'll be able to enjoy a more fluid experience when using your iPhone, a display that refreshes twice as fast does have an impact on battery performance.

Thanks to their high peak brightness, which is 800 nits on the iPhone 13 and mini, 1000 nits on the iPhone 13 Pro models, they are all perfectly visible even in direct sunlight. And when viewing HDR content, their peak brightness jumps to 1200 nits.

All iPhone 13 models come with OLED displays, OLED being a display technology known for producing vivid colors and pitch blacks, unlike conventional LCD smartphone displays.

iPhone 13 performance and technical upgrades

Powered by the Apple A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone 13 is the Cupertino company's highest-performing smartphone yet. The A15 chip on all iPhone 13 models comes with a 6-core CPU, 2 high-performance cores, 4 high-efficiency cores, a 4-core GPU (5-core on the Pro models), and a 16-core Neural Engine. 

iPhone 13 5G connectivity

Like the iPhone 12 series, the iPhone 13 models have up to 20 5G bands and up to 32 LTE bands, which according to Apple is "more than any other smartphone", aiming to deliver the most extensive coverage around the world. The 5G support on the iPhone 13 is also a great feature to have for anyone who wants a futureproof smartphone that will be able to connect to cellular networks for many years to come.

iPhone 13 USB Type-C or Lightning port?

Unlike the iPad Pro and the 2020 iPad Air, the iPhone 13 lineup, including the iPhone 13 Pro Max continue to use Apple's proprietary Lightning port as opposed to USB Type-C for charging or wired file transfers.

The good news is that any previous iPhone accessories you may have, including Lightning earbuds, will continue working just fine on the new 2021 iPhone 13. Of course, with most other phones and with mobile tech in general having moved on to USB Type-C, this could be frustrating to iPhone users nonetheless, especially new ones coming from Android.

iPhone 13 MagSafe

The iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 mini are all Qi compatible, meaning they can be wirelessly charged with Qi wireless chargers. In addition, all iPhone 13 models support Apple's own MagSafe Charger at up to 15W speeds, and all support MagSafe accessories like the MagSafe Battery Pack.

The iPhone 13 models are also compatible with a number of other Apple MagSafe accessories, such as cases and magnetic wallets. The magnet array that holds MagSafe accessories onto the iPhone 13 is stronger than the magnets on last year's iPhone 12, so MagSafe attachments are now less likely to accidentally fall off the back of the phone.

iPhone 13 storage options

As we pointed out in our iPhone 12 review last year, 64GB of base storage just isn't enough these days. This year, however, Apple has finally bumped up the base storage option from 64GB to 128GB on all iPhones. In addition, the iPhone 13 Pro models are available with up to 1000GB (1TB) of non-expandable storage.

iPhone 13 camera

Notable iPhone 13 camera features:

  • Improved, faster Night Mode
  • Portrait Mode video recording
  • Cinematic Mode
  • Sensor-shift optical image stabilization on all models
  • 3x optical zoom (Pro models only), 2x optical zoom (iPhone 13 / mini)
  • 4K video recording at up to 60 FPS
  • Dolby Vision HDR recording
  • ProRes 4K 30 FPS video format recording (for Pro models with at least 256GB of storage only, on Pro models with 128GB of storage ProRes recording is limited to 1080p) 

The LiDAR sensor returns on the iPhone 13 Pro models. Although not a "camera" in the conventional sense, the LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensor is in the camera module of the phones. The LiDAR sensor is essentially a depth-perception system with sensor-shift optical image stabilization, which helps the phone capture better night-time photos and with stabilizing video recordings.

In addition, LiDAR is used for augmented reality experiences and is employed by apps that provide such. For example, the built-in iPhone Measure app uses LiDAR for better accuracy.

We also have a dedicated article on the iPhone 13 camera, where we cover everything you may want to know about it and its capabilities.

Notable iPhone 13 camera modes

Cinematic Mode is a new video recording feature that shoots in Dolby Vision HDR. It lets you shift your video's focus from foreground to background objects and persons, even after the video has been recorded, creating a stylish depth of field effect.

In addition, while shooting video, Cinematic Mode switch focus from foreground to background and vise-versa automatically. For example if a person in the foreground turns to look back, Cinematic Mode will transition its focus on the background, unblurring it.

Night Mode has been improved to capture low-light photos faster, and produce brighter results than before, thanks in part to the A15 Bionic chip's new image signal processor. In addition, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max telephoto camera improvements now also include Night Mode support, which was previously only reserved for the main camera.

Portrait Mode lets you take photos of people and other subjects with the background blurred, which, as the name suggests, puts a great focus on the subject of the photo. It also supports six lighting effects, for further tinkering, and you can enable or disable background blur if you wish to.

Macro photography comes to the iPhone, but only on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max models. Their ultra wide camera can focus on objects as close as 2 cm from the lens. Macro video recording is supported too.

Live Text is now available on many recent iPhones, but thanks to the iPhone 13 series' improved machine learning capabilities, it's now faster than ever. The Live Text camera feature allows users to translate any text that the camera sees, be it on labels, signs and so on, using machine learning, and it's completely on-device. This is worth noting, as most similar apps from third parties usually rely on cloud services, meaning what your camera sees needs to be sent to a company's server to be processed, before you can see any translation results.

iPhone 13 battery life

Thanks to the more energy-efficient Apple A15 Bionic chip and their bigger batteries, the new iPhone 13 series perform notably better in terms of battery life over their predecessors, according to Apple.

It's worth noting that the iPhone 13 can reach its maximum wireless charging speed only when using Apple's own MagSafe wireless charger. Slower speeds can be expected with Qi-compatible third party wireless charging docks and pads.

Learn more in our dedicated article about the iPhone 13 series battery capacity options. There we also answer the most common iPhone 13 battery life-related questions.

iPhone 13 speakers

The iPhone 13 series use a bottom-firing speaker, which works in combination with the earpiece. The two create a stereo sound effect; a wider, more spacious sound in general, than what a single down-firing speaker would've been capable of.

In addition, unlike the bottom-firing speaker, sounds from the earpiece is directed at the user, which adds to them experiencing a clearer sound with more defined highs.

We ranked the iPhone as one of the phones with the best speakers to get right now, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max having the biggest sound, as expected from the largest phone in the series. Of course, the much smaller iPhone 12 mini produces less impactful sound, slightly more tinny, but still well balanced and clean, with even a hint of bass.

The iPhone 13 doesn't have a headphone jack, as is to be expected, but it does support Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, if paired with compatible Bluetooth headphones like the AirPods Max or even just when using the phone's speakers.

We have a full article explaining Apple Music's Spatial Audio, in addition to a tutorial on how to listen to Spatial Audio tracks. But in short, Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos delivers a wider surround sound-like audio experience, so long as the user is playing songs specially mastered for this technology. Many such songs are currently available via the Apple Music app.

What's in the box?

  • iPhone 13
  • USB Type-C to Lightning cable
  • Apple sticker
  • Sim ejector tool
  • User manual

The iPhone 13 series come with a USB Type-C to Lightning cable for charging and wired data transfer. In the box is also the documentation for the phone, a white Apple sticker and of course, the iPhone itself.

There is no power adapter included in the box, just like with last year's iPhones and most Apple Watches since. Apple claims that not including a charger has reduced its carbon footprint and, as it makes the iPhone box smaller, more boxes can be shipped at once, thus reducing shipments overall.

According to Apple, users are likely to already have an old charger lying around that they can use with their new iPhone 13, and such reuse reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials, as no new chargers need to be made and shipped every year.

iPhone 13 timeline

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