iPhone 13 Pro: Apple makes the iPhone "Pro" again (Sorry, iPhone 12 Pro)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iPhone 13 Pro: Apple makes the iPhone "Pro" again (Sorry, iPhone 12 Pro)
You might be surprised, but despite being the highest-valued company in the world, Apple is no stranger to experiments. In fact, some might say that's why Apple is the world's highest-valued company in the first place.

There are plenty of good examples for Apple's "courage" paying off:

  • The removal of the headphone jack that initially looked ridiculous, but later made total sense with the introduction of the AirPods. They are now the most popular pair of earbuds on the planet! Huge win for Cupertino.

  • Gesture navigation on the iPhone X. Again, there was a "getting used to it" period here. Still, eventually, everyone, including manufacturers and consumers, realized that this is how a smartphone was always meant to be used. Game-changer!

  • Face ID - although I find Face ID extremely frustrating, there's no denying that when it works as intended, it does feel like magic - you don't even know when the iPhone unlocked itself. Apple loves this seamless user experience. Magical!

  • The $1000 iPhone X. Just like the headphone jack removal, this was met with lots of frustration, sarcasm, and anecdotes. Ellen took on national TV to say that "X" stands for "Xpensive". However, soon people got down with paying not only $1000 for an iPhone but even more. Apple wins again.

However, there were lots of times when Apple didn't necessarily nail it:

  • Batterygate - planned obsolescence. Apple was caught slowing down older iPhones in order to prevent them from shutting down under higher loads. Messed up big time.

  • Bendgate - this one's unforgettable because it's literally documented in numerous YouTube videos. Although it's expected that Apple will release an iPhone that folds in the next few years, the iPhone 6 will always be known as "the first foldable iPhone".

  • Antennagate - the iPhone 4 would lose signal and drop calls when held in a way that covered its antennas. Apple was very reluctant to acknowledge there's a problem in the first place. In an attempt to put down the fire, Steve Jobs famously stated:

However, that's exactly when fire met gasoline for Apple. The internet exploded with "You're holding it wrong" memes, which turned into a cultural phenomenon. Eventually, Apple agreed to give a free bumper case to everyone who bought an iPhone 4 or refunded $15 to those who didn't want one.

iPhone 12 Pro: Apple's neglected middle child

Now, just to make it clear, we won't be talking about Flaregate - this was already discussed in another recent article. It's another more obvious issue with the iPhone 12 series. Actually, for some, it won't be an issue at all, but it is a failed experiment in our book.

It all boils down to the differences between the iPhone 12 models:

These are all the differences between the four iPhone 12 models at a glance, or as some might say - on paper. The thing is - the user experience doesn’t happen “on paper”, especially with Apple devices. As you can see, the most obvious difference between the standard iPhone 12 models and the Pro models, as far as the average consumer is concerned, will be in the camera department and aesthetics.

That’s literally what strikes you when you hold every iPhone 12 model in your hand - the standard models are “jolly”, with bright colors, glossy, lighter, and have one less camera and drop the LiDAR scanner.

However, once you start looking more into it, the only real-world difference between the iPhone 12 Mini, 12, and 12 Pro is the 2x telephoto camera, assuming you’ll put a case on your phone and don’t care how it looks anyway. A 2x zoom? Really? That’s not even half of what most Android flagships can do nowadays. A 2x magnification is good for one thing - portraits. But that’s about it. It’s not actually meant to let you “zoom” that far.

That’s where the iPhone 12 Pro Max comes in. It has a 2.5x telephoto camera with sensor-shift stabilization, a much larger main sensor, and a bigger battery. However, why aren’t all of those features in the iPhone 12 Pro? Lack of space? It doesn’t seem like it - the iPhone 13 Pro is rumored to feature sensor-shift stabilization. In fact, all iPhone 13 models are expected to get it.

All of this makes the iPhone 12 Pro a very hard recommendation over the iPhone 12. It simply doesn’t live up to its “Pro” name, despite having a price tag to match. Even the battery is the same size as the regular 12, while the Pro itself is heavier.

Now, don’t get me wrong - the iPhone 12 Pro is a success when it comes to sales. It doesn’t sell as well as the iPhone 12, but it’s certainly not a business failure for Apple.

Best-selling iPhones in Q1 2021, according to estimates by Counterpoint:

  1. iPhone 12 — 17.7 million
  2. iPhone 12 Pro Max — 14.2 million
  3. iPhone 12 Pro — 10.6 million
  4. iPhone 11 — 7.1 million

Make no mistake - a company like Apple will always want to sell you the more, or ideally most expensive product available. In fact, many would say that’s why phones like the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 exist - just so their respective makers can upsell their more expensive “Pro” and “Ultra” phones.

Also, if you put the numbers in perspective (and remember - they are estimates, after all), instead of the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro Max, the nearest iPhone 12 Pro competitor becomes the iPhone 11 (by a small margin), which is a last-gen device that costs much less now. This means, that many people who would have opted for a 12 Pro, actually decided to go for the iPhone 11.

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max: Different cameras - different phones

As you might have heard, Apple is ramping up production for the iPhone 13 series, as the company expects record-breaking sales. It’s not a marginal increase either. From 75 million iPhone 12 series units to 90-100 million iPhone 13 units.

So, let’s see what new features are expected on the iPhone 13 series and put things in perspective to see how Apple plans to differentiate the standard iPhone 13 models from the iPhone 13 Pro models. Spoiler: The tactics are changing.

As you might know, there’s one dominant area of flagship smartphones that sees minor/major upgrades absolutely every year - the earpiece. No, of course, it’s not the earpiece. It’s the camera system…

Out of the gate, you can see how the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are going to become pretty much the same device (of course, the Max will be bigger, with a larger battery). At the same time, the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are expected to remain much more conservative in the camera department, compared to the “iPhone 12 vs. 12 Pro series” case.

iPhone 13 series camera system upgrades:

iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max: A higher-rate refresh - Apple's masterplan will work 

But! That’s not all. While the camera system is the biggest flex and marketing driver for Apple (and pretty much any other smartphone-maker), this time it won't be enough to sell you a “Pro” iPhone, and Apple knows that.

So, what’s the best way to solve this issue and differentiate two sets of phones?

It’s not a surprise that smartphone displays are arguably the most important part of the smartphone. It’s what you see and use every day. A brilliant camera is good to have, but how often do you use your zoom or ultra-wide-angle camera? Not nearly as often as you see your phone’s screen. That’s why it’s the perfect time for Apple to enter the high-refresh-rate race. Welcome, Apple. Of course, they are a couple of years late as usual, but that’s OK. iPhone users are used to it.

The iPhone 13 Pro & iPhone 13 Pro Max are expected to adopt a ProMotion variable refresh-rate screen at 120Hz, and boy, are people going to lose their minds over ii! Without being sarcastic at all, I believe Apple users are going to have their minds blown when they experience a 120Hz iPhone at an Apple store for the first time.

It’s smoother; it makes animations feel faster; it makes the phone feel faster - it just makes it feel… Pro. It’s the ultimate iPhone 13 Pro & 13 Pro Max selling point, on top of the better camera system and increased battery sizes.

In the end…

Well, it seems like this year, we are definitely getting a better balance between the standard iPhone 13 models and the iPhone 13 Pro ones. Of course, that’s great news for the people who can spend more and want to spend more for a “Pro” iPhone, but not great for those who want to buy an iPhone 13.

Then again, if you want to pay less for an iPhone 13 Pro, you might want to wait for next year's iPhone 14. It's an Apple tradition to bring old "Pro" features to new vanilla models every year.

Ultimately, it’s not even certain if Apple's going to maintain this strategy for the iPhone 14 series, 15 series, etc. We’ve seen it before - the iPhone 6 Plus was basically the same phone as the iPhone 6, but then the iPhone 7 Plus & iPhone 8 Plus came with some additional (mainly camera) improvements over the smaller versions.

Then, the iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 Pro Max went with the old tactics by simply being bigger, with bigger batteries than the standard models. And then, the iPhone 12 Pro Max was clearly better than any other iPhone 12 model, including the 12 Pro. So, yes - pretty confusing.

Now, Apple seems to be trying to find a middle ground. Selling smartphones is no joke, folks. Ask LG (or Sony). But if there’s one company that knows how to sell flagships, this is Apple...

Looking for great iPhone 12 Pro deals? Well, Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year outside of Christmas, so go ahead and save our Best iPhone 12 Pro Black Friday deals page ahead of time.
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