iPhone 13: Are we in for a disappointment?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iPhone 13: Are we in for a disappointment?
The iPhone 12 was one of the biggest launches ever in iPhone history with record sales, but can Apple repeat the success with the iPhone 13 family in 2021?

It’s way too early to know: Apple is expected to launch four iPhone 13 series phones in September, nearly four months from now, and there haven’t been any major leaks yet, but what has surfaced as early information is not particularly exciting. And yes, smartphone innovation has slowed down across the board, but the supposed lack of new features on the iPhone 13 seems to go beyond the usual slow pace.

So… let me ask you right here to pause for a moment and think about the 3 or 4 major features you wish to see improved in the iPhone 13. Think for a moment and… let me guess! I would say that camera, battery life, USB-C, and faster charging would be among them. Am I right?

Camera upgrades: don’t hold your breath

Let’s start with the camera. The one major camera feature that Android phones have and iPhones don’t, a long-range zoom periscope camera is not expected to make its way onto the iPhone 13 series. In fact, we have very little evidence of something substantial changing on the camera front at all, as Apple is said to retain a triple-camera system on the Pro iPhones and a dual-camera on the non-Pro models. If that's indeed true, it means that non-Pro iPhones will remain behind the curve in zoom photo quality, an area where Android phones are leaps and bounds ahead.

In fact, the only new camera feature that we have heard about is portrait video where much like in portrait photos, the background behind the person you are filming is blurred leaving them in sharp focus. This feature has been available on most Android phones in the past couple of years, so I guess we can say “finally, Apple!” And as cool as this feature is, it will be hard to convince someone to upgrade just based on this. 

Performance upgrades: faster than fast enough… again?

A newer and faster processor is surely expected, but the A14 in the current iPhones is already leading the industry in speeds and it’s getting increasingly hard to actually see the benefits of those faster processors in a… well, phone.

Apple also increased the amount of on-board memory in the iPhone 12 series, so currently the non-Pro models have 4GB of RAM, while the Pro models have 6GB of RAM, but what this also means is that we don’t expect to see any further bumps in RAM in the iPhone 13 family.

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Yes, the big feature everyone is talking about is 120Hz refresh rates on the Pro model iPhones, and this is indeed something that will make a real difference. Keep in mind, though, that this feature is not expect to come to the regular iPhone 13 that will make the majority of sales.

Better battery life? Faster charging?

Battery life is one of the top wishes of those iPhone users that don't own a Pro Max model, so any improvement in this area would be welcome. Indeed, a marginally bigger battery is rumored to arrive in the 2021 iPhone family, but so far rumors suggest the increase will be indeed marginal rather than profound.

However, if this marginally bigger battery is combined with a significantly more power efficient chip, this might be one of the bigger selling point of an iPhone 13. Still, we have our doubts that will happen as Apple has always been after a balance of design, looks and battery life, rather than maximizing the latter. 

At the same time everyone seems to agree we are not getting the two most demanded battery-related features: USB-C and fast charging rates At this point, it seems that iPhones are the only Apple device that cost more than $500 and don't use USB type C, instead relying on the proprietary Lightning connector that just makes life harder for owners of multiple gadgets and requires you to keep a few extra cables around. There is no objective reason we can think of why Apple insists on using that Lightning connector really.

As for fast charging, Apple currently ranks dead last: the company does not ship a charger in the box, and the fastest charger it makes (Apple’s 20W charger) takes more than an hour and a half to top up the battery of an iPhone 12 device. That is in stark contrast to other phone makers that offer a charger in the box and a full charge in as fast as half an hour (OnePlus) or as slow as 1 hour (Samsung).

All of those are weaknesses that we don’t think Apple will address with the iPhone 13 series, and at this point it’s hard to find any major feature that would be a major upgrade over the current iPhone 12.

Does that mean iPhone 13 won’t sell well?

With all of this, you might be wondering: does that mean iPhone 13 won’t sell well?

Not necessarily. Even a marginally better iPhone 13 would probably be convincing enough for people upgrading from a 2- or 3-year old device.

At the end of the day, we have little doubt that the well-oiled Apple machine will still produce good sales figures once iPhone 13 release date comes in September. iOS remains a joy to use, Apple still delivers software updates for far longer than Android phones, and the Apple device ecosystem has only gotten stronger with AirTags recently, but also AirPods, the Apple Watch and the tight integration with iPads and Macbooks.

However, if this is all Apple has up its sleeve for the iPhone 13… there’s definitely not all that much to be excited about this year for the true phone aficionados.

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