The certainty and uncertainty abounding Apple’s September launches are constant. Nearly everyone knows that the new phone would look and feel like the older one — as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — still, there’s always the expectation that Apple might throw a surprise with a feature or two. This year’s Apple iPhone 13 launch has been no different. Apple was consistent with its design and presentation style, promising 20 per cent more something and 30 per cent higher another thing. Consumers demand a new model every year, and if a company were innovative every year, it would also be forever out of the market.
A common feature of Apple’s announcements is that the new iPhone is the fastest, newest and “more adjectives” ever. While that is indeed true, one of the things that can be surely attested to is that the new iPhone 13 is certainly the prettiest ever. While it looks much like the Apple iPhone 12, the colour selection this year is much better. Pink, the model we tested for this review, is a statement. It’s a shame that you need to put a cover to protect it from breaking and shattering, but the phone is undoubtedly a delight to look at. The camera placement — vertical instead of horizontal — lends a better look to the phone. The bump is much more significant than last year and much more prominent. The key placement is lower than last year, with the volume keys and the wake-up button both placed lower to allow ease of operation. The wake-up button is placed perfectly; the volume keys could have been a bit lower, though. There are slight bezels on the front screen, and the front camera and sensor still take too much space.
Screen and sound
This is where iPhones never disappoint. The iPhone 13 continues the tradition of having an excellent display. The colours are vivid, and the blacks are sharp. There was barely any reflection off the screen at high brightness which makes watching videos a delight. The bezel on the front camera is vexing to look at, but you adjust to it over time. The low light or night mode does not dim the lights too much, which I believe has been a problem across all phone categories. The night mode, to an extent, helps correct this, but the brightness is still high, even at the lowest setting for night operation. An excellent screen needs to be accompanied by a good speaker system. The iPhone speakers are loud but not shrill. They are perfect for video calling and listening to music as well. The bass is good, but the mid-tones are perfect, and there is no shrillness for high notes. The depth is good. I played a few instrumentals; the performance was brilliant. But where the phone loses out is the refresh rate. The 60hz refresh rate does not do justice to the screen. If not 120hz (reserved for the pro model), Apple could have gone to 90hz; that would have made the difference.
The A15 does offer better performance and leaves the iPhone 12 behind. Gameplay is good without any throttle, and the iPhone 13 can manage opening many tabs. But the problem I faced was heating. Although there were no performance issues related to heating, the heating of the phone itself was an issue. Twenty minutes of PUBG and the phone was hot. Similarly, using GPS made the phone heat up within 30 minutes of operation.
I titled Apple iPhone 13 as more than just another iteration because of improvements to the battery life which Apple has delivered with the new phone. Given that iPhones do not last more than a day, the new iPhone 13 is a pleasant surprise. With an 8-9-hour screen time, the phone runs more than a day easily. Lighter use would push it to a day and a half. Charging takes three to three-and-a-half hours. If the USB-C type is faster, Apple needs to transition its phones to it. The lightning cable seems out of place and time.
This is “the” iPhone feature. There are few competitors that can give Apple a run for the money in this department. The camera feature is much more improved from last year. The new ‘modes’ feature, which lets the user decide among standard, cool, warm and vibrant contrast is really helpful. The image stabilisation works very well, and so do sharpness and low-light features. Even the 4K videos at 60 fps do not disappoint. The only problem I found was that the front camera could have been sharper, and there was too much smoothening for my liking. That’s not something you expect after an excellent back-camera performance. The Face ID works well, even in lowlight conditions, but wearing a mask makes it a problem and limits options to access the phone.
The base version of the iPhone with 128GB RAM starts at Rs 79,900. With Apple, you are paying for the phone and being part of the ecosystem. Is it worth it? The ecosystem, most certainly so. But at that price point, I would really want to avoid heating issues and require a 120hz display. Those are the compromises you need to make to own the new Apple device, unless you can shell out Rs 40,000 more for the pro version. The absence of a Touch ID is also a problem. Face ID works perfectly, but that fact that everyone is in a mask these days makes the phone difficult to access. Apple could have included a Touch ID in the wake-up button, as it did for one of the iPads.
Who is it for?
If you just purchased Apple 12, I would ask you to wait. iPhone 11 users can also wait for another iteration and that 120hz display if it ever comes in. If you are holding an iPhone 7 or lower and badly need a switch, I guess this is time. Others can trudge along a little longer. For anyone wanting superior camera quality, iPhone offers just that with an excellent UI experience focused on privacy and maintaining different lifestyles. Gamers should look for the pro version instead.