If you always buy the best of the best, no matter the price, you won’t be considering any iPhone model below the new iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Of course just like with any new generation, you get better power and general refinements, but the main selling points of the new iPhone 13 Pro models are their camera capabilities, which Apple characterises as the biggest leap ever. In fact, Apple seems to be targeting amateur as well as professional video creators which could open up a whole new market for ultra-premium smartphones.
Speaking of premium, let’s talk about pricing. The iPhone 13 Pro starts at Rs. 1,19,900 with 128GB of storage, going up to Rs. 1,29,900 for 256GB, Rs. 1,49,900 for 512GB, and Rs. 1,69,900 for the new 1TB tier. The larger iPhone 13 Pro Max costs Rs. 10,000 more for the same four storage variants, which comes to Rs. 1,29,900 for 128GB, Rs. 1,39,900 for 256GB, Rs. 1,59,900 for 512GB and a whopping Rs. 1,79,900 for 1TB.
This is the first time that Apple has offered an iPhone with 1TB of space, and it’s surprising that there are four storage options for the same phones at the same time. That’s a huge spread, with the top-end versions of each model offering 8X as much space as the base versions. There is one slightly odd restriction with 128GB units – you can only record ProRes video at 1080p 30fps, while the three higher storage tiers let you record 4K 30fps. This might be due to lower write bandwidth or just because Apple doesn’t want you to run out of space too quickly – benchmarks might reveal more once these phones are out in the wild.
You also have four colour choices – Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Sierra Blue, the new signature colour for this generation. Apple’s launch event and promotional pictures make Sierra Blue look light and bright, which would have been surprising. In the real world, it looks more like a blue-grey and is actually very subtle and slick. Apple says it developed a new “nanometre-scale” ceramic deposition process to create the Sierra Blue finish.
The rear glass on both the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max has a frosted look and a matte texture. Both phones are thankfully non-slippery, though the flat sides and pronounced edges make the larger iPhone 13 Pro Max a bit hard to grip. The bands going around sides of both phones are made of surgical-grade stainless steel – these are quite shiny and prone to picking up fingerprints.
Unlike the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini which have a new rear camera module design, there’s virtually nothing that sets the two high-end models apart from their iPhone 12-series predecessors unless you choose to buy one in Sierra Blue. Once you pick either of these phones up, you might notice that the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are slightly thicker and heavier than their predecessors.
This year, there are no differences between the capabilities of the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max; screen size and battery capacity are the only things that set them apart. Last year, if you wanted Apple’s best camera implementation with sensor-shift stabilisation, you had no choice but to pay up for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but this time the choice between the two really comes down to personal preference.
You don’t get anything in the box other than the phone itself, a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, a SIM eject pin, and an Apple sticker – plain white, not colour-coordinated like the ones you get with the new iMac.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is definitely heavy, at 238g. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a bulky phone and feels awkward stuffed into a trouser pocket. The iPhone 13 Pro is more practical, though also a bit heavier than average at 203g. Both models are IP68 water and dust resistant, and also use Apple’s Ceramic Shield material on the front which is said to be more resilient than standard glass.
Apple has changed the notch shape for the first time since introducing it on the iPhone X. It’s now narrower, but also deeper. It’s definitely still noticeable, but whether it’s better or worse than before will become apparent after using these phones for a while. The 120Hz ProMotion display is a long overdue feature, and it really does make the UI feel more responsive, compared to even an iPhone 13. There’s no always-on display feature, which had been rumoured prior to the launch.
On the inside, we have Apple’s new A15 Bionic SoC, which has two powerful CPU cores and four more efficiency cores, plus an integrated five-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine. Apple says it has beefed up the image signal processor. Apple doesn’t disclose RAM capacities or battery sizes, but says you can get up to two and a half hours better battery life with the iPhone 13 Pro Max compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max (Review), and that’s one and a half hours better for the iPhone 13 Pro versus the iPhone 12 Pro (Review).
The camera hardware has also been completely overhauled, and both phones have exactly the same capabilities. The wide camera now has an f/1.5 aperture, the ultra-wide one has an f/1.8 aperture plus the ability to take macros, and the telephoto camera has a surprising f/2.8 aperture plus 3X optical zoom, up from 2.5X. All three cameras have 12-megapixel resolutions. ProRAW stills and ProRes video recording are exclusive feature of the Pro iPhones.
Two big features that all iPhone 13 models share are Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles. Cinematic video uses AI models to detect which subjects in your frame need to be in focus. If someone in the foreground looks away, or someone in the background starts speaking, the focus will adjust automatically. Apple says it can even anticipate when someone new is about to enter a frame. This could be used to take some of the effort out of filmmaking, especially if you’re a hobbyist video creator. It even works with the front camera, and you should also be able to manually change focus points in video after it’s recorded.
Photographic styles let you customise how your iPhone processes colour and tone, giving you control over decisions that are usually set by camera manufacturers. If you enjoy tweaking photos in RAW processing tools, you’ll like the ability to create essentially your own colour profile.
Battery life, gaming performance, camera quality, and the general everyday usage experience will take some time to evaluate, and we’ll have a full review of the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max for you very soon.