Five more thoughts on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max
For the past three weeks, I have been switching between the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max to see if I can uncover more things about them that I didn’t in my review. Specifically, I wanted to find out what battery life is really like in more typical day-to-day use and if there’s anything to the cameras that I might have missed out on in my initial testing. And while I did discover some new things, the findings in my review still stand and I still think the new iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are fantastic phones. They may not have any ground-breaking new features but they are probably better than you may think.
1. Battery life is a lot better
This year’s phones are thicker and heavier in large part because they have larger batteries. Compared to their predecessors, the iPhone 13 Pro’s battery is 11% larger while the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s is a whopping 18.5% larger.
This translates to significant real-world improvements. The iPhone 13 Pro could comfortably last a 16-hour day with around four hours of screen time with 20-30% of battery remaining. The iPhone 13 Pro Max was even more impressive. For the same amount of screen time, I typically ended my day with 40-50% battery remaining.
You have to try really, really hard to try to kill the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s battery in a single day. As for the iPhone 13 Pro, the days when I feel that I might run out of batteries before the end of the day were those that I had to drive around a lot. I use wireless CarPlay and that puts a serious strain on the battery. If I didn’t, it would easily last me a full day.
2. The main wide camera is awesome in low-light
The Pro iPhones’ main wide camera received substantial upgrades this year. Not only is the sensor larger, but it also has a faster f/1.5 lens. In my review, I noted it delivered much brighter and sharper images and this remains true. However, it is only after shooting with these two phones extensively for the past few weeks that I come to truly appreciate just how much better it is. It also doesn’t have to rely on its Night Mode as often – as excellent as Night Mode may be. The combination of the larger sensor, faster lens, and sensor-shift image stabilisation technology means it’s a whole lot easier to take a good-looking photo even when the lighting isn’t ideal.
3. Stop switching my cameras
In my review, I wrote that it’s frustrating that Apple continues to automatically switch cameras for you. This seems to happen with greater frequency this year with the telephoto camera. I prefer to shoot tight and so I often shoot with the telephoto camera. However, I noticed that whenever I’m taking photos of things closer to me, the phone would often resort to the main wide camera and apply a 3x digital zoom. To be clear, this happens with previous iPhones too but the results weren’t so obvious because it was applying a lesser degree of digital zoom. At 3x, the degree of quality degradation is more evident.
The same happens when you try to get close to your subject. The phone seems a bit too eager to show off its new macro mode and switches to its ultra wide camera even when I haven’t surpassed the main wide camera’s minimum focusing distance. Again, when it does so, the drop off in image quality is immediately noticeable. Fortunately, Apple has said that a new setting will be added in a software update later this year that turns off automatic camera switching so users can have more control when taking close-ups and macro shots. I hope they do the same with the telephoto camera.
4. I don’t notice the smaller notch
There’s no update to the front-facing True Depth camera except that Apple has been able to make it smaller. Consequently, the signature notch that has come to define modern iPhones is now 20% smaller. 20% sounds like a lot but unless the notch was something that really bothered you, it's quite hard to tell that it's actually even smaller. I suspect a large part of this is because Apple hasn’t done anything to the space it freed up. The extra space doesn't allow these new phones to show anything more. I’d rather they improve the front-facing camera and kept the notch the same size.
5. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is heavy
If you mostly hold your phone in one hand, chances are, it’s resting on your little finger. Because of the larger batteries, this year’s phones are a little heavier. The differences are not much on paper but I found the iPhone 13 Pro Max to be too heavy to use for any extended periods of time (say anything above 15 minutes). Is this something you can get used to? Probably, given it’s supposed to be only 12g or 5% heavier. I’m sure you could train your little finger to be stronger. But, the extra weight also manifests itself in other ways. For example, when I place it on my windscreen-mounted phone holder in the car, I noticed it sways around a lot more. Still, I guess it’s a fair price to pay for its incredible battery life.
Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.