iPhone 13 review: yep, bigger batteries are better

What do you really want from a new phone?
If you have a solid foundation, the list of things that really make a difference when upgrading your phone is quite short. First, battery life is the most important thing. A better camera is the second.

These are the two features that will make a huge difference in your smartphone's day-to-day experience (assuming that the basics don't stink). These are the exact things Apple attempted to improve in the iPhone 13/13 Mini.

These two enhancements are on top of major changes Apple made last year to the iPhone 12. The update for the iPhone 12 is already iterative. The full list of features on the iPhone 13 that are better than older iPhones is almost impossible to include.

The iPhone 12 introduced new technology and a fancy new design (and a Mini-sized version). Although the iPhone 13's camera and battery updates aren't as flashy, they are more important.

Review of Apple iPhone 13 Verge score 9 out of 10 Excellent Stuff

Battery life is much better

All the advances of the last years

Base storage increased Bad Stuff Selfie camera sensor unaltered

Standard refresh rate on display

Apple iPhone 12 cases will not fit Buy for $829.00 at Apple Buy for $799.99 at Best Buy

After further battery testing, we will update this review with a complete score and scorecard for iPhone 13 Mini. However, you can see the initial impressions below.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini specs and design

It is difficult to distinguish the iPhone 13 from its predecessors unless you really look closely. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini brought a new, flat-edged design to the iPhone. I believe this is a significant improvement over what was before. The iPhone 12 Mini was, undoubtedly, the first smartphone to offer a truly exceptional experience in a smartphone that has a smaller form factor.

OLED screens were also introduced. OLED screens offer superior performance in many ways to LCDs, including brightness, contrast, and power efficiency. They also added 5G. They also added MagSafe charging systems.

It is worth reviewing all the major changes as people hold onto their smartphones longer, especially iPhones. The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are both worthy of credit, as many people who will buy them will not have used the iPhone 12.

The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini retain the same design as last year, which is beautiful and modern.

However, there are some modifications to this design. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini are just a little thicker overall, with larger camera bumps. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini cases will not fit the newer models. Camera bumps are now thicker and lenses have been rearranged in order to accommodate the huge new sensor found in the main wide-angle camera.

Last but not least, the notch housing FaceID has been reduced by 20% and the selfie camera by 20% respectively. It has been reduced only on the horizontal axis so the additional screen you get is not significant (and Apple doesn't use it to display more information, such as battery percentage).

The iPhone 13 features the A15 Bionic processor. It is difficult to see significant speed increases in iPhones. However, this is because iPhones feel faster for longer periods of time. Although the Pro models have one more GPU core than regular models, I have not noticed any difference.

The only difference this year is that the base storage of the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini has been increased from 128GB to 128GB. I am truly impressed by Apple's ability to increase base storage proactively. It has always done this too late.

The iPhone 12's best design change is the addition of a pink color option. It is my favorite of all the colors on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro lines.

iPhone 13 battery

The battery life of the last year's iPhone 12 was not as good as I expected. The battery life of the last year's iPhone 12 Mini was not what I expected: it was very poor. Apple did the obvious: It made the batteries larger for the iPhone 13.

Apple's battery claims for this year are mainly driven by larger batteries (9.5 percent on iPhone 13 Mini and 15.1%) The iPhone 13 will last two-and-a half hours more than the iPhone 12, while the Mini will last one-and a half hours.

The iPhone 12 is useless if it doesn't have an iPhone 12. The battery life of the iPhone 13 is exceptional, so it doesn't need to be compared.

The battery life of the iPhone 13 regular is great

The iPhone 13 regular made it through testing from 7am to midnight, before it got tired. This was while I did some camera testing, watched some video, and checked emails. That was quite impressive considering the intense work required for five hours of screentime. The battery warning didn't appear until the next morning on a day of lighter usage. The iPhone 13's battery isn't magical. After a day of 4K video testing, I looked for a charger between 7 and 8.

The iPhone 13 Mini is something I am still unsure about. The Verge doesn't do video rundowns. Instead, we prefer to base our findings on real-world use. There is only so many phones that I can use in the real world at one time. Over the next few weeks, I will conduct a longer-term battery test of the iPhone 13 Mini. I will then publish a complete rundown and update this review.

But I have an initial impression of the iPhone 13 Minis' battery life. Although Apple's claim that the iPhone 13 Mini will last for one and a half hours longer seems reasonable, that is not a great endorsement. The iPhone 12 Mini was a great phone. I have used it a lot in the past year. I found that if you use the iPhone 12 Mini like a large smartphone, the battery will be drained by the afternoon, or even lunch.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 Minis are small and lightweight, and can be used for as little as a few hours. The Mini's smaller battery wont be sufficient if you use your phone every day.

The Mini's improvements do not make up for the fundamental physics of smaller batteries. The basic physics behind the iPhone 13 regular is that a large battery equals good battery life.

iPhone 13 cameras

The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini both have the same camera system, a regular wide-angle and ultrawide camera. Both cameras have been upgraded but the main improvement is the wide angle.

The improvement of the wide-angle camera sensor can be done in the same way as the battery: Make it larger. A larger camera sensor can take in more light faster and produce better results. Apple had just such a sensor: it was the one from last year's iPhone 12 Pro Max.

This is because the 12 Pro Max was the first iPhone to have a larger sensor than the rest. It's also the default for this year. From the moment it was released, the 12 Pro Max has been the most popular smartphone camera for both video and photos.

I'm happy to report that both the iPhone 13 Mini and 13 Mini have similar or better results. Details are crisp and clear, colors are vibrant without being too saturated, focus is quick and reliable, portrait mode works well enough for day-to-day use, and both low light and night vision are exceptional.

The video quality is excellent. Sensor stabilization is a feature of the main camera that helps you when you're moving around. It handles all modes, including slow mo and 4K, very well.

The only way to be unhappy about this camera is to compare it with the iPhone 13 Pro. Even then, I believe you would need to do it on large screens with low-light images.

Although the ultrawide sensor has been updated to provide better low-light performance it is still quite minor. I notice a better white balance and color in night mode. This is something that I have noticed all over the place. Colors are more real-looking in low light than they were last year.

I would like to see the sensor for the selfie camera updated. There are some software updates just like other cameras, and it is inside a smaller hole now. But the selfie camera is too crucial for Apple to leave the same thing for so many years.

Apple also introduces two new camera modes to the iPhone 13: Cinematic Mode and Photographic Profiles. You can find the complete details of both these features in my iPhone 13 Pro review. However, I will briefly explain each feature here.

The new feature of the camera is the Photographic Profiles. They allow you to change the default look for the pictures you take. Instead of editing after the fact, you can adjust the tone and contrast of all your pictures.

Samsung phones can take vivid photos, while Google Pixel phones produce photos that are brighter and more vibrant. Apple has made Profiles a way for people to express their preferences and offer an option to have them created automatically. Each one can be customized to suit your personal tastes.

Grid View

Profiles don't apply tones and warmth settings to the entire picture, unlike filters. The iPhone detects when there is grass, faces, or sky so it adjusts the way it applies color preferences to ensure you don't get strange-looking skin tones or purple skies.

Profile photos can't be edited or removed after the fact. RAW can't be used in conjunction with profiles. Sometimes it is helpful to think of them like presets. I do plan to use them occasionally. Apple claims the Profiles experience is possible only with the A15 Bionic, but I believe it should be possible to access this feature on older iPhones.

Cinematic Mode, a new feature, is basically the equivalent to Portrait Mode but for video. It locks onto a face and blurs all other parts of the scene just as if you were using large aperture lenses. It then attempts to adjust the focus to its liking, shifting to the background if the face in front turns away. You can either manually adjust the focus while you are shooting the video or afterward in the edit, but only within Apple's apps like Photos and Final Cut.

Cinematic Mode's results are not as impressive as Apple's commercials would have us believe. It doesn't work well in low lighting and has the same issues you might remember from early Portrait Mode photos: strange cutouts around glasses and hair. It only works at 30fps in 1080p.

Grid View

Cinematic Mode may not live up to the hype, but it shouldn't be a deterrent. The iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 Pro have excellent camera systems. They would be among the top phones in the world if there weren't the iPhone 13 Pro.

It's easy to just look at the iPhone 13 or 13 Mini and forget about the new updates. Every company claims good battery life and cameras get better every year. The iPhone 13 is a more iterative model than the iPhone 12S, and this is despite the huge changes that were made to it last year.

While I don't deny that reading is wrong, I think it misses its point. While fancy new features can be fun, the basics of battery life and camera quality are far more important. The fundamentals are what will make your game better. The iPhone 13 is a great phone.