iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max Review: Better Camera, Battery Life

My relationship with my cell phone carrier was a major factor in my iPhone S year upgrader status for much of my smartphone-owning life. My first iPhone was a 3GS that I bought for peanuts as part of my Cingular contract. (Yes, Cingular.) I was eligible to upgrade to an S-model iPhone every two years. I would then renew my cell contract, pay $200 and walk away with an S-model iPhone.
The times have changed. It is now much easier to get rid of a contract and purchase an unlocked phone (or in Apple's case via the iPhone Upgrade Program). Smartphones have improved in quality and durability, with longer battery life, better water resistance, stronger glass and greater resilience to drops. It is no longer necessary to upgrade every two years. Apple has dropped the S branding, which was used to identify phones that weren't receiving a major redesign. However, the iPhone 13 is still considered an S iPhone. Why upgrade to an iPhone that is identical to the last year's model?


Most people don't get a new phone every single year. However, many people do upgrade to their phones each year. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are all trying to convince you to buy an iPhone 13. Although it seems obvious, I will say it. If you already have an iPhone 12, then you don't really need a 13. If you are looking for one, and can find one at a great price, or even free, it is worth upgrading just for the increased battery life. The iPhone 13 is a more significant upgrade for older iPhones, such as the 11, XS or X or 8; it's even more so if the iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max is purchased.

Smartphones Apple iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max Apple iPhone iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro Max What's it? Apple's flagship iPhones Price: iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max $999, iPhone 13 Pro Max $1,099 What is it?

Fun but Frustrating Camera Upgrades

Every year, the iPhone's camera gets better. All 13 iPhone models have improved lenses that can take better photos in low-light conditions. The new four iPhones also offer a cinematic video mode, which is similar to a portrait mode for videos. The 13 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max are more expensive than the 13 Mini and 13 Mini, but they have a trio lenses that include a telephoto lens. The new macrophotography feature allows you to capture amazing detail from close range.

The 13 Pro and Pro Max both have the same camera module, unlike last year. This means that you don't have to spend more for better photos. The Pro Max and Pro Max both have 12-megapixel standard lenses and ultra-wide lenses that are larger than the previous year. Additionally, the new 12-MP Telephoto lens has a 77mm focal distance. Although camera upgrades are often hidden under the hood, you can see how much larger the lenses are compared to the 12 Pro/Max. Apple claims that the standard lens (/1.5.) captures 2.2x more light than the iPhone 12 Pro, and 49% more light than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The 12-MP ultra-wide angle lens (/1.8.) is also available. The new autofocus sensor is 92% brighter than the last year models and captures 92% more light. Below are some photos of the 13 Pro Max and Pro Max.


The Pro Max 13 Pro and Pro Max 13 Pro have macrophotography modes that allow you to capture details closer up. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo iPhone 13 Pro night mode in an extremely dark restaurant booth. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo iPhone 13 Pro main lens, no effects. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo 1 / 3

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max take better low-light photos than the iPhone 12 Pro, Pro Max, and, more importantly, night shots are better than older iPhones. It is important to remember that an iPhone 11 can still be purchased from Apple brand-new, even if it is less expensive than the model year.

Night Mode is now supported by the 13 Pro and Pro Maxs telephoto lens, while the 12 Pro models don't. This was tested at a Lucy Dacus concert at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. I was at the back of the theatre. The videos and photos I took with the 3x zoom turned out to be crisp and accurate. I was also able capture my favorite songs in usable videos that I could share on Instagram, which is rare for concerts. That was compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultras 10x zoom with night mode on and I got a closer shot of Dacus at center stage. Although the photo isn't perfect, you can still see her red lipstick and details in her guitar. This photo was taken with an iPhone. It didn't work with the Pixel 5 Night Sight or digital zoom. I wish Apple would improve the iPhone's optical zoom with the S21 Ultras Telephoto Lens, but the 3x is still a significant improvement over the iPhone 12 Pros 2x and even the 12 Pro Maxs 2.5x.

Night mode at 3x optical zoom. Shot on iPhone 13 Pro Max. Photo by Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo Night Mode at 10x optical Zoom, shot on Galaxy S21 Ultra. Photo by Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo night sight mode and digital zoom, shot with Pixel 5. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo 1 / 3


Another selling point of the Pro is macrophotography, which can be achieved by the ultra-wide-angle lens and its new autofocus sensor. Macro is not a mode that you can switch on manually like for portraits. Instead, macro kicks in when the subject is within two centimeters. In the Camera app preview, macro is switched in a noticeable visual shift. This was something I found very annoying during my first days of testing the camera. However, it became a familiar feature. Although it was not Apple software, the visible lens shift was a useful visual cue that I had enabled macro mode. According to reports, the company is working on a fix and will soon add a new macro mode you can toggle on. This will not only improve the Camera app but also make it look better.

The macro results can be quite a journey. The macro results look like giant green daggers. The blades of grass look like a huge green sword. The flower petals look like tunnels. Flies look like aliens. If youve ever watched Honey! You've seen Honey! Although I don't think I could use this setting every day, the results are amazing.

Standard lens, shot with iPhone 13 Pro Max. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo Macro mode, shot on iPhone 13 Pro Max. Photo : Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo 1 / 2

Cinematic video is the camera feature that I use most often, and it is available on all iPhone 13 models. Cinematic video is a portrait mode for video and it promises to be a great feature. It works when it does.


Cinematic video is made for specific situations: indoors or outdoors, well-lit with a plan. It doesn't work in every situation. Low light? Nope. Decent light? No. Do you find it difficult to concentrate on just one or two faces when there are so many people around? Good luck. It will take some effort and frustration to create a cinematic video that is good enough for professionals. However, I enjoyed the process.

This was tested in several different situations, but I didn't achieve the professional-looking videos Apples has shown. It was fun to test it out while I was golfing. Amateur golfers need footage to improve their swing. While I'm not saying cinematic video can make a bad swing look better, it does make the whole video look cooler. Call me, LPGA. When you're ready.

Cinematic video can be enabled with both the rear- and front-facing lenses. I did not capture any footage with my selfie cam, but I had a lot of fun playing with it. The feature will continue to evolve, just like portrait mode for photos. Although I would not recommend buying an iPhone 13 to film cinematic videos, it is worth the wait.


Photographic Styles is the last available camera feature on iPhone 13 models. This setting is located in the Camera app toolbar. Did I mention how heavy that app is? Apple has created filters that can make your photos look warmer, darker, and more contrasty. You can also create your own style and apply it to all your photos. You must choose a style before you begin shooting. This is so that it doesn't look like a filter you can apply later. You can't also change the style after it has been taken, such as Vibrant to Cool. Apple claims that the styles can adjust various aspects of a photograph without altering details such as skin tone.

iPhone 13 Photographic Styles - Standard Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo Photography Styles – Rich Contrast Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo Photoic Styles — Vibrant Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo Advertisement: You can skip an ad after one second. You can continue to the next slide after one second.

This feature, Reader, is perfectly acceptable. The styles can be used to alter the image in the same way as filters. The iPhone camera is more accurate than other cameras. Photographic Styles allows you to add drama and contrast without being too heavy-handed, as Samsung's phones can.

Apple has also released ProRes video, a new file format designed for professionals. Similar to ProRAW for photographers, it's not yet available for purchase and is not relevant to most iPhone users.


Battery Life Absolutely Ridiculous

While some people don't care about the quality of their photos, there is one thing that we all agree on: phones should last longer on a single charge. Apple has taken this to the next level. Apple took the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Pro Max, which were already the longest-lasting smartphones available, and increased the battery capacity to make them even more durable.

Gizmodos battery test video showed that the 13 Pro lasted 16 and 21 minutes. This is two and eleven minutes more than the 12 Pro, and only 10 minutes less than the 12 Pro Max. The 13 Pro Max lasted 19 and 30 minutes longer than the 12 Pro Max, which is three hours more.

Anecdotally I used the 13 Pro Max for 2 1/2 days before it dropped below 10%. And, as an iPhone user, my weekly Screen Time reports are so terrible to average people, they make me feel awful. Although I would still charge my iPhone overnight, it is possible to use the device for days without worrying or to forget to charge once a night.


High-end Design with a Silky Smooth Display

The 6.1-inch 13 Pro is more expensive than its cheaper sibling, and the 6.7-inch Pro Max is even more expensive. Pro models use aluminum to replace aluminum trim and matte glass backs with stainless steel trim. This effect is especially impressive in the new Sierra Blue. Pros are also available in graphite and gold as well as silver.

The iPhone 13 models feature a 20% slimmer notch, which also shows off a bit more than the notched iPhones of years past. There isn't much you can do with the screen. The battery indicator is still not visible in the top status bar. I don't know why Apple bothers. Maybe next year, we will get no notch.


The Pro models are distinguished from the 13 and the 13 Mini by a 120Hz display. It can be adjusted on the fly to adjust the refresh rate depending on what content you're viewing. Scrolling through websites or playing video requires a slower refresh rate than still images. Comparing it to an iPhone ProMotion display at 60Hz, you can see the difference. Crolling on an older iPhone appears more jagged. This change is a major deal for a specific type of phone user. Many users will not notice, I would argue.

Apple did not break the mould here. Android phones have been running at 120Hz screens for years. Third-party apps still need to be optimized for the new iPhones refresh rates. So, it is unlikely that you will see huge improvements across the board. It is a welcome change, even though it may not be groundbreaking.

Blazing Fast Performance, As Expected

Apple's A15 Bionic processor powers the iPhone 13 line. It has a 6-core CPU as well as a 5-core CPU. This makes it the most powerful phone chip available. Geekbench 5, which compares overall system performance, shows that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max beat Android flagships with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 chips by a wide margin. The Pro Max's 4770 multi-core and 1077 single core scores (Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3), is not able to match the Pro Max's (3499) multi-core score and 1744 singlecore scores. You'll also notice a faster A15 than the A14 Bionic powering the 12 lineup.


Every year, the iPhone is faster and more powerful. We have come to expect a significant performance boost. It is up to you whether or not you will use it, but it is essential for power users who require multitasking capabilities.

iPhone vs. Galaxy Vs. Pixel

Every smartphone has its flaws. Samsung's innovative hardware and stunning cameras give you the feeling that you are living in the future. However, the software experience with this cutting-edge hardware can be frustrating. Samsung's portrait mode video feature has been offered on many handsets over the years. However, even its flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra, the results are wildly inconsistent. Google excels in useful software features. However, its Pixel phones are very dated and their AI-powered camera magic is not leading the industry. Apple's sweet spot is integration of hardware with software, but the company is not taking risks on either front.

Things are about to get exciting. Google's Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which are built on Google's own chipset, will be available soon. With foldable phones, Samsung is making strides. The next iPhone 14 will be rumored have a redesign without the notch. Microsoft is still trying, which we love.

Is the iPhone 13 Pro worth buying?

Click here to see detail shots of Pro Max and 13 Pro. Photo by Caitlin Mcgarry/Gizmodo. Photo: Caitlin Mcgarry/Gizmodo. Continue 1 / 5.


Recently, I've been reading old iPhone reviews. Not just Gizmodos, although those are great. But from mainstream outlets as well as tech enthusiasts sites. Particularly, the S year reviews are fascinating. Every S phone has a better camera and faster chips. The iPhone 4S has a faster CPU, a better camera, and new software. However, one reviewer stated that nobody had complained about the iPhone's speed before.

Siri was also introduced to the iPhone 4S. Touch ID was introduced in the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 5S introduced Touch ID. Millions of people purchased the iPhone 8 that year, which was essentially a 7S.

Each year, the iPhone improves. Sometimes we don't know which features will be popular over time. I was unaware Siri would be my enemy when I upgraded to the 4S. I am still unable set multiple timers and I did not know this. In a world of masking, who would have thought that the iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor would be something we all longed for?

The iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pro Max are faster, more capable, and offer better software. They also look familiar. They are worth the investment if you have to upgrade. The next iPhone may be better than the previous one, but the iPhone of the future is always better.