Apple iPhone 13: A Battery-Life Beast
PC Magazine|November 2021
The Apple iPhone 13 is a battery-life beast, with far greater longevity than previous midrange smartphones.
By Sascha Segan

While we appreciate the greater pocketability of the iPhone 13 mini, unimpressive sales of the iPhone 12 mini taught us that most people prefer long battery life to a petite form factor. So even though other upgrades from the previous generation are nearly unnoticeable here, the battery boost is so profound that it’s definitely worth the $100 premium over a standardsize iPhone 12. And if you’re upgrading from an earlier iPhone, you’ll find a lot of welcome enhancements in power and camera quality. That makes the iPhone 13 the best bet for most buyers, as well as a winner of our Editors’ Choice award.

DESIGN: SUBTLE IMPROVEMENTS

The iPhone 13 looks a lot like the iPhone 12. At 5.8 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and 6.1 ounces, it’s pretty much the exact same size as the iPhone 12, but it’s a third of an ounce heavier. Because of slightly different side-button positioning, some cases designed for the previous model work, and others don’t.

There’s one difference to note on the front and one on the back. On the front, the “notch” at the top for Face ID is slightly smaller—20% smaller, according to Apple. On the back, the two camera lenses are slightly larger and staggered diagonally rather than stacked vertically.

iPhone 13

PROS Long battery life. Fast, smooth performance. Camera makes it easy for anyone to take good photos.

CONS Not much of an upgrade over the iPhone 12.

BOTTOM LINE The Apple iPhone 13 delivers the best blend of performance, camera quality, and battery life at the right price for most people.

Like the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 has a gorgeous 6.1inch, 2,532-by-1,170-pixel OLED display with a wide color gamut and Apple’s True Tone color management. Apple says typical brightness is now 800cd/m2, compared with 625cd/m2 on the iPhone 12. I can’t see a difference when eyeballing it; we’ll rely on DisplayMate Labs’ testing to double-check that number when their results come out.

One of the differences between the standard iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro is that the 13 has a 60Hz display, while the Pro phones have 120Hz displays. If you’ve never experienced a 120Hz display, this won’t be a big deal. 60Hz displays have been standard for many years, and the iPhone 13’s display is fluid and smooth. But I’ve been using 120Hz displays on OnePlus and Samsung phones for nearly a year now, and I found dropping back to 60Hz a bit disconcerting; scrolling web pages felt like they were tearing a bit as I read through news articles. But again, unless you’re used to using a recent flagship phone, you probably won’t think twice.

PERFORMANCE: IPHONE IS AS IPHONE DOES

Apple’s A15 CPU is made on the same 5nm process as the previous A14. Apple says that its 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU have the fastest performance ever.

On the Geekbench benchmark, I saw only an 8% improvement in single-core CPU performance and a 13% improvement in GPU performance over the iPhone 12. But I did see a much bigger improvement in the real-world Basemark web browser benchmark, which jumped from 766.86 to 1042.93 as the phone sped through web page loads.

The fact is, Apple’s tight integration between hardware and software always leads to new iPhones having impeccable performance, at least at the start. It’s years down the road when they may run into trouble. Nothing I could throw at the iPhone 13 in its first week fazed it, from Microsoft Office to Genshin Impact.

The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the same performance. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max both add a fifth GPU core, which, in our benchmarks, also led to disproportionately better test performance. But if apps run just fine with the four GPU cores, why do you need the fifth core? It’s for the 120Hz screen, one of the difference-making features offered by the pricier Pro series.

BATTERY: THIS IS WHY YOU’RE HERE

Apple made a major jump in battery management and capacity with the iPhone 12 series, but a lot of that got lost in real-world usage with the transition to powerhungry 5G. The iPhone 13 series rights the ship, giving true full-day battery life with the iPhone 13 base model and two-day battery life with the 13 Pro.

In this case, it’s not about battery size. We don’t have the technical details of the iPhone 13’s battery capacity, but it’s not much larger than the 12’s. But the new A15 processor and X60 modem appear to be much more efficient than the A14 and X55 in the iPhone 12 series, leading to much longer video playback time and much longer real-world usage time.

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