October 20, 2021


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Apple iPhone 13 Pro: What you need to know

Apple’s middle child Pro phone might just be its best handset of 2021. Here’s why.

Usually, buying “second best” isn’t what you want to go for, especially in premium phones. If you’re already committed to spending up big on your next smartphone, it typically makes sense to go for gold, not silver.

That’s certainly been the case for prior Apple iPhone Pro models, where Apple’s kept the best and brightest goodies only for that year’s iPhone Pro Max handsets. In 2021, however, the line between the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is pretty slender – which means you can save some serious cash while still getting most of the best-of-breed features to play with.

Apple iPhone 13: Australian Pricing

The iPhone 13 Pro isn’t an inexpensive handset, to put it politely. Apple’s iPhone ranges are never low-cost options, and any phone with a “Pro” suffix is only going to cost more. Here’s the local Australian pricing:

Apple iPhone 13 Pro 128GB $1,699.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 256GB $1,869.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 512GB $2,219.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 1TB $2,569.00

Yes, that’s a 1TB model in that table. If you want ludicrous quantities of storage in your iPhone 13 Pro, Apple will be happy to take your money.

Here’s how that pricing compares against the iPhone 13 Pro Max:

Apple iPhone 13 Pro 128GB $1,699.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 256GB $1,869.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 512GB $2,219.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 1TB $2,569.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 256GB $1,849.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 512GB $2,019.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 512GB $2,369.00
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max 1TB $2,719.00

The nice news here is that the iPhone 13 Pro’s costs precisely what the iPhone 12 Pro models they’re replacing would have set you back. Apple has removed the iPhone 12 Pro from its selling lineup immediately, which means you’re less likely to see any bargains on those, even from other retailers who may have leftover stock.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro: Availability

The iPhone 13 Pro, and the rest of the iPhone 13 family were announced at Apple’s “California Streaming” live streamed event on 14 September in the US.

The International dateline being what it is, Australians will be able to score an iPhone 13 Pro first in the world, with models on sale here from 24 September 2021. Actual pre-orders for the new phones commence at 10pm on 17 September 2021.
As with every other iPhone ever, you’ll also be able to score the iPhone 13 Pro on carrier plans, although we don’t expect to see that pricing significantly before the pre-sale period commences.

iPhone 13 Pro: Design

The iPhone 13 Pro has the same size as the cheaper iPhone 13 but shares its colour schemes with the larger iPhone 13 Pro Max. That gives you the choice of Graphite, Gold, Silver and an all-new Sierra blue finish.

Apple’s only lightly tweaked the design of the iPhone 13 Pro, most notably shrinking down the “TrueDepth” camera notch at the front by 20%. The bigger change in design terms is in the screen technology. It features a 6.1 inch 2532×1170 pixel Super Retina XDR OLED display with Apple’s “ProMotion” technology on board.

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What’s ProMotion? It’s Apple’s way of referencing variable refresh rates. Prior iPhone models have had 60Hz capable screens, and that’s a reality across much of the smartphone market to date. However, we’ve seen a number of handsets with 90Hz, 120Hz and even 144Hz screens on the Android side of the fence. The iPhone 13 Pro (and Pro Max) are Apple’s first take at this kind of faster refreshing screens, with dynamic rates between 10Hz and 120Hz, chosen by the handset.

The advantage here should be smoother video, faster game response and slicker scrolling on web pages. Apple’s iPhone displays were already very well colour managed, and this should just make them stronger, albeit potentially at the cost of battery life.

The iPhone 13 Pro is a mid-sized phone, measuring in at 146.7×71.5×7.65mm with a carrying weight of 203 grams, a little thicker and heavier than last year’s iPhone 12 Pro.

iPhone 13 Pro: Cameras

Apple puts its Pro suffix onto phones in order to justify higher prices, and a key way it makes that feel worthwhile is in its camera technology.

Like the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, at the rear, the iPhone 13 Pro features a triple 12MP lens system. The primary wide lens has a f/1.5 aperture, very good for low light photography, while the ultrawide features f/1.8 aperture and a 120 degree field of view. Finally the 3x telephoto lens has an f/2.8 aperture.

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New this year is a focus on macro photography, with the ultrawide lens taking on the job of managing close-up shots of your subjects. Night shooting comes to every single rear lens, with the iPhone determining optimal exposure times depending on whether it’s hand-held or in a tripod.

Apple’s also promising new improved video features, including a cinematic mode with rack focus effects chosen by the phone itself. If that becomes too distracting, or the phone chooses the wrong focus points, you’ll be able to edit for different focal lengths after the case on the handset itself.

What’s really interesting here is that there’s no specified difference in cameras between the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. In 2020, if you wanted the best of Apple’s camera tech, you had to get the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This year, they’re using the same cameras. While the larger screen of the Pro Max may appeal to some, the easier hand holding and framing of the iPhone 13 Pro could give it a real edge in photographic terms.

iPhone 13 Pro: Performance

Apple updates its processor families most years, and 2021 is no exception. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro runs on the new Apple A15 Bionic processor.

In 2020, Apple offered the exact same Apple A14 Bionic across all iPhone 12 models, but in 2021 there’s a distinct difference between the Pro and regular iPhone 13 handsets at a silicon level. All A15 Bionic chips feature 6-Core CPU designs, but the Pro phones get a 5-core GPU where the regular models only get a 4-core variant.

Will that make a huge difference to performance? We’ll have to test out the new iPhones to be certain, and it will somewhat depend on how developers leverage that power as well. Still, there’s scope there for better and faster video processing, smarter machine learning and of course quicker game performance with a spare GPU core to play with.

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Like the iPhone 12 series before it, the iPhone 13 Pro features 5G compatibility, but just like last year’s models, Apple’s playing a mixed-mode game when it comes to available models. iPhone 13 Pro models sold in the USA will support both faster mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G frequencies, but based on Apple’s specification sheets for global 5G the international A2638 version that’ll go on sale in Australia lacks the critical mmWave band support.

iPhone 13 Pro: Battery

Most Android phone makers place their phone battery specifications upfront. Apple, to borrow an old school marketing phrase of its own invention, thinks different.

It never formally announces the battery capacity of any iPhone any more, although its claims around the iPhone 13 family are that they feature some of the largest iPhone batteries of any handset to date. We’ll have to wait for third party teardowns to find out precisely how much power the iPhone 13 Pro is packing.

Instead of talking concrete battery numbers, Apple instead talks about expected battery life for its handsets. Here the iPhone 13 Pro doesn’t compare quite as nicely as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple’s claim here is that the iPhone 13 Pro Max should last up to 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max did, while the iPhone 13 Pro will last up to 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro did.
More battery life is always welcome, of course, but that’s going to be a function of that ProMotion display and the larger battery space afforded to the bigger Pro Max model.

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That isn’t quite everything we know about the iPhone 13 Pro’s battery life ahead of its launch. Diving into Apple’s specification sheet for the iPhone 13 Pro, Apple advises that it’s capable of up to 22 hours of local video playback, up to 20 hours of streamed video playback and up to 75 hours of music playback. You know, for all those times you only listen to music and nothing else through your premium smartphone.

By way of comparison, the similarly sized iPhone 13 is rated by Apple for 19 hours of local video, 15 hours of streamed video and 75 hours of music playback.

Of course, those figures don’t tell you everything about actual battery performance once you’re using your phone for apps of all types, or on battery-sapping 5G networks. We’ll have to wait and see how the iPhone 13 Pro really stacks up once we’ve had the chance to put it through our suite of real world tests.

Apple’s dropped Lightning on a number of its iPad products, including the new iPad Mini, but it’s still the prevailing standard for plugged in charging on the iPhone 13 Pro. MagSafe Qi charging is supported at up to 15W, but you’ll have to buy either a Magsafe or wired charger, as one is not supplied in the box.

Apple iPhone 13: Specifications

If you’re looking to upgrade, it’s worth knowing what you’re getting. Here’s how the iPhone 13 Pro compares to 2020’s iPhone 12 Pro:

Model iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 13 Pro
Display Size 6.1 inches 6.1 inches
Resolution 2532×1170 2532×1170
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) 460 460
Rear Camera 12MP/12MP/12MP 12MP/12MP/12MP
Front Camera 12MP 12MP
Dimensions 146.7×71.5×7.4 146.7×71.5×7.65
Weight 189g 203g
NFC Yes Yes
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
Networks 3G/4G/5G 3G/4G/5G
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A15 Bionic
Storage 128GB/256GB/512GB 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery 2815mAh TBC
Water resistance rating IP68 IP68
Charging Lightning, no charger supplied Lightning, no charger supplied
Wireless charging Yes, MagSafe compatible Yes, MagSafe compatible

Buy iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro will be available to pre-order from 10pm AEST on 17 September 2021. In the meantime, you can scoop up some great deals on previous iPhone models. Here are a few deals that caught our eye.

Half-price Apple iPhone XS

Apple iPhone 12 5G 64GB (Red) – from $1,000 at eBay

Apple iPhone 12 Pro 256GB (Graphite) – $1,600 at eBay

Apple iPhone XR 64GB (Black) – $500 at eBay

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Need more tech news and products? Check out Technology Finder for all the latest info.