iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro: Which Should You Buy?

The latest iPhones are here, and many are keen to get their hands on Apple’s latest offerings. But should you be splashing the cash on the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro? And what about the Max and Mini models? Canstar Blue breaks down all you need to know.

Since the release of the iPhone 11 series in 2017, iPhone users have had the choice of the standard iPhone, or the iPhone Pro model. The iPhone 11 Pro, 12 Pro, and now 13 Pro all offer extra features that the flagship models don’t. But when the iPhone 13 is already breaking the bank (starting from $1429), should customers really be paying $2000 (or more) for the Pro models?

Canstar Blue takes a look at the similarities and differences, to help you decide which phone you should buy: the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro?

The iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro: what are the specs?

As the specifications listed below show, there are some differences between the iPhone 13 models. Whether you buy the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro will depend on how important those differences are to you.

iPhone 13 Mini

iPhone 13

iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro Max

Starting price $1249 $1429 $1799 $1999
Storage 128GB/256GB/512GB 128GB/256GB/512GB 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Size 132 x 64 x 7.65mm 147 x 72 x 7.65mm 147 x 72 x 7.65mm 161 x 78 x 7.65mm
Weight 141g 174g 204g 240g
Screen size 5.4 inches 6.1 inches 6.1 inches 6.7 inches
Display Super Retina XDR Super Retina XDR Super Retina XDR with ProMotion Super Retina XDR with ProMotion
Resolution 2340 x 1080/476 2532 x 1170/460 2532 x 1170/460 2778 x 1284/458
120Hz adaptive refresh No No Yes Yes
Chip A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic A15 Bionic
Rear Cameras 12MP Ultra-Wide

12MP Wide

12MP Ultra-Wide

12MP Wide

12MP Ultra-Wide

12MP Wide

12MP Telephoto

12MP Ultra-Wide

12MP Wide

12MP Telephoto

Front Camera 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth 12MP TrueDepth
Video Capture HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30fps (1080p at 30fps for 128GB storage) ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30fps (1080p at 30fps for 128GB storage)
Battery Life Up to 17 hours video playback Up to 19 hours video playback Up to 22 hours video playback Up to 28 hours video playback
Water Resistance Yes: IP68 Yes: IP68 Yes: IP68 Yes: IP68

Price and storage.

Apple has done away with the 64GB model and all the newest iPhones start at 128GB. The iPhone 13 also has the option for 256GB and 512GB, while the iPhone 13 Pro goes up to a whopping 1TB.

Does anyone actually need 1TB? I’m not too sure…

As you can see above, the iPhone 13 mini is the cheapest option, due to its smaller size. Followed by the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and finally the iPhone 13 Pro Max with users having to cough up $2000+ for the largest iPhone.

iPhone 13 or 13 Pro?
iPhone 13 Pro: available colours

Design

The design of the phones this year are almost identical to that of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. That includes both the overall size, and screen size. The biggest difference is the notch on both (that houses the front camera and face ID) has been reduced by 20%.  In terms of colours, the iPhone 13 offers five, vibrant colour options whereas the iPhone 13 Pro offers four, more subdued colours. Those colours are:

  • iPhone 13 (incl. mini) –  Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Pink and (PRODUCT)RED
  • iPhone 13 Pro (incl. Max) – Graphite, Gold, Silver and Sierra Blue

As with the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, the iPhone 13 has two rear cameras (albeit redesigned slightly) whereas the iPhone 13 Pro has three. But more on that later.

Display

The biggest change to display comes with the iPhone 13 Pro, which has a new 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. This means that the refresh rate can top out at 120Hz creating a smooth performance, but also reduce Hz when needed to reduce battery consumption. As a result, the iPhone 13 Pro has a smoother and more seamless display than the iPhone 13.

All four models make use of Apple’s new Super Retina XDR OLED displays. They are also brighter, ranging from around 1000-1200 nits compared to the iPhone 12’s 800-1200nits.

Camera

Much like last year’s Pro model, the iPhone 13 Pro has significant camera upgrades on the iPhone 13. But both models offer upgrades on last year’s iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models. They both allow in more light, have a faster sensor, more scene-capture in their ultra-wide lens, and offer a cinematic video mode. The iPhone 13 also comes with sensor-shift stabilisation, previously only included with Pro models.

The iPhone 13 camera sees improvements from last years 12 and 12 Pro models, but it still doesn’t match the iPhone 13 Pro. The 13 Pro boasts wider apertures on the main and ultra-wide cameras, and a LiDAR scanner to tap into for night-mode portrait shots. According to Apple, it marks a 92% improvement in low-light photography. The iPhone 13 Pro also has a macro mode, allowing users to shoot ultra-sharp close-up photography.

The addition of the third camera lens (the telephoto lens) on the Pro is also of benefit. Mainly because the iPhone 13 does not have one. With the telephoto lens, the iPhone 13 Pro offers 6x optical zoom, and 15x digital zoom, as well as having a wider aperture than the telephoto lens on the iPhone 12 Pro.

Video

Both models offer 4K video, but with the iPhone Pro model, you get ProRes. ProRes isn’t about the video quality itself, but rather it allows you to compress videos for smoother video editing.

Performance

All four phones have the new A15 Bionic chip. This is faster than Apple’s competitors and faster than the iPhone 12’s A14 chip. How much faster? We don’t know. Apple kept that part quiet, so we suspect probably not that much faster.

The iPhone 13 Pro comes with five GPU cores, as opposed to the iPhone 13’s four. This won’t be noticeable to most people, but for iPhone gamers, the pro will boast marginally better performance.

Battery

The battery life on the latest iPhones is huge. Apple list the video playback battery life as being:

  • iPhone 13 mini – Up to 17 hours
  • iPhone 13 – Up to 19 hours
  • iPhone 13 Pro – Up to 22 hours
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max – Up to 28 hours

Video playback uses less battery than other tasks, so isn’t the most accurate way to measure battery life. After all, who is going to watch 28 hours of straight video? But it produces the most impressive numbers, which is why Apple has chosen to use it in its marketing.

But user tests show the iPhone models do boast some seriously impressive battery life. User tests, which involve using the phones continuously, across a range of apps with wi-fi or data engaged, clock the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models lasting well over eight hours straight!

Considering even heavy phone users tend to tap out at a few hours of screen time a day, your new iPhone could well and truly last two full days without a charge.

iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro?

The iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro: Which should I buy?

As you can see above, the iPhone 13 Pro offers features that the iPhone 13 doesn’t. But if the cost of the iPhone 13 is already a barrier, then the extra money for the iPhone 13 Pro probably isn’t worth it for you. And that’s okay. The iPhone 13 is a great phone. If money is less of an issue, however, the extra few hundred dollars does see some nice benefits. How significant those benefits depend on your needs.

The higher refresh rate of the Pro is nice, but for regular scrolling, the difference won’t be huge. The longer battery life is also great, but unless you are a phone addict, the battery life of the 13 should be plenty as is. Likewise, the added GPU core won’t be noticed by most users.

It’s all in the camera

The camera features on the Pro is the most likely benefit to entice users to choose the iPhone 13 Pro. While most other benefits border on unnoticeable for the average user, the camera on the iPhone 13 Pro does have some clear advantages over the iPhone 13. You get an extra lens, better zoom options, more aperture, macro photography mode, and improved low-light photography. For the snap-happy, that could be well worth going for the more expensive Pro model.

What about the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 Pro Max?

Unlike previous years where there has been some big differences between Mini and Max models, this year, the differences are pretty minute. In fact, there are no differences in the features offered. Simply put:

  • The iPhone 13 Mini is a smaller iPhone 13
  • The iPhone 13 Pro max is a larger iPhone 13 Pro

The only performance difference is a result of the phones’ sizes. The smaller size on the Mini means a slightly smaller battery (and shorter battery life). And the larger size of the Max means a slightly larger battery (and longer battery life). These models may be appropriate for users who prefer a smaller handset (or just the lower price). Or, users who use their phone for streaming and gaming and want the larger screen on the Max.

iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro?

Do you need to upgrade your iPhone?

If you have last year’s iPhone 12 or 12 Pro, you already splashed the cash not too long ago. So is it really worth you upgrading already? Probably not. While the iPhone 13 range is Apple’s best yet, the improvements remain relatively minor. If anything, it’s a testament to how good the last few iPhones already are.

The iPhone 11 and 12 already boast great battery life, speed, cameras and design. While the iPhone 13 improves all of these, those improvements are hardly revolutionary. For example, that 20% reduction in the size of the Face ID notch sounds a lot bigger than it looks. And the iPhone 12 battery is already huge. So, if you really are churning through your battery then you should probably look at reducing your phone usage. Not getting a bigger battery.

Otherwise, Apple’s MagSafe battery pack is much cheaper than a new iPhone, and seamlessly sticks to the back of your phone, offering wireless charging on the go.

When it comes to speed, Apple compared the iPhone 13 to competitors, as opposed to previous iPhone models as it normally does. While the iPhone 13 is around 50% faster than competitors, Apple avoiding comparisons with the iPhone 12 suggests the numbers aren’t that impressive against its own models. After all, the iPhone 12 was already faster than its competitors.

Once again, the camera is the only feature that sees some real, serious improvements. If this is the main feature you look for in a phone, then you may want to upgrade. Even if you do have an iPhone 12 in mint condition.

→ Related article: Should I Buy a Refurbished Phone? Everything You Need to Know

Find the phone plan that’s right for you

While the bones that make up your phone matter, the phone plan you’re on makes all the difference in getting the most out of your phone. If you are constantly running out of data or calling minutes, and having to top up with expensive bonuses, it’s probably time to look at changing. At Canstar Blue we make it easy by comparing a range of phone plan providers. To get started, just click the button below.

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author andrew broadley

About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.


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