iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini review: Don't be fooled by the familiar looks


    Apple iPhone 13

    Apple iPhone 13 review (Image: APPLE)

    The number “13” might be unlucky for some, but Apple clearly isn’t worried by superstition. Many believed the US technology giant would skip these ill-fated digits and launch an iPhone 12s, or move straight to the iPhone 14, but that’s not the case. Yes, love it or loathe it, the latest smartphone range from Apple is called iPhone 13 and despite looking almost identical to last year’s iPhone 12, there are plenty of features that, on paper, make this new model a very worthy successor.

    Apple iPhone 13

    Apple iPhone 13 gets a new screen and faster processor (Image: APPLE)

    Just like with the iPhone 12 series, there are two versions of the iPhone 13 – a standard 6.1-inch model and more pocket-friendly 5.6-inch iPhone 13 mini. Both arrive in stores on Friday September 24. If you’re wondering whether either of these new handsets are must-haves, Express.co.uk has got our hands on these two new iPhones ahead of their official release. Here’s our full review of the 13 and 13 mini.

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: the box

    Last year, Apple made the controversial decision to ditch the plug from the iPhone 12 to help cut down on electronic waste and shrink its packaging to fit more smartphones in every shipping container. True to its word, the little white power brick doesn’t make a comeback this year either, with owners still only finding a phone and a lightning charging cable tucked inside the box.

    If you need a plug with a USB-C port to use with the cable shipped with your iPhone 13, you’ll need to purchase one separately from the Apple Store at a cost of £19.

    This time around, Apple has also ditched the plastic wrap that covers the box of a new iPhone. Apple says this decision will help prevent more than 600 metric tons of earth-damaging plastic heading into the bin.

    There’s no doubt this is the right call, although we have to admit that we did miss the excitement of ripping the seal and peeling off this clear wrap. We’re a little sad to say that our shiny new purchase doesn’t feel quite feel the same without it. Instead, there’s a small paper tab that lets you know that you’re the first to open-up the box.

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: design

    When you first pick up these new devices for the first time, you’ll immediately notice there’s no major redesign of the hardware this year.

    In fact, the only thing that sets the iPhone 13 and 13 mini apart from their iPhone 12 siblings is the layout of the dual-cameras on the rear case, with the new model placing the two larger lenses in a diagonal pattern rather than stacked atop of one another.

    We actually prefer the vertically-stacked cameras on the iPhone 12, but Apple says it had to make a change to pack improved photography credentials into its latest devices, so it’s worth the trade-off.

    There are new colours to choose from, including Pink and Starlight, plus the infamous notch, which houses the Face ID facial recognition sensor and front-facing camera, is now noticeably smaller. These are both very nice additions, but don’t expect to see anything radically different when you walk into an Apple Store on Friday.

    Although it’s not a big design refresh, that’s no bad thing. After all, it was only last year that we saw a pretty substantial design shake-up and we’re not yet bored of the look of the latest iPhones. The sharp industrial-style design with colour matched aluminium edges still looks great and you can never fault Apple’s build quality, which remains top class.

    These new handsets continue to feature Apple’s Ceramic Shield technology, which Apple says will make the new iPhone models able to withstand more punishment and the odd drop here or there without fear of smashed glass. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to test the review units by lobbing them at the pavement, but the Ceramic Shield technology on the iPhone 12 has helped the handset keep its screen intact over the last year, with an odd tumble here and there. So, we’re reasonably confident these new models will be fairly resilient.

    iPhone 13 and 13 mini are fully IP68 water-resistant. That rating allows them to stay underwater for 30 minutes without any issues.

    Apple iPhone 13 review

    Apple iPhone 13 review (Image: APPLE)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: display

    Those buying the iPhone 13 get a 6.1-inch OLED screen, while the mini packs a more palm-friendly 5.4-inch display. Both of these displays have been updated from last year and are now brighter and able to produce richer blacks and better contrast. When you put the iPhone 12 side-by-side with the iPhone 13, you can really see the difference.

    Colours look warmer and more true to life on this new screen and the boost to the blacks makes everything feel more punchy. Support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision returns from last year to boost your nightly Netflix binge too.

    As we mentioned earlier, the notch has now been cut down in size. It’s still not quite the tony o-shaped hole you’ll find on some Android rivals, but it’s a welcome change. However, it’s worth noting that despite the notch shrinking, Apple hasn’t made the most of this extra screen real estate. For example, you still can’t see the remaining battery percentage without dragging your finger down the screen to reveal the control panel.

    That’s a pretty minor annoyance, but there’s something even more frustrating about the iPhone 13 screen. The refresh rate on the iPhone 13 remains a lowly 60Hz, which means you don’t get the same silky smooth experience found on many of Apple’s Android rivals at the same price point.

    The US company is also releasing a smartphone with a 120Hz display this month, but that clever technology is reserved for the more expensive Pro models. Having also reviewed these premium phones, it’s clear that the 120Hz screen makes a massive difference and it’s definitely worth considering that upgrade if you want the ultimate experience.

    With any luck, these gorgeous 120Hz screens will make their way down to the non-Pro models in future generations. But for now, you’ll have to make do with 60Hz, or pay an extra £270 to get the iPhone 13 Pro.

    Apple iPhone 13 review

    An improved dual camera now features on the rear case (Image: APPLE)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: camera

    Perhaps the most exciting change on the iPhone 13 range is the introduction of Cinematic mode. This allows you to add a Hollywood feel to your home movies as the focus automatically track faces and objects, blurring the background like a Portrait Mode photo. If you point the camera at a person, they will look pin-sharp in the shot but the minute they turn away to talk to someone, the clever camera system will switch focal points to the person facing towards the lens. You can also change the focus manually simply by tapping on the screen. The focal point can be altered after the fact too in the Photos app.

    Cinematic mode works seamlessly and certainly adds some style to your home videos, although it will be interesting to see just how many people actually use it when these devices are launched. It’s worth noting that this option has only been made capable thanks to the new faster A15 Bionic processor, so don’t expect to see it in an update to your iPhone 12.

    Apple iPhone 13

    Apple iPhone 13 gets Cinematic mode for better video (Image: APPLE)

    Apple iPhone 13

    Cinematic mode focuses on faces (Image: APPLE)

    Along with Cinematic mode, the dual camera has had a refresh with a bigger sensor allowing more light through the lens. These devices also get sensor-shift OIS (optical image stabilisation) – a technology introduced in iPhone 12 Pro Max last year. The new sensor in the Ultra-Wide camera is able to deliver more details in the gloomy conditions too.

    One final new feature is Photographic Styles, which allows users to personalise the look of all of their photos before the shutter button has been pressed. These styles include Standard, Vibrant, Rich Contrast, Warm and Cool. Once set, every time you snap a new image it will have these attributes applied to it – so you don’t need to worry about diving into the Edit feature before sharing your images on social media.

    The iPhone 13 and 13 mini offer a great camera experience, but we’re not convinced that it’s significantly better than the older iPhone 12. Yes, photos taken at night are improved and you get that fancy video mode, but if you own last year’s iPhone, you’re not really missing out.


    iPhone 13 camera sample

    iPhone 13 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

    Apple iPhone 13 review

    iPhone 13 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

    iPhone 13 review

    iPhone 13 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

    iPhone 13 camera sample

    iPhone 13 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: battery and processor

    Along things look pretty similar from the outside, there are some big upgrades under the glass and aluminium chassis, including a bigger battery. This means users can expect to see over 1.5 hours extra usage on the mini and over 2 hours on the iPhone 13.

    Owners of last year’s iPhone 12 range had already seen some decent improvements to battery life compared to previous generations, but things will be even better for fans upgrading this time around.

    We placed the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 side by side and streamed a two-hour film on YouTube. Once things had come to a close, iPhone 12 was reduced to 83 percent, while the iPhone 13 still had a mighty 91 percent left in its tank – that’s impressive!

    As well as better battery life, there’s also the new A15 Bionic brains, which leave its Android rivals in the dust. In fact, according to Apple, this mighty chip is around 50 percent faster than some premium Android devices which is a big statement from the US firm.

    We’re never going to say “no” to more power, but last year’s A14 was no slouch and the average user who simply enjoys sharing photos to Instagram, playing the odd game, or making FaceTime calls will never push the iPhone 13 to its limit.

    That said, this boost in performance will help improve images shot on the device, make AI tasks appear smoother and allow memory-hungry games to feel like they are being played on a console. It also allows for that data crunching Cinematic mode to work when shooting movies – a feature that simply won’t be coming to the older iPhone 12.

    Apple iPhone 13 review

    The iPhone 13’s A15 Bionic offers improved performance (Image: APPLE)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: Extras

    Yes, Apple is finally giving fans more storage and not charging a premium for the privilege. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 both start with 128GB of in-built memory – hooray!

    This is a vital upgrade from Apple, especially as so many of us now hoard gigabytes of content, including endless family photos and videos, on our smartphones. Not to mention, with the ability to shoot 4K videos, this extra capacity inside the iPhone 13 is incredibly welcome.

    iPhone 13 and 13 mini both enjoy access to the latest 5G data speeds, which can blast files to the phone at speeds in excess of 300Mbps. For comparison, the current fixed-line broadband average speed in the UK is just 70Mbps so you can see just how impressive 5G is.

    But before you get too excited about 5G, it isn’t available in many parts of the UK just yet and it could be a while until it arrives in your local area.

    MagSafe also makes a return offering an easy way to refill the battery and stick accessories to the case such as the neat Leather Wallet. We’ve been using MagSafe for the past year and really love how easy it is to connect accessories and pump power back into the battery. Just don’t forget that these are all added extras with a charger costing £39 and the Wallet removing £59 from your, erm, wallet.

    Apple iPhone 13

    A smaller notch now appears on the screen (Image: APPLE)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: price

    There’s good news on price as the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 both start from a lower price than the iPhone 12. What makes things even better is that the entry-level versions offers 128GB of storage compared to the 64GB available last year.

    While the iPhone 12 mini started from £699 and the iPhone 12 cost £799 at launch, Apple has dropped £20 from both of these price tags. Coupled with the fact that you’re getting the same amount of storage that Apple charged an extra £50 to unlock last time around, there’s no doubt the iPhone 13 series is a much better deal.

    Here’s full pricing for all models –

    iPhone 13 mini 128GB – £679

    iPhone 13 mini 256GB – £779

    iPhone 13 mini 512 GB – £970

    iPhone 13 128GB – £779

    iPhone 13 256GB – £879

    iPhone 13 512GB – £1,079

    The only thing to be aware of is that Apple has now slashed the price of the iPhone 12 with prices for that device now starting from just £579. That’s a bit of a bargain and could be a very tempting reason not to buy the iPhone 13.

    Apple iPhone 13 review

    The iPhone 13 continues to be compatible with MagSafe accessories (Image: APPLE)

    iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 mini review: Final Verdict

    There’s plenty to like about the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini and the changes are what many fans have been wanting. Both devices get improved battery life, better camera – that includes the impressive Cinematic mode – and more storage for less money.

    The new OLED XDR screens also offers a better viewing experience, coupled with a smaller Face ID sensor that means you’ll get a little more display to stare at too.

    So that’s the best bits, but there are some niggles including the lack of the gorgeous 120Hz ProMotion technology, or a telephoto lens for those times when you want to zoom in without losing picture quality – both of these are only available on the pricier iPhone Pro models.

    It also looks very similar to the iPhone 12 and that device has now been slashed in price making it a very attractive option when shopping in the Apple Store.

    In fact, we’d say the iPhone 12 is the biggest problem for the iPhone 13. While the upgrades on this new device are good, they might not be enough to warrant the extra £100 Apple is demanding.

    Then there’s the new Pro with its glorious screen, improved power (it features the A15 but with a 5-Core GPU) and fabulous triple-lens camera. Yes, it’s more expensive, but definitely offers the ultimate experience.

    That puts the iPhone 13 in a slightly odd place.

    If you buy one, we have no doubt that you’ll love the new features it brings. However, we’d advise you to check whether the iPhone 12 won’t be good enough for your needs, or double-check there isn’t enough in the ISA to upgrade to the iPhone 13 Pro.

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