On paper, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini aren't much to get excited about. Apple's subtle refinement on the iPhone 12 models will be familiar if you've paid attention to developments in the Android world. Some of the changes are impressive, like bringing the iPhone 12 Pro Max's excellent camera hardware to smaller phones and lower price points. Others, like a slightly smaller notch, bigger batteries, brighter displays, faster chips and expanded 5G support feel incremental. Still, they add up to make the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 feel like worthwhile upgrades, especially to those looking to upgrade from older iPhones.
If you’re coming from an iPhone 12 or 12 mini, you might not notice a huge difference in this year’s models. The physical refinements include a smaller notch, a rearranged camera module that protrudes slightly further than before along with a new pink color option. I adore this hue — it’s similar to the “Not Pink” shade Google used on the Pixel 3, but because of the glass covering the iPhone, it looks paler and more iridescent.
- Capable cameras with useful customization options
- Speedy performance
- Beautiful build and colors
- 60Hz screen lags behind the competition
Apple shaved 20 percent off the front camera notch, which is nice, but it’s still significantly larger than the punch-hole designs over in Android land. The smaller size also didn’t make a huge difference in daily use. Of course, that notch houses hardware for Face ID, which is more sophisticated than any punch-hole camera at the moment. Given there isn’t a fingerprint sensor on current iPhones, a beefier face-recognition system is warranted and I guess we’ll just have to put up with the notch until Apple can figure out a better approach.
The main way to tell the iPhone 13 and its predecessor apart is by looking at the camera module. Instead of stacking the pair of lenses vertically, Apple laid them diagonally. The bump is also a little bigger and thicker and the extra wobbling this causes is mildly annoying. Also, this does mean your old iPhone 12 cases won’t fit.
Otherwise, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are physically very similar to last year’s models. They both feature anodized aluminum and glass frames with flat edges with what Apple calls its “ceramic shield” covering the front.
Both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are a hair heavier and thicker and have the same display sizes as before at 6.1-inch and 5.4-inch respectively. The iPhone 13 is heavier than the Galaxy S21, too, despite having a smaller screen. Though, its density, glass covering and shiny metal edges do make it feel more premium.
Display and audio
Unlike the iPhone 13 Pros, which have faster 120Hz screens, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have similar displays to their predecessors. Apple says the panels are 28-percent brighter. When I set the iPhone 12 and 13 to max brightness and held them up on a cloudy day, I did notice the newer phone had a teensy bit of an edge. But the difference isn’t big enough that you’d know without having them side by side.
Besides that, the iPhone 13’s screens haven’t changed much. The thing is that just about everywhere else you look, though, phone displays are faster. I had been using the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 before reviewing the iPhone 13, and even Google’s 90Hz panels make browsing Twitter and Reddit feel smoother.
If you’ve only used a 60Hz screen so far, you might not feel like you’re missing much — the iPhone 13’s display is still vibrant and crisp. You’ll enjoy watching Instagram or TikTok videos, for sure. But as someone who’s experienced the good stuff, I can tell you that you’re missing out.
As for the iPhone 13’s speakers, they’re basically unchanged and are good enough to hear the voices in your favorite creators’ clips or the background music of YouTube videos. In a pinch, they’ll even do a decent job streaming your favorite songs, offering clear vocals and adequate bass. As expected, though, the bigger iPhone is louder and has a fuller sound than the mini.