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iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini Review: Progress Isn’t Always Exciting

We expect big improvements with each new generation of phones from various manufacturers. The industry is at a point where there isn’t much more that a smartphone can do – our personal devices already handle text and video communication, music, movies, games, Web browsing, news, social networking, banking, health tracking, smart device management, and even the occasional phone call. We haven’t seen any significant new functionality or any new use case that demands a leap in performance. Foldables aren’t really taking off, VR has limited appeal, and although 5G is faster and better, it isn’t yet changing usage habits.

So it’s no surprise that upgrade cycles have lengthened and attention has shifted to lower price segments, which are benefiting from trickle-down feature improvements. Even Apple is taking a year off from significant overhauls, instead delivering subtle refinements and quality bumps in key areas with the iPhone 13 family. While the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max (Review) are the new top-end flagships that you’d buy if you want the absolute latest and best, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are aimed at mainstream buyers who want a brand new model, but don’t need advanced camera capabilities or don’t want to spend quite so much.

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are very similar to the iPhone 12 (Review) and iPhone 12 mini (Review) from last year. The good news is that you get two of the headlining features of the far more expensive iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max – Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles. You also get twice the storage and a faster processor at the same starting price, but on the downside, you don’t get features like a 120Hz display refresh rate or a macro-capable camera, which are now fairly standard even on Android phones that cost a quarter as much. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth buying either the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 mini, we’ll help you make that decision.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini price

First of all, starting prices are the same as for the previous models, even in India. What’s more, you twice as much storage with the base variants. The iPhone 13 mini starts at Rs. 69,900 for 128GB, while the iPhone 13 starts at Rs. 79,900. You can add Rs. 10,000 each to double that to 256GB, so the prices would be Rs. 79,900 and Rs. 89,900 respectively. For the first time, there’s a 512GB tier for non-Pro iPhones, but that will cost a further Rs. 20,000, bringing the prices of the top-end iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 to Rs. 99,900 and Rs. 1,09,900 respectively.

There are five all-new colour options: Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Pink, and (Product)Red. You don’t get a charger or headset in the box anymore, only a Type-C Lightning cable, a SIM eject pin, and an Apple logo sticker.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini design

The iPhone 13 and 13 mini are the same height and width as their iPhone 12 series predecessors, but are up to 0.25mm thicker and 11g heavier. The weight is slightly noticeable but doesn’t make too much of a difference. The main appeal of the smaller iPhone 13 mini is of course how convenient and easy it is to handle. At just 140g, it’s still one of the lightest premium smartphones you can buy today.

Apple has made the notches on the front of all iPhone 13 models about 20 percent less wide, but they’re also a little taller than before. You’ll find that the volume controls on the left and power button on the right are slightly lower, and easier to reach. The biggest difference though is the new diagonal camera arrangement on the rear – this is certainly attention-grabbing, in contrast to Apple’s usual minimalist approach, and not everyone will like it.

Both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have flat frames made of aluminium, with glass on the back and Apple’s own Ceramic Shield material on the front, which is said to be resilient to drops and scratches. These phones have IP68 ratings for dust and water resistance.

iphone 13 mini front ndtv iphone

The iPhone 13 mini has a 5.4-inch screen while the iPhone 13 has a 6.1-inch screen

 

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini specifications

While the smaller iPhone 13 mini has a 5.4-inch screen, the standard iPhone 13 has a 6.1-inch screen. These are crisp OLED Super Retina panels, with higher brightness of up to 800nits in typical use and 1200nits with HDR content. Both support the wide DCI-P3 colour gamut and Apple’s True Tone feature which adjusts colour temperature based on ambient lighting. Sadly, there’s no high refresh rate this generation and no ambient display, which are both disappointing considering Apple’s premium prices.

On the inside, the main attraction is the new Apple A15 Bionic SoC. The company claims that even last year’s A14 Bionic is still superior to the competition, and now its lead has increased. That said, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have one less GPU core than the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, though the SoC name is the same.

You get support for 5G as well as LTE, dual eSIMs, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, GPS, NFC for Apple Pay, and Ultra wideband for location awareness. There’s no fingerprint sensor, and Apple’s 3D Face ID doesn’t work if you’re wearing a mask, which is unfortunate. The earpiece doubles as a second speaker for stereo sound.

iphone 13 mini notch ndtv iphone

The iPhone 13 (left) has a narrower but deeper notch than the iPhone 12 (right)

 

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini usage and performance

In actual use, the iPhone 13 mini is an extremely convenient phone. It’s easy to hold and work with, and it won’t feel fatiguing. On the downside, the small screen does make content feel a bit cramped by today’s standards. Typing, especially, might take some time to get used to if you’ve been using larger phones. Games with a lot of controls, like CoD Mobile, might also be a bit hard to get comfortable with, but Asphalt 9: Legends, with just one button for each thumb, was fun.

There are a lot of people upgrading from older smartphones, and those who simply don’t want a huge screen and aren’t concerned about entertainment. The iPhone 13 mini doesn’t really have any competition if you’re specifically looking for a small phone – other than the iPhone 12 mini. It’s a pity that this might be Apple’s last compact premium iPhone for the forseeable future, if rumours are to be believed.

The standard-sized iPhone 13 gives you much more room to breathe, and is also easier to hold in landscape for playing games. If you read a lot, or see yourself watching videos on your phone regularly, this might be the better choice.

Both phones have bright, crisp screens, and content looks great. Colours are extremely vibrant without being oversaturated, and viewing angles are great. It’s a pity that there’s no high refresh rate, although iOS 15 is optimised very well. Compared to the iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 is slightly less fluid, but some people might not even perceive this.

The new notch is still intrusive when watching videos, but most games have now adapted their layouts so you don’t lose anything. iOS 15 continues to reduce content density and it’s unfortunate that the space to the sides of the notch isn’t used better, for example to display the battery level percentage again.

iphone 13 series ndtv iphone

(L-R): iPhone 13 mini in (Product)Red, iPhone 13 in Pink, iPhone 13 Pro in Gold, iPhone 13 Pro Max in Sierra Blue

 

Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini feature stereo speakers, which deliver expansive, loud sound. It’s clear at high volumes, but the low-end is relatively weak, as expected.

In everyday use, both models were quick and responsive. There’s no lag or any kind of issue when launching apps, multitasking, or just using the iOS 15 UI. Face ID does take a second sometimes, but at other times the phone will be unlocked the moment you look at it, before you even think of taking any action.

In terms of benchmarks, AnTuTu reported 8,08,727 on the iPhone 13 and 8,14,866 on the iPhone 13 mini. For reference, the iPhone 13 Pro scored 8,42,386 which could be down to its extra GPU core, and an iPhone 12 running the same versions of iOS and AnTuTu managed 6,94,580. Geekbench 5 reported virtually identical single-core scores of 1,729 and 1,725, plus multi-core scores of 4,481 and 4,499 for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini respectively.

In the 3DMark Wild Life test, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini scored 8,535 and 8,945 respectively, while the iPhone 13 Pro managed 9,743. The Wild Life Stress Test showed a 72.4 stability rating with a top score of 8,766 for the iPhone 13, and that predictably dropped to 54.8 percent on the iPhone 13 mini which is more thermally constrained, but in fact it maxed out at 9,080 before dropping. This means that you don’t lose any performance with the physically smaller model unless you have intense workloads running for a long time.

Despite having one less GPU core than the Pro models, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini ran games and tests perfectly fine. Their rears did get slightly warm after playing for a while, but games were enjoyable on both phones.

Apple doesn’t officially talk about RAM or battery capacities, but the smaller iPhone 13 mini clearly has a weaker battery. It lasted through a full day of use, but there wasn’t much left over and you’ll probably want to make sure you charge it each night. The iPhone 13 did a bit better, lasting for nearly a day and a half. In our HD video loop test, the iPhone 13 ran for 14 hours, 54 minutes while the iPhone 13 mini managed 12 hours, 17 minutes. Using a spare Apple charger, both phones managed to charge up to about 50 percent in an hour and took a little over two hours to fill up completely.

iphone 13 mini camera ndtv iphone

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have identical camera capabilties

 

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini cameras

Now, coming to cameras. You don’t get exactly the same specifications for the main and ultra-wide cameras as on the Pro models, and there’s no telephoto camera at all. The ultra-wide camera cannot take macro shots either. However, sensor-shift stabilisation is now standard across the entire lineup. All three rear cameras as well as the front one have 12-megpixel resolutions. You also do get Cinematic Mode, which automatically adjusts focus between subjects in a video, as well as Photographic Styles, which let you customise how your phone processes colour and tone in photos.

iPhone 13 daytime camera samples (Top: wide-angle; Bottom: ultra-wide-angle)(tap to see full size)

 

While Cinematic Mode can be fun, it isn’t going to be useful in everyday situations. Photographic Styles also present interesting creative possibilities, but you should make sure that you know when this feature is and isn’t enabled because it will affect how all the shots you take are processed, and you can’t undo this. To know more about these features, do check out our iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max review.

iPhone 13 mini low-light camera samples (Top: wide-angle; Bottom: ultra-wide-angle)(tap to see full size)

 

Photos shot with the main cameras on both phones in the daytime were crisp and detailed. Colours are accurate and exposures were usually just right, even indoors. Night Mode is enabled automatically, and you can tweak the exposure length or disable it if you want. This results in bright, detailed shots.

iPhone 13 mini daytime portrait camera sample (tap to see full size)

iPhone 13 daytime close-up camera sample (tap to see full size)

 

The ultra-wide cameras on both phones also capture great shots in the daytime, with very little loss in detail unless you look very closely. At night, quality does deteriorate more than with the main camera. Portrait shots are impressive, but you need some distance between yourself and the subject. Selfies are also crisp and natural-looking, and portraits are possible thanks to the TrueDepth 3D sensor.

iPhone 13 daytime selfie camera samples (Top: standard; Bottom: portrait)(tap to see full size)

 

You can shoot videos at up to 4K 60fps, and Dolby Vision HDR is supported. Clips shot with the primary camera are stabilised well, and detail is excellent at 1080p as well as 4K. The ultra-wide camera makes for shakier shots, but if you’re standing still, quality is still good. HDR video looks especially sharp on the phones’ own screens. At night, there is some jitter in very low light.

iPhone 13 mini Photographic Styles samples (tap to see larger)

 

Verdict

There’s no doubt that the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini work smoothly. The iPhone 13 mini in particular could be a good upgrade if you’re currently using an older iPhone and want to stick with something small. On the other hand, the iPhone 13 is more in line with the current market, and should be more versatile for a lot of people. The choice between the two sizes is primarily about convenience and ease of use (and your budget), but do consider that there’s also a difference in battery life.

These phones offer a lot of what you’d get with the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, at much lower prices. They’re still very expensive though, and you don’t get some of the nicest touches like the 120Hz screen. If you don’t really need Cinema Mode or Photographic Styles, you might be perfectly happy. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max aren’t officially available anymore but you can still find them on sale at prices that overlap the iPhone 13.

Added to that, there’s also the fact that the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are now available at lower official prices, and there have been some extraordinary deals during recent online sales. Last year’s models represent enormous value, selling for just over half as much as the new iPhones. iOS 15 and future updates will also keep things fresh for a while.

That means the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are somewhat sandwiched between the latest Pro models and their own predecessors, all while fighting off Android-based competitors with comparable or even better features at much lower prices. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini might not be exciting new phones, but they keep the ball rolling and they do give potential iPhone buyers a lot of new options.


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss iPhone 13, new iPad and iPad mini, and Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean to the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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