This year’s model isn’t just an “s” year upgrade.

I always look forward to Apple’s September event because I know that it’s the dawn of a new iPhone model. Two years ago when the first pro models were launched, I was thrilled. The ‘pro’ has been my go-to iPhone model since then. Last year, I opted for an iPhone 12 Pro and I’ve been incredibly happy with its performance. So much so that I really thought long and hard about upgrading to the iPhone 13 Pro. Based on the announcements made by Apple on September 14, I wasn’t sure if the hassle of upgrading would be worth it this time around. On the surface, it seemed as though the updates to the iPhone were “S model” upgrades. 

For those who are new to the iPhone family, an “S” year is sort of considered a half-upgrade. In previous years, the S models have been the same body style and size, but some moderate technical upgrades occur within the phone to make it worthwhile for those who want to upgrade every year. The first “S” model occurred in 2009 with the release of the iPhone 3GS. S models are somewhat lackluster and for most people, they just aren’t worth the trouble to upgrade. My fiance fits into that category. She has a 12 Pro and since she isn’t having any issues with it, she decided to forego the upgrade this year. After having the iPhone 13 Pro in my hands, I’m really happy to say that I’m glad I took the leap. It’s more than an “S” upgrade – it’s a solid device and worth every struggle I went through to get it. 

iPhone 13 Pro

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The iPhone arrived via UPS around 1:30 p.m. CDT. I quickly ripped open the shipping box and found all the return materials for my iPhone 12 (I’m returning it as a part of Verizon’s upgrade program) and the new, black iPhone box. I was surprised that the shipping box was as large as it was because even though there was packaging in the box with it, the iPhone box had enough room to freely move around. Fortunately, there was no damage to the box or the phone inside, but it was still surprising. 

Since the iPhone no longer ships with a power adapter, the box is much slimmer than it used to be. The only things included in the box with the phone are the charging cable (USB-C to Lightning), a small Apple logo sticker, a SIM card tool, and a user guide. The image on the cover of the box matches the color/size/shape of the phone model inside. The sticker on the back of the box provides all the necessary information about the phone including the model, serial number, and IMEI number. 

Upon taking the phone out of the box, I noticed some subtle physical differences between it and my older iPhone 12 Pro. They are so subtle, in fact, that I don’t think many people would normally notice them, but when I took notice of the size of the camera system, I decided to do a close side-by-side comparison. 

iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro is on the Right

Front/Face

  • The notch is not as wide on the 13 Pro as it is on the 12 Pro and the speaker on the 13 Pro is placed right along the top edge of the phone. It’s also noticeably longer than the iPhone 12 Pro’s speaker. 
  • The size of the bezel looks just about the same on both phones. 
iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro is on the Bottom

Right Side (sleep/wake button side)

  • The 5G antennae seems to be in exactly the same place on both phones. 
  • The sleep/wake button is about 0.25 inches lower on the iPhone 13 Pro than the iPhone 12 Pro’s placement of the button.
iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro is on the Left

Back

  • The camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro is quite a bit larger than the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera system – by about 0.5 inches all the way around. Because the camera system is larger and so is the notch for it, this makes the iPhone 13 Pro sit quite a bit higher than the iPhone 12 Pro did. 
iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 is on the Bottom

Left Side (volume button side)

  • The SIM card slot is approximately 0.5 inches higher on the iPhone 13 Pro
  • The volume buttons and mute switch are approximately 0.25 inches lower on the iPhone 13 Pro

Top/Bottom

  • Look to be exactly the same on both phones

Dimensions

  • iPhone 12 Pro: 5.78” H x 2.82” W x 0.29” D
  • iPhone 13 Pro: 5.78” H x 2.82” W x 0.30″ D

Weight

  • iPhone 12 Pro: 6.66 ounces
  • iPhone 13 Pro: 7.19 ounces

The physical differences are few and far between, but they are there. The only reason I actually noticed them was because I tried to place a case designed for the iPhone 13 Pro onto my 12 Pro before the new phone arrived and the buttons didn’t line up right. 

iPhone 13 Pro

INTERNAL UPGRADES

After a thorough review of the exterior of the phone, I decided to look at the internal differences between the 12 Pro and the 13 Pro. 

  • Display: Both phones have the 6.1” Super Retina XDR display. The iPhone 13 Pro has ProMotion technology with adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz.  
  • Cellular Data: Both phones are 5G. 
  • Camera System: Both phones have Pro 12MP camera systems including Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide lenses. The 13 Pro lenses have different aperture sizes than the 12 Pro. They can both record with Dolby Vision HDR up to 4K at 60fps, but the iPhone 13 Pro also has Cinematic mode in 1080p at 30 fps. 
  • Optical Zoom Range: The iPhone 12 Pro has a range of 4x (digital zoom up to 10x) while the 13 Pro has a range of 6x (digital zoom up to 15x).
  • LiDAR Scanner: Both phones have the LiDAR Scanner for Night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences
  • Processor: The iPhone 12 Pro has the A14 Bionic chip while the iPhone 13 Pro has the A15 Bionic chip – the fastest chip ever in a smartphone. They both have a 6-core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores, but the 13 Pro has a ‘new’ version of this system.
  • GPU: iPhone 12 Pro has a 4-core GPU and the 13 Pro has a 5-core GPU
  • Neural Engine: Both phones have a 16-core Neural Engine, but the 13 Pro has a newer version of it. 
  • Battery: iPhone 12 Pro provides up to 17 hours of video playback and the 13 Pro provides up to 22 hours. 
  • Other: Both phones have Face ID, the ceramic shield front, surgical-grade stainless steel, water resistance up to 6 meters for up to 30 minutes (IP68), and are compatible with MagSafe charging.
  • Capacity: Both models are available with 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, but the 13 Pro also has a 1TB version.

Like I said, on the surface, the specs make it look like it’s a half upgrade, but when you get the device in your hands, it doesn’t feel like a half-upgrade at all. For me, the ProMotion technology is enough for the upgrade. It supports faster frame rates and just makes every movement feel fluid and noticeably brighter. And you only get the ProMotion feature if you get the pro-model iPhone 13. Even though I was only moving from a 12 Pro to the 13 Pro, I can still tell a substantial difference in the way the newer phone operates. Every operation seems faster and better. I will admit that I haven’t had a full test of the battery life yet, but I’m encouraged so far that I haven’t had to put it on charge with my usual daily operations. 

iPhone 13 Pro

CONCLUSION

If you are considering making the leap to the 13 Pro models, I would highly recommend it. It’s not disappointing and in my opinion, it’s completely worth it. I don’t regret my upgrade decision and I don’t think anyone else who makes this leap won’t either.

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