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iPhone 13 review roundup: Best phones ever, but not everyone should upgrade

Published Sep 21st, 2021 10:32AM EDT
iPhone 13 Review Roundup
Image: Apple Inc.

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If it’s the Tuesday before the new iPhone release, it means the first reviews are out, and this year is no different. The first iPhone 13 reviews are already out, and we’re giving you the roundup you’ve been looking for. The reviews detail the first hands-on experiences with this year’s four new handsets. What’s different this year compared to last year is that all four iPhones are back for a regular September launch. That means all of them hit stores on the same day, which is Friday, September 24th. And all of them have been available for pre-order since last Friday. Of note, most models have sold out online by now.

The early reviews all agree that the iPhone 13 models are great handsets. From iPhone 13 mini to iPhone 13 Pro Max, they’re powerful, they feature great designs, better cameras, and better batteries. But the reviews also seem to paint a clear picture. The iPhone 13 series isn’t a must-have upgrade if you’re on the iPhone 12 right now. But everyone else rocking iPhone 11 models and older should consider the new generation. Also, reviewers hardly seem to mind the new notch size.

In what follows below, we’ve put together a roundup of the first iPhone 13 reviews that came out this year. Like last year, these are the first real hands-on experiences with the four handsets. That’s because Apple’s iPhone 13 launch event was still a virtual one, meaning that the press didn’t get to test the handsets once the keynote concluded.

With that in mind, we’ve split the first batch of early iPhone 13 reviews below into reviews that have a video component and reviews that are text only. Also, you’ll find that reviewers either looked at all four devices at once or coupled them, as Apple does. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are the most affordable new iPhones, so they’re often reviewed together. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are the other obvious pair that go together.

iPhone 13 video reviews

The Verge

The Verge’s iPhone 13 review is available here, and the blog’s iPhone 13 Pro review is here.


Engadget’s Phone 13 review is available here.


Rene Ritchie

Other iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro reviews for this roundup

The Wall Street Journal

Joanna Stern for The Wall Street Journal :

After spending nearly a week testing all four iPhone 13 models, I can say they’re great iPhones with noticeable forward strides, especially in battery life. (Two days on the ginormous iPhone 13 Pro Max. Two. Days.) […]

The coolest Pro trick? The new ultrawide is capable of macro—extremely close-up—photos and videos. I was able to capture stark water droplets on raspberries and the extreme detail of a pink flower’s bud. Georgia O’Keeffe would be so proud. […]

While 120Hz would be a waste of power in many cases, doubling the refresh rate in compatible games or for specific things like scrolling and swiping really does look smoother. I felt the difference instantly when scrolling through long webpages or social-media feeds.

The New York Times

Brian X. Chen for The New York Times:

The problem with so much great innovation is that upgrades are now so iterative that it has become difficult to know what to write about them each year. That’s especially the case with Apple’s iPhone 13, which may be the most incremental update ever to the iPhone.

The newest iPhone is just 10 percent faster than last year’s models. (For context, in 2015, the iPhone 6S was more than 70 percent faster than its predecessor, the iPhone 6.) Its flashiest new feature, a higher screen “refresh rate” on the $1,000-plus models, makes motion look smoother when opening apps and scrolling through text — hardly a game changer.


Lauren Goode for Wired:

I’ve been using the non-Pro version of iPhone 13 for just under a week now, and I’ve used the iPhone 13 Mini for a few days too. I’m almost certainly going to upgrade to the iPhone 13 from the iPhone 11 I’ve been using as my daily phone. The iPhone 13’s build is nicer, a callback to the sleeker, flat-edged iPhones of the past. It has a bigger battery than last year. And I’ve been showing “cinematic video” clips of my cat to pretty much anyone who’s vaccinated and willing to come closer than social distancing rules allow.

The iPhone 13 is what a “basic” iPhone should be. As Apple has introduced variations of its phones over the years, with Pro, Max, and Mini now part of the annual lineup, it has also employed a classic product differentiation strategy; the standard models of iPhone have had less brilliant displays, lesser cameras, or pitiful base storage amounts compared to the Pros.

Julian Chokkattu for Wired:

Apple’s playing catch up as we’ve seen Android phones with high refresh rates for some time (even on cheap phones), but the implementation here takes into account what you’re doing at any given moment and the speed at which your finger interacts with the screen. Just sitting on a static home screen? That refresh rate is probably in the low 10s. Wheeling through Instagram? It’ll ratchet up to 120. (This dynamic adjustment helps conserve battery life too, since running 120 Hz all the time burns through battery.) The smoother screen experience is noticeable next to last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. Everything just feels a tiny bit more fluid.[…]

Slightly better gaming performance, a smoother and brighter display, along with more and better cameras: those are all valid reasons to jump for the Pro. Just know that, more than ever before, you’re getting quite a bit with the non-Pro iPhones. And if that means saving a few hundred bucks you can spend on the more important things in life, especially in these difficult times, I’d say that’s a win.


Tod Haselton for CNBC:

[This] is not a major shift in the iPhone landscape, like the iPhone 12 last year, which introduced 5G and the biggest screen ever on an iPhone. Or the iPhone 5s, which in 2013 introduced a fingerprint reader for the first time.

In short, you really don’t need to upgrade if you bought a new iPhone last year. But anyone with an iPhone 11 or older will find enough new parts and features to consider the new models. That means more than 250 million iPhone owners with phones that are more than 3 years old.

Tom’s Guide

Jordan Palmer for Tom’s Guide:

I’ve seen a lot of phones in my career, but the iPhone 13 Pro is the best phone I’ve ever reviewed. Apple’s latest handset raises the bar so much that it’s hard to find any true fault with the iPhone 13 Pro except maybe the lack of Touch ID and that the charging speed still maxes out at 20W. […]

Once you experience a 120Hz display, it’s hard to go back to a 60Hz one. The same holds true for the iPhone 13 Pro, which has a noticeably smoother screen than the 12 Pro. Side-by-side, I strongly prefer the ProMotion display. Not only is it easier to read text on a web page while scrolling, but the crisp animations jumping between emails in Gmail or just unlocking the phone all make for an extremely premium experience.
I wouldn’t say that the iPhone 13 Pro has the best display on the market, but it’s certainly very, very good and more competitive now thanks to ProMotion.

Mark Sponauer for Tom’s Guide:

The new phone’s display is brighter than its predecessor’s. The battery life is longer. And Apple has improved an already great camera with new sensors and computational photography features that make you feel like a pro.[…]

The iPhone 13 has some flaws. The charging is still relatively slow compared to some Android phones. And I don’t like that only the iPhone 13 Pro models get a 120Hz display and telephoto zoom. But based on my iPhone 13 review, this new iPhone is the best phone for the money.

That covers all the bases for this iPhone 13 review roundup. And if you want to learn more, you’ll find everything you need to know about the iPhone 13 right here.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.