Apple recently announced the new 13 Series of smartphones at their traditional September event, and as with last year there were four options available in the form of a 13 Mini, 13, 13 Pro and the largest the 13 Pro Max
Normally when these phones go on sale there is a massive rush to get hands on them to produce reviews and coverage, and usually it is the large news sites and big name tech sites that get them first to cover, however thankfully Vodafone UK reached out early and allowed me to get hands on a 13 Pro Max for a week so I was able to do at least some coverage and give my first impressions.
This will not be a full review like normal, usually I like to spend at least 2-3 weeks using the phone daily before I put my final conclusion to any review I do, but when you get the chance to get hands on with a new device this early I was not going to turn it down.
As always once the review was finished the handset was returned back to Vodafone and no offer of any compensation for my time was given, as with all my reviews these all my own views and will always continue to do so.
Apple took the best selling iPhone 12 Pro Max and made a few little improvements which all added to up the best iPhone the company have ever made, which is to be expected of course.
Looking straight on to the display you get what you would expect with an iPhone these days, you get the largest screen they have on a phone which goes edge to edge, and finally after all this time the company have made the famous notch 20 percent smaller than before which will help when watching back content, although it is a shame they have not done anything with the extra space like being able to add a battery percentage indicator for example.
The front camera will be covered more in the camera section of the review, but as a quick overview you get a 12 megapixel camera with 4K recording which does a great job at both selfies including portrait ones and high resolution video in fact this phone probably has the best or one of the best selfie cameras in quality performance.
The screen comes in at a large 6.7 inches in size and uses AMOLED technology which is a joy to use when browsing through all your apps, watching back content and playing games on, and best of all, Apple finally added 120hz refresh rate to the Pro models which makes everything buttery smooth when navigating around, and when app developers update to run their apps at this faster rate, it will get even better.
The large screen takes up all the front with no physical buttons to be seen, just the large screen which looks great for watching content back on.
Looking over at the left side you get a little switch that is on all iPhone devices and lets you quickly switch between normal and silent modes with a quick flick, very handy if you need your phone on silent for meetings or work and you need to quickly mute the phone.
Below this you get the volume up and down buttons as you get on every other phone of course, these can also be used as camera shutter buttons when the camera is open if you prefer pressing a real button instead of using an on screen controls.
Below that near the bottom is the sim card tray that you pop out using the pin in the box, however you can use any other pin you have from other phones or a paperclip if you have one handy, of course as expected you get a single SIM option using a Nano SIM and no expandable storage.
However if you do want to go dual-SIM you do have the option of eSIM meaning you can have one physical SIM as well as one eSIM if needed.
Over on the right hand side you get a single button which is used mainly to switch the device on, however once on you use it to activate Siri if you do not want to use the voice command to bring it up instead.
This may be a little confusing for people coming from devices older than the iPhone X as to turn the phone off you need to hold this button as well as a volume button for a few seconds.
This button also acts as confirmation when you want to purchase an app by double tapping, it scans your face and approves the payment within seconds, also for using Apple Pay a quick double tap brings up the payment option for using wireless payments.
Up at the top there is nothing to see apart from a single line near the corner, this is to help the antenna system get better signal due to the design of the internals of the phone, it was a huge issue back around iPhone 4 times when not having these and holding the phone would see a dramatic drop in bars, so Apple built some antenna lines into the structure to help and they have been there ever since.
Down at the bottom you get a set of loudspeaker holes either side of the lighting port, yes Apple still went for the Lighting port instead of the USB-C that the iPad Pro uses, it would have been nice to keep everything consistent, but I guess all the existing Apple accessories for iPhone use Lightning so this was the most convenient option.
Turning over to the back you have a full glass panel with the Apple logo slap bang in the middle as Apple do like to show off their logos on their devices, and is almost a status symbol for many people, this is why a lot of 3rd party cases have a cut-out to show off the logo.
The camera system is positioned up top in the left hand corner and has been the same idea since the iPhone 11 took the design over a year ago, but this time it has much more going on under the hood, more so than the other iPhone 12 range.
The Pro devices have three main cameras over on the back, these include a super wide angle, a wide angle, and a telephoto for zooming in, although a limited amount of zoom control and nowhere near the 10x you get from devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as you have just 2.5x zoom before you lose quality.
You also get the LED flash for helping to boost taking photos in dark conditions or of course using as a flashlight, what will be one of the main uses of this bright LED on the back.
Finally there is another sensor there, this is not a ToF sensor like some other devices have, but a new LiDAR sensor which is a lot more advanced and allows for all the AR type functions you would want to use a device like this for, there are a few examples already but this will get much more popular going forward, it does however also help with better portrait photos even in low lighting conditions.
I have said a few times before that I have always been more of an Android fan over iOS because for a while iOS just felt like it was almost too simple for a geek phone fan such as myself, sure some people prefer the simple setup, but compared to what Android can do there was a lot to be looked at.
However with iOS 14 that all changed, in one of the biggest visual changes in years Apple have finally caught up with what Android offers, and in some way has actually offered a better alternative.
iOS15 has improved even more with some handy enhancements such as Spacial Audio in FaceTime, being able to apply background blur as well as finally allowing invitations to Android users to take part in video calls.
You have the App Library which will organize your apps into folders depending on what the type of app is, this also allows you to remove apps from the actual home screen without needing to uninstall, the app stays installed but in this handy folder or the A-Z list.
Not only does this make the whole experience much cleaner, it means you have more control over what apps you want on the main screen and which you can just keep in a folder page off to the side.
There are other improvements such as better Apple Maps, Focus allowing you to customise the do not disturb feature to be more personal and Siri improvements too.
There are a lot more improvements that come with iOS15 so to find them all it is best to check out the official page from Apple here, but in an overview, this Android fan is very impressed with iOS15 and now would be happy to use as a main phone.
For me I found the larger screen much better to use over smaller ones, although I do normally prefer larger phones anyway, I did appreciate the extra space available for interacting with the screen and for fitting my widgets on to personalise to my taste.
When it comes to performance, this is an area Apple will always perform very well in because they use their own custom processor which allows them to control the whole experience from start to finish, giving you improved battery performance as well as when it comes to loading apps and the whole OS.
If you look up on paper you may notice that whilst the actual spec such as battery and RAM seem a lot lower than some of the flagship Android counterparts, because Apple manages the whole process they actually managed to outperform a lot of these so it’s not just about the numbers, but what you do with them that count.
The iPhone 13 Series comes with the latest A15 Bionic chip which has a huge amount of power and let’s you multitask a ton of apps in the background, whilst also being able to run the latest games smoothly with no slowdown or lag.
Also the latest processor helps when it comes to the camera by improving the photos taken, this is because when you taking a photo, the processor will work out a load of difference tasks in the background to improve contrast, brightness, shadows, as well as facial recognition and a ton of other tasks, you won’t see this happening because you literally tap the screen to take a photo when it’s there, but the processor does a huge amount of work to improve and give you the best photo possible.
Battery comes in at 4373mAh which is a big 18.5% larger battery than the iPhone 12 Pro Max it is replacing, and also has to add 120hz support too, but thankfully due to the processor performance and improvements you don’t really notice a dip in battery performance, in fact even with the faster refresh screen being used and 5G, I still managed a whole day of use without ever having to worry about the battery running out.
I was easily able to get through a full day of use as my main device doing my usual testing of playing videos, lots of social media, emails, some phone calls and a lot of camera use, I even connected an Apple Watch for a few days and was able to last the day with Bluetooth connected all day.
I was really impressed with the battery performance, even with a lot of heavy use during the day I had plenty of battery life left at the end of the day, it really did perform at a whole new level from other phones I have used over the last few months.
Thankfully the iPhone 13 Pro Max also has Wireless Charging for when you need to top up that battery on the move, and this works with all standard QI chargers so thankfully no special Apple charger is needed. You also get the option of 18W charging via cable, but this needs a separate charger purchase, the one in the box still a slow by today’s standards 5W but gets the job done and most people will end up charging overnight anyway.
Other key points worth covering is the iPhone 13 series are all IP68 dust and water resistant for up to 30 mins of water at up to 2 meters which means you can get wet in the rain or put in the snow or a puddle to get that fancy photo, just avoid going swimming with it still in your pocket.
With the iPhone 12 bringing in 5G finally, the iPhone 13 Series have taken it even further with better networking technology built in allowing even faster speeds where network supports it, here in the UK we don’t have the crazy mmWave 5G which is being used over in the States, but using on the networks we have you still get some crazy speeds, I was able to pick up 5G testing in Plymouth and managed to get around 750Mbps which was super fast.
With the iPhone 12 Pro Max, Apple really pulled out all the stops to have one of the best set of cameras in any of their smartphones, and with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the more advances technology it gets even better.
Below are some selfie photos taken straight from the device with no editing at all, well I say that, but I did have to make one small change and that was because Apple use their own new HEIF format for photos instead of JPG as this saves storage space, but sometimes is not able to be opened on some devices so for this review I used an editor to change for format but kept the quality at its best.
The front camera comes in at 8 megapixels and can also record 4K video content if you wanted which was great for anyone who is getting into vlogging.
You get some interesting filters you can use too by using the processing power such as studio lighting, normally these types of effects are reserved for just rear cameras on a lot of smartphones, and whilst these can be hit or miss, they can produce some great results to show off on social media.
Video selfies were also very good thanks to not only some great hardware, but the A15 Bionic processor being able to chew through all that data and provide excellent video content with great audio to go with it.
If you are looking for a phone to go video blogging with then look no further, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has fantastic quality in both video and audio performance.
Over on the back you get the same main triple setup as on the iPhone 12 Pro Max from a year ago and again the iPhone 11 Pro Max the year before that.
You still get the ultra wide angle camera and telephoto for zooming giving this device a good set of camera options, although does lack in the zooming area when compared to some of the competition which now offer 10x optical zoom.
The big differences with the 13 Pro Max over the 12 Pro Max is the upgrade in zoom to 3x, the improved wide angle sensor allowing more light so you get better night shots, and finally a special Macro mode which lets you get within 2cm of an object for super clear close up photos.
There is an extra sensor on the back as mentioned before and this is called the LiDAR sensor and is used for improved portrait shots as LiDAR works at a distance up to 5 meters and better at working out distances over the ToF sensors that other devices used, it also helps perform better low light portraits due to the way it works.
Portrait mode has been improved over older models and both selfie and rear camera samples look great, a few examples are below and it seems to do a good job with getting the foreground separated from the background thanks to having two cameras to get information from.
Video quality on the rear cameras is great quality with a maximum of 4K resolution at 60fps if you want to max it out, the sample shows below are recorded at 4K 30fps as that is the most popular to also help save file size.
Overall quality is great capturing realistic colours and lighting even in poorly lit conditions, and stabilisation is great too when walking thanks to the OIS built in, this really is a great device for when it comes to video recording.
Another new mode added is Cinematic Video which allows you to shoot some amazing video content adding natural background
iPhone 13 Pro vs Pro Max
This year there is very little to pick between the two new Pro models, where as last year you needed the Max version to get the better camera technology with sensor shift being built in, this year both the Pro versions have it so is not so much an issue.
Comparing the Pro models now comes down to which screen size you prefer and which will offer the better battery performance for your individual situation.
The battery on the iPhone 13 Pro is 3095mAh instead of 4352mAh on the Pro Max model, and with screen sizes you get 6.1 inches on the Pro and 6.7 on the Pro Max
If you are after the largest phone possible from Apple and do not mind the extra weight and bulk it brings, then the Pro Max will be your best bet.
If however you find the smaller size more comfortable and still want really strong performance in battery life then the Pro model will be a great choice, and save you a bit of cash at the same time.
When I review a phone I usually like to use for at least 3-4 weeks as a main phone to get a real hands on experience with what the phone can do, certain situations like this due to demand means I was only able to get a week with the phone, so my coverage is based on a short time with it.
Even with that being said I can easily say that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best iPhone the company have made with some great improvements over the older iPhone 12 Pro Max which was already impressive enough.
Making the notch smaller, improving the camera performance, having a larger battery, and adding 120hz refresh rate on the screen takes this to a new level on what an iPhone can do, and if money is no object and you like a bitter phone, the Pro Max will be the one to go for and you will not regret your decision one bit.
The best news this year is Apple also gave all the improvements to the normal iPhone 13 Pro model too so if you want all the performance and extras the Max gives you, but prefer a smaller phone, then the iPhone 13 Pro gives you that, but in the smaller size.
If you have an iPhone 11 or below then this is a easy upgrade and you will notice a huge improvement for nearly every part of the phone, if you have an iPhone 12 Pro Max you have to consider if the changes in this years model is enough to want the upgrade and the extra cost involved.
For iPhone fans and users out there, the new 13 Pro and Pro Max are easily the best phones from the company you can buy right now and are well worth looking at buying if you are in the market for a new phone.
Big thanks to Vodafone UK for providing both an iPhone 13 Pro and a Pro Max for a week each to give my thoughts on.