Here’s a prediction: the iPhone 13 is going to disappoint a lot of people, and those people will be wrong.
I don’t mean they’ll be wrong if they choose not to buy it. I choose not to buy things all the time; we all do. But they’ll be wrong if they go on the internet to complain that the iPhone 13 isn’t a significant upgrade. And to prove it, I’m going to rope in the famous Greek historian Plutarch from around 120AD, Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and V from Cyberpunk 2077.
If you’re wondering what on earth a Greek guy who’s been dead for nearly 2000 years, a pointy-bearded assassin who spends most of his day hiding in air vents and a character with user-definable private parts have in common, it’s one word: little changes that add up to a lot.
Little acorns and mighty oaks
The legend of Theseus posed an interesting question: if you replace every beam and bolt of a ship with a new one, is it still the same ship? If you look at the individual beams and bolts, you might think that it isn’t – but when you consider the big picture, it’s the same ship renewed and made stronger for another mission.
As T3's Matt Bolton wrote in his iPhone 11 Pro review, "The iPhone 11 Pro looks so similar to its predecessor, but almost every single part has been switched out for something new and better… the individual changes don't feel that big, but the sum makes for a really solid year-on-year upgrade. This is absolutely a new, shinier ship."
Think of it this way. What would you rather have: a look-at-me new design with one attention-grabbing new feature, or the familiar design with much better battery life, an improved screen, better camera results, faster 5G worldwide, a faster and more efficient processor, and a slightly smaller notch? Because that’s what we’re expecting. You don’t have to buy one, but I bet a lot of iPhone 11 owners will.
It’s the same with Adam Jensen’s augmentations and V’s upgrades: individually they might not impress you much, but when you can install a whole bunch you’ve suddenly got an Adam Jensen who can fire bombs out of his nipples and a V who has to be careful when he scratches himself because his arms now contain giant ninja scissors.
So yes, in the ongoing tick-tock cycle of Apple hardware, the iPhone 13 is likely to be a tock, not a tick: an evolution, not a revolution. Visually it could well be hard to tell it apart from the iPhone 12, which wasn't a groundbreaking change from the iPhone 11, or even the iPhone XS or the iPhone X. But while we’re not expecting to have our socks knocked well and truly off, we’re expecting to see lots of incremental improvements that collectively become a really big deal.