Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: the best model in the range?

T3's long-term iPhone 13 Pro test reveals why this model is the sweet spot in Apple's iPhone lineup

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iPhone 13 Pro product shot
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The iPhone 13 Pro is in many ways the Goldilocks of the iPhone range – just right. It has the very best of iPhone features in a body that is a bit more pocket-sized and hand-friendly without sacrificing any major features.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Stunning screen quality

  • +

    Solid and sturdy build

  • +

    Excellent camera array

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Shorter battery life than Pro Max (but the latter is massive)

  • -

    Notch (iPhone 14 Pro goes 'Dynamic Island')

  • -

    Comes at a premium price

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The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is a flagship phone, but as the iPhone 13 Pro Max sits above it, so it's not quite top of the range. Aside from the screen size and battery though, the two phones are near identical. So there are certainly reasons why you would pick the Pro's smaller stature over the Pro Max. 

After the iPhone 13 launch back in September 2021, I was fortunate enough to use all four iPhone models that were released. After the iPhone 12 launch, it was the iPhone 12 Pro Max that came out as the true champion, thanks to its longer telephoto lens and the addition of sensor-shift stabilization on the main camera. As the cameras on the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are identical, it was the 13 Pro for me that offered the best proposition in the range. 

While the full review of the iPhone 13 Pro Max tells you everything you need to know about the functions of that phone, in this review I'm looking at the experience of using the phone over a far longer period. I've used the iPhone 13 Pro as my main phone for around six months now and it's my favourite model by far. But with the iPhone 14 Pro now also announced, I'm certainly tempted by that newer device's camera and 'Dynamic Island' (i.e. no notch) improvements...

iPhone 13 Pro product shot

(Image credit: Future)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: price and availability

Like the rest of the iPhone 13 range, the 13 Pro was launched back in September 2021, going on sale on September 24, 2021. 

Prices for the iPhone 13 Pro start from £949 / $999 / AU$1699. This is a full £100/$100 less than the 13 Pro Max and remains the same differential no matter the capacity. This means that the 1TB iPhone 13 Pro costs £1449 / $1499 / AU$2569. 

A 10% price difference might not seem a lot at this price, especially if you're looking to pay for your phone through your network but sometimes every little helps.  

iPhone 13 Pro product shot

(Image credit: Future)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: features and design

The iPhone 13 Pro Max brought with it some big updates to the camera array and this time they were all shared with the iPhone 13 Pro. The main camera has a wider f/1.5 aperture and a larger sensor, the ultra-wide-angle features a macro mode, taking focusing down to just 2cm and the telephoto lens is considerably longer. 

On the iPhone 12 Pro, the telephoto offered just a 2x magnification (a 58mm equivalent) while the Pro Max had a 2.5x (65mm equivalent). Both the 13 Pro and Pro Max have a 3x magnification, or 77mm equivalent lens, which is even better for those distant shots and creative portraits. 

The other big change was the display. The new Super Retina XDR display uses what Apple calls ProMotion technology to provide a variable refresh rate. It means it can ramp up to 120Hz for fast action in video games but also wind down to just 10Hz to save power when dealing with static pages. 

Of course, the screen on the iPhone 13 Pro is smaller than that of the 13 Pro Max – just a 6.1-inch OLED compared with a 6.7-inch. However, the 2532x1170 resolution means that it actually has more pixels per inch (460ppi compared to 458ppi). It's not something you'd notice on the screen to look at but it shows it's definitely not a step-down. 

Battery life is the other big step up in the iPhone 13 range and while this is one area where the 13 Pro can't compete with the 28 hours offered by the 13 Pro Max, its 22 hours is a big jump from the iPhone 12 Pro's 17 hours and even beats the 12 Pro Max's 20 hours. So yes, the 13 Pro Max has the best battery life, but the 13 Pro is the second-best in any iPhone. 

iPhone 13 Pro product shot

(Image credit: Future)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: performance

If you've been using one of the Pro Max models or any 6.7-inch phone, the 13 Pro does feel significantly smaller. The time I noticed it most was when watching movies, as suddenly I had to bring the phone that much closer and I was much more aware I was watching on a phone rather than something almost tablet-sized. For regular use though, the 6.1-inch display still feels spacious. Compared to even the iPhone 11 Pro, you're getting more real estate here than that 5.8-inch display. 

Of course, the quality of the display plays a huge part too. From the resolution to the color depth, everything looks stunning on this screen, including fast action games, thanks to the 120Hz output of the ProMotion. 

The beauty, of course, is that the iPhone 13 Pro is much more pocket friendly in size than the Pro Max. While certainly not small it doesn't have the same demands on a trouser or jacket pocket. And when it comes to using the phone, most of the screen is reachable with one hand. Granted it's not as easy as using the iPhone 13 mini with one hand, but you're not reliant on two hands in the way you are with the 13 Pro Max. 

While that battery is not as large as the 13 Pro Max, I've never had a problem with running out of charge on the 13 Pro. Typically, after a day's use (6am to 10pm) I'm left with around 50% charge. The only time I've seen the charge really drop is when you leave games running in the background. A day of Golf Rival did leave me heading for the low power zone by the evening but this is par for the course (excuse the pun). 

iPhone 13 Pro product shot

(Image credit: Future)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: cameras

There's plenty of debate out there on which smartphone offers the absolute best camera. There are certainly models with larger sensors and fancier optics than the iPhone 13 Pro, there are also processors that handle the colors differently which might be more pleasing to some. 

As someone who started their career evaluating lens and sensor qualities for digital cameras, I can honestly say I'm still blown away by the quality of the images from the iPhone 13 Pro. If you want an in-depth look at how it the features and how it compares to the iPhone 12 Pro models, read the camera section in the 13 Pro Max review as it's identical. 

The camera isn't perfect. The size of the sensor is still definitely a limitation and there is clearly lots of processing required to get those night shots looking noise-free. However, it produces great color, decent dynamic range and plenty of detail. 

Below are a few examples taken with the iPhone 13 Pro. 

iPhone 13 Pro review: verdict

The reason Apple offers four versions of its iPhone 13 is to appeal to a wider audience. For some, the standard iPhone 13 will be more than enough, while for those that want only the very best (and biggest), there's the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I even believe that the iPhone 13 mini is a valid choice for lots of users. 

But the iPhone 13 Pro is, I believe, the perfect balance. It has all the power, performance and features of the Pro Max, in a body that is far more hand-friendly. You also save by going for this slightly smaller option, and unless your primary use is to watch movies on it, you won't miss the bigger screen, nor the extra battery. 

As the iPhone 13 range goes, the Pro is my favourite of the bunch. It's the announcement of the iPhone 14, however, that's very likely to lure me up a notch (pun intended) for the next-in-line flagship though.

iPhone 13 Pro product shot

(Image credit: Future)

Also consider

If you're considering the iPhone 13 Pro, the other two phones you're probably looking at are the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 13. As I've mentioned throughout this review, the Pro Max will give you the benefit of a bigger screen and a longer battery life, but not much else. The standard iPhone 13 sacrifices that ProMotion 120Hz display and the telephoto camera lens. It's also lighter and a few hundred cheaper, though, so if you can live without these features it's a decent saving. 

If you're looking for grander, newer, better then the iPhone 14 Pro has also been revealed. That ups the camera stakes even higher, changes the notch design for a 'Dynamic Island' that looks really impressive with the way its integrated into the software, and new colour options too. Certainly tempting, but it is a pricier proposition, as you can see from the embedded widget below (which also includes the older iPhone 12 Pro if you're all about lowest price first).

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat Gallagher has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.