iPhone 13 & 13 mini review: So ordinary it's extraordinary

With batteries that last longer and double the storage, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini is a boring but very solid update. It beats a bag of new gimmicks.

I don’t want to waste your time.

This is going to be a quick review because there honestly isn’t a whole lot to say about the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 mini that requires a tome. They are really great phones. There is no jarring camera switching issue like there is on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max because the iPhone 13 and 13 mini cannot take macro photography and therefore has no macro mode to switch to.

Like the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, which are the same phones in different sizes, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are also the same phones with different display sizes and battery life. They share an identical aluminum frame and glossy glass back design. As much as I prefer the matte glass on the 13 Pros, I like the iPhone 13 and 13 mini’s lighter aluminum over the heavier and fingerprint-attracting stainless steel on the Pros.

The improved 12-megapixel dual-camera system, arranged in a diagonal layout this year, is the same with identical new features like better low-light performance, sharper ultra-wide photos, Photographic Styles, and Cinematic video mode. The selfie cameras are the same, too. These are terrific cameras that are only a stone throw’s away from the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max cameras. That’s how good Apple’s imaging pipeline is this year.

The new blue for the iPhone 13 and 13 mini is stunning.Raymond Wong / Input

The iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the same A15 Bionic chip that leaves the best Android phones in their dust. Same 5G, MagSafe wireless charging, smaller notch, brighter Super Retina XDR displays. Same IP68 water and dust resistance and same Ceramic Shield covering the screen. You get the picture — they’re the same!

Really, the biggest upgrade to the iPhone 13 and 13 mini is a boring one: they last longer. A lot longer depending on what you’re doing on them. Apple has made both phones marginally thicker and heavier to squeeze in larger batteries. Apple says the iPhone 13 lasts 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13 mini lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than the 12 mini. I spent more time using the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max in my week of testing so I don’t have more concrete data, but I can tell you I didn’t need a boost from a battery pack or a MagSafe Battery Pack during the day like I normally do with the iPhone 12 and 12 mini.

Battery life is the iPhone 13 and 13 mini’s biggest upgrade.Raymond Wong / Input

The larger physical battery carries the iPhone 13 and 13 mini into the night, but the A15 Bionic also deserves credit. The chip’s class-leading power efficiency also contributes to both phones not dying by the late afternoon or evening. The combination of a larger battery and the A15 Bionic’s power efficiency means battery anxiety is not a problem unless you’re a power user on an iPhone 13 mini. If that’s you, you already know the 13 mini’s smaller dimensions don’t allow room for the bigger batteries and extended power you get on larger phones. It’s the compromise of a small phone.

The second biggest upgrade is the base storage: Apple has doubled it from 64GB to 128GB. It took them long enough. Took them long enough. With features like Cinematic video, 64GB would have filled up fast.

There’s no 120Hz ProMotion for the iPhone 13 and 13 mini display, but that’s totally fine.Raymond Wong / Input

The only thing you’re not getting with the iPhone 13 and 13 mini versus the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max is an even brighter display, ProMotion (adaptive 120Hz refresh rate), ProRes video recording and ProRAW, and Night mode for portrait photos. Frankly, you’re not missing out on much without these features. They’re nice, but not essential for most people.

And that’s really it. That’s all you need to know about the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 mini. I can’t find deal-breaking faults with them. At launch (and until Apple pushes out that software update to disable the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max’s annoying camera switching), the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are the more “perfect” new iPhones. They don’t cost more than last year’s iPhone 12 and 12 mini did, either.

Even the colors are nicer on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini. Apple loaned me an iPhone 13 in blue and it is a sharp color. My review unit iPhone 13 mini is “midnight” black. It’s black, but there are subtle shades of blue at times. I haven’t seen the pink, (PRODUCT)RED, or the “starlight” in person but they sure look more playful than the single “Sierra blue” color for 13 Pros.

If you already got an iPhone 12 or 12 mini, the only worthwhile upgrade is gonna be the battery life. The other stuff is only marginally better. But do you really need a few more hours of battery? Probably not. A battery pack can hold you over until the iPhone 14. However, if you’ve got a non-Pro iPhone 11 or older, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are going to feel like a serious upgrade inside and out.

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