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Home / Reviews / Smartphones / Apple iPhone 13 review: still a great buy if you can find one

Apple iPhone 13 review: still a great buy if you can find one

Apple’s everyday iPhone gets some decent upgrades

Back of the Apple iPhone 13 in hand

Stuff Verdict

The Apple iPhone 13 is no poor relation to the Pro equivalent – there’s so much to love about it. It’s not a revelation after iPhone 12, but it does enough to be a step onward.


  • Excellent battery life
  • Welcome camera improvements
  • So much power


  • No macro or telephoto
  • Lightning rather than USB-C
  • iPhone 12 offers most of the same for less

It seems a bit odd to call the the iPhone 13 Apple’s ‘standard’ model, but that’s exactly what this is: the mainstream iPhone, which still does enough to earn a place on Stuff’s best smartphones list – but one that’s no longer the darling of the line-up.

At launch it sat above the iPhone 13 Mini (which is identical in everything apart from size), and below the more premium iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Now it’s the last one standing, with the Mini having been retired and the Pro variants taken off sale in favour of the newer iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

That makes it the value champion, for those unwilling to step down to the iPhone SE. Is it still worth your attention?

Review originally published 19 October 2021

Cameras: A fine improvement

Cameras: A fine improvement

Gone are the days when iPhone reviews opined ‘great camera – providing the light is good enough’. Apple really nailed night mode pictures with the iPhone 11 and has improved it subsequently, it seems more able to cope with whatever you throw at it now. The low light shots you can get are simply stunning.

There’s no doubt this is a better camera than on the iPhone 12, but the difference isn’t staggering. The wide lens lets in around 50 percent more light than previously and as such is a decent upgrade. It can have a tiny bit of shutter lag at times, but it’s hard to discern when it just happens. The ultrawide lens can take decent shots, too – we found it great for taking low light shots at a concert – but in everyday use it can seem surplus to requirements unless you’re taking a landscape.

It’s also a shame you don’t get the zoom and macro capabilities from the 13 Pro and Pro Max and you really feel it when you’re trying to take a shot of something detailed but close. Obviously, that’s part of what you pay for with the Pro, but it’s the only Pro feature we outright wish was in this phone.

This phone has new so-called Photographic Styles – these apply different default image processing to your images and include styles like warm, cool or rich contrast. You can also fine-tune these. Apple is just trying to offer extra features here, but in reality, most probably don’t want to shoot like this because you can always add an effect afterwards anyway.

Screen and sound: Super bright

Display and audio: Super bright

While the display is physically unchanged from the iPhone 12, Apple has made the display brighter than that on the old model – 800 nits compared to 600 last time out. It’s an interesting change when you consider this device also has an improved battery life (more on that shortly). Of course, this is useful in sunlight, but usually, you won’t have your display anywhere near 100 percent brightness.

Overall, the screen quality is excellent. The colours pop and text is so readable compared to older devices. While the Pro models include variable refresh rate displays for the first time – up to 120Hz – the iPhone 13 retains its 60Hz refresh rate which does seem poor compared to rivals; the Pixel 6 is 90hz, for example. Variable refresh rates have yet to filter down to the regular iPhone, and probably won’t until 2025 at the earliest.

In terms of audio, there’s no headphone jack as you’ve come to expect (remember you can connect wired headphones via the Lightning port should you wish). Remember when phone speakers provided tinny, insignificant audio? That isn’t the case here. Indeed, it’s so good that it’s fine for listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Of course it’s not ideal for music, but tunes aren’t jarring from it.

Performance and battery: A leap ahead

Performance and battery: A leap ahead

The Apple A15 underpins this generation of iPhones – it’s a relatively minimal improvement over the A14 but it doesn’t matter as it’ll cope well with anything you want to do. It clearly contributes to a more power frugal system that gives you increased battery life by around 20 percent. From teardowns of the iPhone 13 it seems that the battery is slightly larger (3,227mAh from 2,815mAh) too, which would make sense given the increased brightness. The battery is even bigger than the one in the iPhone 13 Pro.

While the iPhone 12 battery rapidly depleted if you were using 5G, this year’s model isn’t the same at all – remember this is the second generation of iPhone to use 5G and uses Qualcomm’s third-generation X60 modem from early 2020, which is super-efficient. If you’re using the iPhone 13 all day for work, you’ll still find you need to charge. But in a day of normal usage, you’ll easily get part way through the next day before you need to plug in or use the wireless charging. Performance isn’t quite as sweet on a 5G network where you’re smashing through data, but it will get you through the day.

Coincidentally, wireless charging speeds remain the same as for iPhone 12, with 7.5W for normal Qi and 15W for Apple’s MagSafe chargers or certified third-party MagSafe chargers.

The entire iPhone 13 range sticks with Lightning over USB-C. It wouldn’t be until the iPhone 15 generation that Apple made the switch. Base storage is up this year to 128GB. That’s a really welcome move, with the other options set at 256 and 512GB.

Apple iPhone 13 verdict

Apple iPhone 13 verdict

The most desirable iPhone from the 2021 lineup was the iPhone 13 Pro, but the iPhone 13 offers an incredible amount, the extended battery life being our favourite feature. We do wish that the telephoto capability wasn’t just available on the Pro, but there has to be differentiation somewhere, of course.

Given only this model remains on sale today, and for considerably less than when it was new, it’s still a fantastic pick as an entry-point to iOS. If you’ve got an iPhone 11 or older, you’ll really notice the difference if you buy this phone.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

The iPhone 13 is no poor relation to the Pro equivalent – there’s so much to love about it. It’s not a revelation after iPhone 12, but it does enough to be a step onward.


Excellent battery life

Welcome camera improvements

So much power

128GB base storage


No macro or telephoto

Lightning rather than USB-C

iPhone 12 offers most of the same for less

Apple iPhone 13 tech specs

Display6.1in 2532×1170 OLED at 460ppi
ProcessorA15 Bionic
OSiOS 15
Cameras12MP ƒ/1.6 wide, 12MP ƒ/2.4 ultra wide rear; 12MP ƒ/2.2 front
Battery3,227 mAh
Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home