Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review

Posted on January 27, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS with 51 Comments

The iPhone 13 Pro is a terrific smartphone that comes with none of the drama I experienced with the Google Pixel 6 Pro. I love how it just works. But I wish the camera system’s still photography capabilities matched those of Pixel.

My iPhone experiences

My history with iPhone is … complicated.

The short version is that I’ve purchased at least one iPhone almost every year since the original in 2007. But it’s more nuanced than that. A lot more nuanced. Part of the reason is because of Apple’s evolving strategy for the iPhone: it used to sell just one iPhone version each year, but over time that expanded, and dramatically, and I obviously don’t buy two or more iPhones for myself each year. But part of it is due to the shifting nature of the smartphone industry.

I owned and used the OG iPhone (2007), iPhone 3G (2008), and iPhone 3GS (2009) in succession (and owned two of the latter, contradicting what I wrote above, but only because the first one was stolen by a gypsy in Lisbon, Portugal). Then Windows Phone happened (2010), and I used a wide range of those handsets, most notably the Nokia Lumia 1020 (2013), Lumia 1520 (2014), and Lumia 930 (2015). During this time, I skipped an iPhone generation for the first and only time, the iPhone 4 (2010), and lucked out because that handset was so deeply flawed, and most of my iPhone purchases were for review and comparison purposes. But then Windows Phone started winding down. And so I used the iPhone 6 Plus (2014) and 6S Plus (2015) full-time, until a very positive experience with the Google Nexus 6P (2016) triggered a shift to Android.

From 2016 through late 2021, I was mostly on Android, and mostly on a succession of Google Pixels. As with the iPhone, I’ve owned most Pixels, and I purchased one or more each year. That these handsets were almost always as deeply flawed as the iPhone 4 I skipped is not an irony that’s lost on me. But after suffering through six generations of Pixel problems, I finally had enough of Stockholm Syndrome and purchased and then switched to an iPhone 13 Pro. That this was originally going to be only the second time that I skipped an iPhone generation is interesting, at least to me. That I am now using this smartphone full-time is even most interesting.

Will it last? It’s hard to say. I’ll move between iPhone and Android if only for review purposes in the coming year, of course. And even over the past two weeks, when we’ve been in Mexico City, I’ve alternated between the iPhone and the Pixel. But whatever. There’s something to be said about a device that just works.

Design

The iPhone 13 Pro continues forward with the iconic iPhone 4-style design that Apple resurrected last year for the iPhone 12 family of smartphones, and so it could just as easily been branded as the iPhone 12S Pro were Apple still using that branding. That’s not a dig: as an evolutionary update to a gorgeous design, the iPhone 13 Pro is as classy as it is instantly recognizable.

My only issue is that the squared-off sides make the phone a bit hard to hold: the edges pinch my fingers, especially on the bottom, and the leather Apple case I purchased to protect this expensive trinket does little to prevent that.

The iPhone 13 Pro is available in Graphite, Gold, Silver, and, new to this generation, Sierra Blue, but I preferred the Midnight Green color of my iPhone 11 Pro Max, so I went with Graphite and got a Sequoia Green leather case instead. Speaking of which, the iPhone 13 Pro is also available in a larger Pro Max variant as before, but I find it too large and heavy and went with the smaller Pro instead. Regardless, each features a stainless-steel design that identifies itself by the handset’s bright, shiny, and smudge-prone sides, and each features a Ceramic Shield front that Apple says is stronger than any Gorilla Glass, and a textured matte glass black.

The only major downside to the iPhone is its notch, which is still comically large despite a reported 20 percent size reduction since last year. Two comments on the notch: It being smaller didn’t result in any gain of on-screen real estate, as Apple still displays the same limited amount of status data on either side, and we still don’t get to see the battery percentage. And, yes, I know that most iPhone users claim that they “can’t even see the notch,” but that misses the point: the notch makes the usable screen space much smaller, and it’s especially bad in games and video content. The notch does get in the way, even if you can’t admit that to yourself.

Display

As with last year’s Pros, the iPhone 13 Pro features a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion capabilities and a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels at 460 PPI. It is one of the brightest, crispest, and clearest displays I’ve ever used, and it supports adaptive refresh rates up to 120 Hz—which I, like many, don’t really notice—HDR capabilities, and Apple’s vaunted True Tone technology, which adapts the warmth of the display to match the environment on the fly and works wonderfully.

It also supports P3 wide color and has a stunning 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio with 1000 nits (!) of maximum brightness, or an even more incredible 1200 nits when viewing HDR content. It also features a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating that, surprisingly, I’ve noticed: the display does a better job than other smartphones at remaining smudge-free.

When it comes to smartphone displays, size and aspect ratio of course subjective. Bboth Pixel 6 models are, to my preferences, too large, while the non-Max iPhone 13 Pro is more reasonably sized, perhaps a tad on the small size, while the Max is far too big. And since the displays on both product lines appear to have roughly the same aspect ratio, those sizes are more easily compared. And in short, I prefer the iPhone display to that of the Pixel, and the size makes the device more easily pocketable.

The iPhone display is also, blessedly, flat, and not curved like the recent Samsung and Pixel flagships. I prefer that, but as I wrote earlier, flat displays are objectively superior to displays with curved edges and feature none of them mis-taps and display warping of the latter.

Hardware and specs

The iPhone 13 Pro is powered by Apple’s latest smartphone chipset, the A15 Bionic. It features a 6‑core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores, a five-core GPU, and a 16‑core Neural Engine for on-device and machine learning capabilities. This is, Apple claims, “the fastest chip in a smartphone,” and while I’m not a fan of this kind of marketing hyperbole, it’s also fair to point out that the iPhone 13 Pro has never paused, glitched, or hiccupped. Instead, it has delivered steady, drama-free performance at all times. Take that, Pixel and your balky Tensor chipset.

When you combine this level of smooth performance with Apple’s multi-year support policies—the iPhone 13 Pro will receive updates for several years—you get the most future-proof smartphone on the market. The only variable is storage: the base model comes with 128 GB, which I find sufficient (I’m using less than 40 GB of storage right now), but you can upgrade to 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of internal storage for a lot more money. You’ll need to make that decision at purchase time, since iPhone doesn’t support storage expansion like some Android handsets.

Connectivity

Apple moved to 5G a bit more slowly than its flagship competitors, but the history of this technology now proves that wasn’t a mistake. Regardless, the iPhone 13 Pro’s connectivity features are about as modern as can be, with 5G (sub‑6 GHz and mmWave) and Gigabit LTE with 4×4 MIMO cellular support, Wi‑Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO, and Bluetooth 5.0. It also features Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and NFC chipsets.

As I wrote previously, the iPhone 13 Pro supports dual-SIM capabilities with a single nano-SIM and an internal eSIM that can be configured with multiple wireless carrier profiles. You can have two eSIMs in use simultaneously, or one eSIM and one nano-SIM card. And, unique in my experience, you can even have both cellular data networks active at the same time.

Audio-video

Thanks to its stunning display and stereo speakers, the iPhone 13 Pro delivers a reasonably good multimedia experience. As noted, the notch occludes a big chunk of the display, shrinking the effective size of the video playback. And the speakers are a bit biased towards the lower (right) speaker, though not as noticeably with many other smartphones.

Phone calls, an Achilles Heel on older iPhones, have been clear and of high-quality.

Cameras

Apple is marketing the iPhone 13 Pro camera system as a major upgrade and it does feature much larger sensors than before, which can be seen on the rear of the device. And I do like that the camera systems on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are identical. This wasn’t the case in the past, and this change enabled me to get the smaller handset I prefer and save $100 while doing so. Google, for example, requires its customers to buy the bigger and more expensive Pixel 6 Pro to get its most capable camera system.

But the iPhone 13 Pro camera system doesn’t measure up to that of the Pixel 6 Pro, at least not with still photos. It delivers generally excellent photos overall, for sure. And I like new features like its macro capability, which utilizes the ultra-wide lens automatically when you zoom in on a subject, and night and low-light photos are improved, though not Pixel quality.

The rear camera system comes with three lenses, the norm in today’s flagship smartphone market. All offers 12 MP of resolution, which is just fine, though some Samsung and Google lenses offer higher base resolutions with pixel binning.

The main (wide) lens is a 26 mm equivalent with an f/1.5 aperture and sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS), and it’s a terrific option for day-to-day snaps.

There is also a 13 mm ultra-wide lens with an f/1.8 aperture, Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) capabilities, and a wide but distorted 120-degree field of view.

Ultra-wide shots are usually distorted

And then the most lackluster offering in the set, a 77 mm telephoto lens with a paltry 3x optical zoom, 15x digital zoom, PDAF, and OIS. It’s usable for medium-distance subjects, but it’s less capable than the telephoto lens in the Pixel, and much less capable than the telephoto capabilities of recent Samsung flagships. This is an obvious area for improvement for future iPhones.

Using the iPhone as my primary camera in Mexico this month, I’m mostly happy with the results and some shots are truly incredible. As noted, you can see distortion in many of the ultra-wide shots. And while some night shots are decent, others aren’t as vibrant as what the Pixel can deliver. The iPhone has issues with direct sun, resulting in flaring and requiring me to reorient those shots for better results. And where the Pixel can magically pull detail out of cloudy or mixed sky backgrounds, the iPhone more often just displays white where the sky should be. I wish that worked better.

Noticing that the sky was blown out in the first shot, I tried to correct it. But I had to actually move the viewfinder to see more sky to do so. Pixel would have nailed this one easily.

But the iPhone camera system outperforms that of the Pixel in some ways, too. It can handle colored lights better in some cases, for example; the red lights at a restaurant we frequented here befuddled the Pixel, but the iPhone did a good job of removing the red, resulting in nicer shots.

Low-light shots are a mixed bag, but some look great

iPhone users who prefer the more saturated look of Samsung camera systems can take advantage of a new photo styles feature that lets you choose between and customize Standard, Rich Contrast, Warm, and Cool styles that will persist as you use the camera. These are not filters in that the effects are permanent and can’t be reset after the fact. And while I didn’t trust this enough for my memories of this trip, I would like to experiment with this feature later as I would like a bit more contrast than the iPhone default.

The iPhone also offers dramatically better video quality and capabilities than Pixel, despite the improvements in the Pixel 6 Pro. And while I don’t do a lot of video work, my wife and I did experiment with recording some walks, and the iPhone delivered rock-steady, gimble-like results.

One oddity to the iPhone camera system: some percentage of shots is consistently rotated incorrectly every single day. Obviously, this can happen with any smartphone, but it happens regularly on iPhone, leading me to manually fix those shots before I could post them to Instagram or Facebook.

As for the front-facing (selfie) camera, here Apple provides another 12 MP sensor, this time with an f/2.2 aperture and support for portrait mode with portrait lighting software bokeh, night mode, smart HDR, and photo styles. It’s serviceable.

I’m not a professional photographer, and so what I’m most concerned with is more of a point-and-click experience. And the iPhone generally delivers with the caveats noted above. For most day-to-day shots, the iPhone 13 Pro will meet and exceed expectations. But if you want to push things in more extreme situations—capturing the moon or stars, zooming in on distant subjects, and very dark environments—a Samsung or Google flagship will offer better performance.

Security

Apple offers the best and more secure facial recognition capabilities of any smartphone, and I’ve found it to work as quickly and reliably as does Windows Hello on a Microsoft Surface PC. However, I wish Apple had also included a Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone’s power button as it did on my iPad Air: if you’re wearing as mask, as I am in Mexico, facial recognition doesn’t work and you have to enter your PIN after a short wait each time you want to use the device. This is, hopefully, a temporary situation. But given the ongoing pandemic, it’s a problem.

Battery

Before we came to Mexico, the iPhone 13 Pro battery life was stellar and noticeably better than that of the Pixel 6 Pro: with not much effort, I could get two full days of battery life and typically ended the first day with roughly 60 percent battery life.

However, during this trip, battery life has plummeted and if we spend a good chunk of the day out in the world, I find myself enabling airplane mode to keep it from running down completely. There are some obvious reasons for this issue, of course: I’m using GPS capabilities in apps like Google Maps and Uber repeatedly. I’m in a different country and it’s possible that the wireless radios are constantly moving between networks. I’m using a dual-SIM configuration and maybe that impacts the battery. And I’m just out using the phone more, taking dozens and dozens of photos each day.

That said, I still find the battery usage here troubling. And as part of my testing, I switched to the Pixel for entire days to see if there was a difference. And what I’ve seen is that the Pixel, which is using only one SIM here, drains more slowly but does drain more quickly than when I’m home. So I’m not sure how definitive that is. But I was ready to write high praises for the iPhone battery life until I came here. Now it’s a bit more measured.

In the good news department, the iPhone charges the battery much more quickly than does the Pixel, despite offering a middling 20-watts of charging power. You can add 50 percent of battery life in just 30 minutes, and unlike with the Pixel, it doesn’t matter where the charge is when you start the process. It also supports 15-watt wireless charging, which isn’t all that impressive. But I haven’t tested that.

Unique hardware features

The iPhone 13 Pro has integrated MagSafe capabilities, which introduces some unique and sometimes very useful capabilities. Basically, the back of the device has a set of magnets that automatically align it with compatible chargers and other peripherals, obviating one of the common issues with wireless chargers. But MagSafe also works with a growing collection of other accessories, including cases with passthrough MagSafe and small wallets.

(What the iPhone 13 Pro lacks is reverse wireless charging: there’s no way to charge a Qi-compatible device like another smartphone or AirPods Pro or compatible non-Pro AirPods wirelessly with your iPhone.)

The iPhone also features a goofy side switch above the volume buttons on the left that is hard to toggle purposefully and easy to toggle by mistake; this puts the iPhone in silent mode, meaning you won’t hear when calls, texts, or other notifications come in. Here’s a better idea, Apple: do what Google does with the Pixel and support a “gesture” that puts the handset into Do Not Disturb mode when it’s placed screen-down.

Inexplicably, the iPhone 13 Pro uses the proprietary and extremely slow—it’s based on USB 2.0 (!)—Lightning adapter for wired connectivity instead of USB-C. This is completely unacceptable in a 2021 smartphone, period, and those iPhone users who opt into ProRes 4K video will be waiting hours to transfer even short recordings. But everyone will need to keep and manage extra charging cables: most other Apple devices, and virtually all non-Apple devices, use USB-C.

Finally, the iPhone 13 Pro is IP68 rated, meaning it can survive in water at a maximum depth of 18 feet for up to 30 minutes. So it should survive the more typical mistaken drop into a sink or toilet just fine, and there are no worries about using it in the rain.

Software

Apple’s iOS is clean and consistent, and while it is not as customizable as Android, it offers enough of the personalization functionality that I expect and the built-in privacy functionality that Android will never offer. There are a few weak spots, however, including the lack of an always-on display, an unreliable notification system, and app bloat.

Yes, app bloat: the iPhone 13 Pro ships with roughly 40 (!) Apple apps, and while none of them are crapware, this is a gross form of bloatware by any measure. Even Google has the class to make some of its app installs optional—and disabled by default—with Android, and I’d like to see something like that when you first set up a new iPhone.

In the good news department, most of these apps are truly useful, and you can easily delete and/or hide the apps you don’t want. I did so carefully, because I figured there were some apps I might actually want to use in the future. And this paid off pretty quickly: I used iMovie to edit a short video clip I recorded of a Blue Heron at the creek near our home, and I used Apple Notes to scan a legal document. Both worked wonderfully.

In the past, I would repeat my time-honed observation that iPhone apps were generally superior to their Android equivalents. But that is no longer true and the situation is now much more complex. What I’ve experienced is that some apps are better on iPhone and some are not. And while this isn’t Apple’s fault, of course, it creates some confusion if you move between the platforms.

In some cases, the apps are just different in some way, typically from a UI perspective. For example, the toolbar in Facebook is at the top of the app in Android and at the bottom on the iPhone. And in Instagram, the toolbars are in the same place—on the bottom—but the iPhone version of the app starts the New Post wizard when you tap the “+” button while the Android version displays a New menu with Post, Story, Reel, and Live choices.

But some of the differences are vast and can be problematic if you’re using the version that doesn’t work as well. The most obvious example, since we’ve used it so much while traveling, is Google Maps. On Android, I get the expected experience and I can see all of the sights I’ve flagged because they’re favorites or I want to visit them. But the iPhone version of the app only displays a small percentage of my flags, and no amount of zooming seems to correct this. In one particularly problematic moment, I couldn’t even find our Airbnb because of this problem.

That said, the iPhone version of Google Maps is better than the Android version in some ways, too. It respects your system-wide font choices, for example, including bolding all UI text, and it is therefore easier to read even though the display is much smaller than that of my Pixel 6 Pro. Weird.

The best thing about the iPhone, perhaps, is the one no one will ever notice: it can be configured to automatically block all attempts by applications to track your movements and behavior. This should be globally enabled by default and maybe it will be soon. But Android users will need to turn to third-party utilities for this behavior, and it’s not clear if they can even be as effective.

Partially offsetting that advantage, the iPhone handles spam calls and texts much more poorly than does Android, and this is especially true by default; you can, at least, that will silence unknown callers if you know where to look. But Android includes incredible built-in spam phone call and text blocking by default, and you don’t realize how well it works until it’s not there, as on iPhone. Android also makes it much easier to block callers, and, unlike iPhone, it lets you report spam to help everyone. I’m surprised the iPhone isn’t better at this, but I’ve been getting spam I never saw before ever since switching.

Pricing and availability

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999, while the larger but otherwise identical iPhone 13 Pro Max, with its 6.7-inch display, starts at $1099. For that sum, you get an acceptable 128 GB of non-expandable internal storage. But Apple continues to gouge customers who need additional storage: a 256 GB version is $200 more, or $1099, while 512 GB ($1299) and 1 TB ($1499) versions each add an additional $200 as you go up each storage tier.

Fortunately, most people won’t need the additional storage: with my full set of apps and some onboard data, I’m only using 27 GB of my iPhone’s 128 GB of storage, and I have a hard time imagining ever getting close to the limit. But those who want to use ProRes video recording will need to think carefully about storage, as you’ll need at least 256 GB of storage for 4K, and the size of those recordings will add up fast.

The iPhone 13 Pro is available in four colors: Silver, Graphite, Gold, and, new to 2021, Sierra Blue. None of these are particularly compelling to me—I like the non-Pro color choices better—but Apple offers a variety of colorful leather and silicon cases that neatly solve that problem. I purchased a Sequoia Green leather case to complement my Graphite iPhone 13 Pro, and it’s a nice look.

Recommendations and conclusions

The iPhone 13 Pro is a terrific flagship smartphone that will meet the needs of most customers. It has a stunning design and a gorgeous and flat display, and its powerful innards and Apple’s generous support policies make it more future-proof than any Android handset. The three-lens camera system is generally excellent, though I prefer the Pixel overall and Samsung flagships for those who need superior zoom capabilities. Apple’s privacy features are top-notch.

Speaking of notch, it’s still there in the iPhone 13 Pro despite the rest of the smartphone market having already moved on to less problematic solutions. This device also provides a slow and incompatible Lightning connector, and there are some software-related mishaps with notifications, which often reappear after being dismissed, and its lack of spam phone call and text message protection.

But overall, Apple still delivers the single best smartphone experience in the market. As such, I can very easily recommend the iPhone 13 Pro, and highly, to anyone.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Consistent and reliable
  • Iconic design
  • Terrific performance
  • Excellent three-lens camera system
  • Gorgeous, flat display
  • Privacy features
  • Biggest apps and services ecosystems

Cons

  • Lightning connector is antiquated, non-standard, and slow
  • Notch occludes a big chunk of the display
  • No fingerprint sensor
  • Notification system is lackluster, unreliable
  • No blocking of spam calls and texts

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Comments (51)

51 responses to “Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review”

  1. matt11to5

    Not sure if you're aware of this or not, but g***y is a slur to Romani people. I just learned it in the past few years and would caution against using it.

    • reefer

      I second that. Paul comes off as a little bit more than ignorant when he uses a racial slur for a ethnic group that a man in his age and experience should know is not ok to use. Romani is the preferred word.

      • hal9000

        oh please...

      • wright_is

        I think it is his age that causes him to use the term.


        When I grew up, gypsy or romany gypsy were the accepted terms. In the UK, gypsy wasn't so much a slur as just describing the way of life of people who travelled around. Some people did use it as a slur, although it was usually gypo, rather than gypsy, when they were being derogatory about someone's appearance.


        So, I think it depends on when and how you grew up. For me, the term was always a romantic description of a traveller with no fixed abode. A "gypsy life" was a wonderful, carefree ideal of travelling from place to place in a colourful horse drawn caravan...


        It is the same in Germany, the work Zigeunersoße is a mildly spicy tomato sauce and the name conjours up romantic fireside meals in a woodland clearing, but for the politically correct, it is now a derogatory term.


        So, for someone who was brought up with a non-derogatory use of the word gypsy, it can take a bit of getting used to that "normal" words we have grown up with are now beening turned into derogatory terms.


        My parents used to describe me as a gay child, but that is inaproriate these days...

  2. brettscoast

    Comprehensive review. That notch would drive me nuts so while the iPhone 13 Pro is a gorgeous device I will be sticking with Android phones for the foreseeable future. By the way, the food looks sensational in Mexico.

    • wright_is

      It is interesting, I always felt that way. But, to be brutally honest, I don't find it any better or worse than the punch hole in my Galaxy S20+, in day-to-day use.

    • jason_e

      Rumors suggest the Notch will be gone with the iPhone 14. They are going with a hole punch camera and a small pill shaped cutout for the FaceID hardware. Time will tell. I absolutely love FaceID so I can deal with the notch.

      • wright_is

        The rumours are swinging back and forth, whether they will achieve it with the 14, or whether it will be pushed to 2023 (although that might be the "behind the screen" version of the FaceID side), or it will come in 2022, but only on the Pro models - they need something to differentiate the models, after all.

  3. red.radar

    I have defended the lighting port in the past as I thought that maintaining compatibility to the large amount of accessories in circulation was a good, customer focused move.


    However, I think it is time for the iphone to make the transition. Your point about pro res video is spot on. USB 2.0 is unacceptable for the size of files that can be created. Since the IPad, Mac and android have moved to usb-c, there is a vibrant accessory market established. It’s not like apple’s customers would be pushed into a dessert. Most of those lighting accessories have to be getting old anyways. I know mine are nearing replacement and I really don’t want to replace them with more lighting accessories. The future is obvious.

    • wright_is

      Also, regarding Pro Res, this is only available on the Pro models with more than 256GB storage, I believe.


      The 128GB model has the same cameras, but, because of the storage requirements, Apple set the 256GB model as the minimum for Pro Res video. I believe it runs at 6GB/minute?


      To tack that onto Paul's comments about storage, if you are interested in Pro Res, that is probably one of the few reasons to actually bump up the storage when ordering.

      • Chris_Kez

        128GB can shoot ProRes, but they are limited to 1080p30; 256GB and up can shoot ProRes 4k30.

        • wright_is

          Ah, thanks for the correction. I remember Alex Linday rambling on about it and only being on 256GB or larger models. But, for him, 4K is low-res! :-D

  4. wright_is

    Nice review. I agree with what you have written, for the most part. A few things, from my experiences since switching at the end of November.


    Battery, like you, I get around 2 days use. Obviously, if you are using GPS a lot, then it will suck the battery dry very quickly. My wife has the normal 13 and she also gets around 2 days out of it. I believe the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max hold out slightly longer than the 13 Pro, if battery is an issue.


    Photos: I prefer the natural look of the iPhone photos, coming from a Samsung S20+, I find the images much cleaner and more natural. I did notice that the 13 Pro is very finicky, when it comes to dirt on the lenses. I was trying to take some photos of my daughter & her husband and they were continually out of focus, even though they were sitting on the other side of the table from me. It turned out I had put my fingers on the lens when pulling the phone out of my pocket, a quick wipe and everything was crystal clear again. I've not had that problem on any other smartphone. The price of high quality lenses and sensors? I know that my Sony Alpha also suffers, if there is dirt on the lens.


    The rocker switch to mute the phone. Yes, gestures, like putting the phone face down on the table might work on Android, but I often don't take my phone out of my pocket in a meeting - it is considered impolite or disrespectful to place the phone on the table by many, here. So, reaching into my pocket and simply sliding the rocker until the phone vibrates is a very nice feature.


    Likewise, feeling the phone, I can quickly tell whether it is in silent mode or not - rocker towards the back of the phone, silent, rocker towards the screen, not silent.


    You can also set a focus mode to do automatically switch to silent and off again, this can be done manually, to set times or, with shortcuts, when you have a meeting in your calender; although I haven experimented with that yet.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I can't think of anything more polite than overtly taking out a phone and putting it in Do Not Disturb mode before starting a meeting.

      • wright_is

        In general, we don't take phones into the meetings to begin with, if they are on our site. I leave my phone on my desk, when I go to a meeting.


        If I am at a different site or visiting a supplier etc. then I usually have my phone in my bag or jacket pocket, and it stays there. A couple of times I forgot to mute and I just have to reach into my pocket/bag and move the slider. I don't have to fish the phone out and place it face down on the table or fiddle around with settings on the screen to make it silent.

        • Paul Thurrott

          It doesn't matter "how" one silences a phone. The switch on the iPhone is hard to activate when it's in an Apple case, which is a normal configuration. And there's no reason Apple couldn't do both. You're used to the iPhone method and you like it, I've used both and I prefer the gesture. We all have our preferences. It's not "fiddling" to take a phone out of your pocket, it's normal. People have phones.
          • wright_is

            I guess it is just a cultural difference. Here it is considered impolite to have the phone out in a meeting, it implies that you don't consider the meeting or the attendees to be important. The CEO or the most senior director or manager in the room might get away with it, but generally it is considered bad form.


            They are coming around to people using laptops or tablets for note-taking in meetings nowadays, so I guess that is progress...

  5. jason_e

    Fair review Paul. Not sure I agree about the camera except to say they are both excellent for phones and I don't think you can go wrong with either. I have an iPhone 13 Pro and for a short while also had a Pixel 6 Pro. When comparing them I generally felt the iPhone shots were better overall and more consistent. The Pixel was hit or miss. I buy the Pixels every year thinking this may be the year but are quickly disappointed and return to my trusted Apple device. I do enjoy Android but still prefer iOS. I don't care much about customization because I spend 99% of the time on my phone using an app although some Pixel/Android features such as spam blocking and an always on display are quite nice. Maybe Apple will eventually give iPhone uses an always on display.

  6. paul_nelson

    I was considering converting back to Apple devices but, I cannot stand those bezels. It's a 2021 phone with 2016 bezels, they're huge! I like to be able to put the icons anywhere I want on my homescreen (I would also like to remove the Google 'At A Glance' and Search widget on my Pixel 6 Pro.


    My Pixel phone, and everyone I have owned prior to that including Nexus phones, have all run perfect. I don't have any issues with mine. I think that that could do with the fact that I always wait 2 -3 months for the inevitable updates to be released to fix any software issues they have. I have had nothing but a buttery smooth experience with the phone, never had it stutter or pause, battery life has been good, even better after the Jan update.


    As for privacy, whilst Android 12 is not quite up there with iOS, it is getting much better and I think that Google is realising that Governments across the globe are no longer accepting of tracking that cannot be switched off.


    It wouldn't be so bad if we had the old excellent, almost psychic Google Assistant page that would present genuinely useful cards that were worth seeing. Travel times to different appointments, upcoming flights and delays etc. It was one of the upsides for the price to pay for Google knowing so much!

  7. jgraebner

    I've been interested in Paul's iPhone experiences. While I don't have any intention of switching from Android to iPhone any time soon, I do often wonder how possible it is. One of the big ways that Android appeals to me is the lack of lock-in to hardware from a single manufacturer. That opens the door to picking the best fit phone for me based on features, form-factor, price, etc. instead of having to just pick from the small range of options from a single manufacturer. Since starting with Android, I've had Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Pixel phones at various times.


    What I've wondered is if the two operating systems have become interchangeable enough that Apple could simply be another one of those choices. It seems to me that Apple has loosened up considerably when it comes to making non-Apple services and applications into defaults. Also, most apps now seem to be account-based instead of direct purchases, meaning that there wouldn't be a huge need to re-buy too many and, where there are exceptions, you'd generally be looking at just a couple dollars.


    I'd definitely be interested in seeing more of a deep dive on using an iPhone without being deep in Apple's ecosystem. How well does it integrate with Windows and with Microsoft and Google services? Can you basically ignore iCloud?

    • wright_is

      I didn't use any Google services on my Android, just third party applications.


      The switch over was easy, all the apps I used were also available on the iPhone. Create an iCloud account and job done, just like on Android. (In the case of my wife's phones, I used an external mail address for both accounts, so no Gmail and no Apple Mail account, she didn't want to have multiple email addresses.

    • Ivan X

      I feel it it should be pointed out that if you really, really don't want to use iCloud, you don't even have to sign into it, and still have a completely usable iPhone.


      There are five services which are tied to your Apple ID on an iPhone (or iPad or Mac): iCloud, Store, iMessage, FaceTime, and Game Center. Each can be signed in independently, or not at all. FaceTime and iMessage can even operate using the phone number alone, without being signed in. While all five are signed into by default during a typical initial setup, if you carefully navigate the maze of screens, it's possible to avoid entering your Apple ID at all, and still have a fully working iPhone.


      If you do this, you won't be able to install apps. If you want FaceTime and iMessage to be connected to your Mac or iPad, you can sign into those individually without signing into iCloud, though they'll still work on the iPhone even if you don't. Same goes for Store; you can sign in without signing into iCloud, and even sign out of Store later once you have the apps and media you want you want (though this will make updates a pain). You can then sign the Contacts and Calendar settings into whichever cloud service has your contacts: Google, Microsoft, or CardDAV/EAS provider, or use them strictly locally.


      If you do end up signed into iCloud, you can still sign out after the phone is set up, which will sign out of all five (I think), but then you can go back into the individual other services and sign back in.


      It goes without saying that if you don't use iCloud, you don't get the benefits of Apple's ecosystem, and a few features aren't available (though the vast majority are). I do recommend being signed in so you get automatic nightly backups (though there's even a non-iCloud solution for that -- you can purchase iMazing for Mac or PC, and it will automatically back up your phone on a schedule to your computer via Wi-Fi). If you want iCloud backups and nothing else, you can also disable every single iCloud synchronization function, and the iCloud backups will still include all the local data on the phone.

      • RobertJasiek

        "if you really, really don't want to use iCloud, you don't even have to sign into it, and still have a completely usable iPhone."


        For my iPad, that was so until mid December 2021 with then iPadOS 14.8. At that time, repeated requests to accept the iCloud terms started. A few days ago in late Junuary 2022, I updated to iPadOS 15.2.1 and now 15.3. The requests recur on my device. I cannot any longer call my iPad completely usable for these reasons:

        • Occasional pop-ups at random times occur asking to accept the iCloud terms. Therefore, I can no more use the iPad casually but always have to be aware to avoid accidental agreement.
        • I can no longer use the iPad's settings to load and install iPadOS updates because now they require accepting the iCloud terms.
        • Now I am required to possess a macOS or Windows PC (and iTunes, sigh) so that I can update iPadOS without accepting the iCloud terms. Previously, the iPad was a device working and updating on its own.
        • Now I have to spend more times on updating the iPads because doing so with the help of a PC goes via Lightning / USB 2.0 and that is very slow.


        Needless to say, I do not see any benefit in the extras of Apple's ecosystem coupled to the iCloud. Rather I see more unwanted things.


        "If you do end up signed into iCloud, you can still sign out after the phone is set up"


        How (without affecting apps and subscriptions in the Store)?


        • Ivan X

          Interesting -- I haven't actually tried this kind of setup lately, If what you say is accurate, that certainly makes it much more work to not use iCloud (or at least avoid prompts to agree to iCloud's T&C).


          I do find the Software Update piece puzzling, though -- I have set up iPads recently without signing into anything, for the express purpose of updating them before wiping them for initial setup. It may well be that I have simply clicked through the T&C without thinking about it and therefore I don't remember, though I'd be surprised if iTunes/Finder wouldn't impose the same T&C before an update. At any rate, I just signed out of my iCloud account on my iPad with 15.2, and then updated to 15.3, and didn't have to agree to anything (but maybe that's because I had previously agreed to something).


          As for how do you sign out of iCloud without affecting apps and subscriptions in Store -- after you sign out of iCloud, you'd need to sign back into Store, which you can do by opening App Store, and tapping on the user icon in the upper right. After that, there will be a "Sign into iCloud" badge in Settings, but if you tap on it and then click "Not Now", it goes away. FaceTime, iMessage, and Game Center can also be individually signed back into within Settings, without enabling iCloud.

          • RobertJasiek

            "surprised if iTunes/Finder wouldn't impose the same T&C before an update"


            Yes, this is surprising indeed. Just because the update pipeline, WLAN versus LAN from a PC, differs one would not expect different terms pop-ups. Previously, I had always updated via WLAN. I only learned about the different terms pop-up for LAN updates from the Apple phone support. The following is my observation for updating to iPadOS 15.2.1 or 15.3.


            Installing a major i(Pad)OS version via WLAN: the terms pop-up simultaneously asks for confirmation of OS terms and iCloud terms.


            Installing a major i(Pad)OS version via LAN: the terms pop-up asks for confirmation of iCloud terms separately from confirmation of OS terms. The former can be declined.


            Installing a minor i(Pad)OS version via LAN: iTunes asks for confirmation of OS terms. The iPad asks for confirmation of iCloud terms (presumably unless they were already accepted earlier; this can be declined).


            Buying a new i(Pad)OS 15 device, according to Apple's phone support: Confirmation of the OS terms is required. Confirmation of the iCloud terms is not asked until possibly after the installation in Settings | Apple-ID | If wanting to activate iCloud.


    • Paul Thurrott

      Regarding iCloud, yes, though I actually pay for the lowest tier of storage because my kids have iPhones and we all use it for backups.


      I do think there is something to the notion of using whichever platform you prefer and/or is safer/etc. and that the same apps are on both and you can ignore the lock-in stuff. I pretty much do.

    • RobertJasiek

      You cannot easily ignore the iCloud. Instead, you might choose to fully trust Apple, accept the iCloud terms, then pretend to yourself to never use it, overlook Game Center's use of the iCloud and overlook some apps using it without your consent. If, however, you really want to avoid the iCloud, endless problems already start with your attempt of rejecting the iCloud terms, as I have described elsewhere. If you don't fully trust Apple and accept the iCloud terms, your better choice might be to avoid i(Pad)OS devices entirely. Apple's recent increasing pressure towards the iCloud might end in it soon becoming mandatory. Therefore, currently I would not buy an i(Pad)OS device in the hope of being able to permanently avoid the iCloud entirely. If you try nevertheless, good luck with not being disappointed by your limitless trust in Apple...


      Also beware that there are very serious traps when avoiding the iCloud and transferring files to a Windows PC. E.g., if you have configured SMB for LAN, currently use WLAN, forget about the difference between LAN and WALN, and try to transfer files, you might run into a hole of the badly programmed Files app. In that case, your choice might be between a) factory reset your iDevice losing all your files and b) figuring out how to circumvent the bug and then manually transfer each individual file (you need more than patience of your file action was meant to apply to 100,000 files).


      So much about "it just works" and "Apple’s privacy features are top-notch." A user or reviewer might say so after having already accepted the iCloud terms and if always doing things in the way Apple suggests. Perception can be contrary if it includes Apple's own violation of privacy of the user's files and the experience of file management without the iCloud.

  8. OldITPro2000

    You may want to try the silicone case instead of the leather. I found the leather more uncomfortable to hold than the bare phone but have no issues with the silicone case.

  9. davehelps

    RE: FaceID, I’ve been holding off upgrading my iPhone XR hoping that a fingerprint sensor will return.


    If you have an Apple Watch, your phone will unlock using that if it realises your face is masked.


    Yaaaay!


    No. Because that only works for the device lock, whereas any apps you have configured to require FaceID (Signal, OneDrive, enterprise apps) will stay locked and fall back to a PIN, Apple Watch nearby or not.

    • tatarin

      The MacRumors website says that the new iOS 15.4 beta allows Face ID to be used while wearing a mask (no Apple watch required). Don't know about third party apps.

      • dmiannay

        Verified. There are several YouTube videos verifying FaceID is working very well when wearing a mask with glasses while using iOS 15.4B1. Apple Watch is no longer needed.

        • ivarh

          When I read the 15.4 release notes I decided to break my rule about not using a beta version on my phone. I can confirm that it works great with a mask now and in all places where FaceID works, unlike the apple watch that only unlocks the lock screen. My SE has been demoted to drawer filler again.

          • ivarh

            And my wife cannot unlock my phone wearing a mask so it looks like it is still able to recognize me

  10. jaredthegeek

    The antispam features are what keep me on Android.

    • michael_jones

      In my experience, this is as much about the carrier as it is about the phone. I have 2 phones, 1 personal and 1 for work. Both are iPhones. Mine is on Verizon, my work one on AT&T. I've had the phone line associated with my Verizon phone since around 2009 or so. The AT&T one since 2014. So both several years. The amount of spam I get on my AT&T phone is INSANE. I do get some on my Verizon phone, but nowhere near the amount of my work phone. It's gotten so bad I'm turning my work phone in and just using my own now that I have a broad unlimited plan.

  11. SvenJ

    Think you missed a word or two, and we still DON"T get TO see the battery percentage. 


    I was going to comment on the Apple Watch for masked unlocking too, knowing full well you know, and how you feel about that. But I was going to add, it can unlock your MAC as well, just to pile that on ;)

  12. TomKer

    I also switched from Pixel (4xl) to an iPhone 13 Pro this fall and I'm not looking back. The best example of an app just being better on iOS is LastPass. Autofill was iffy at best on Android. It's excellent on the iPhone.

  13. remc86007

    Maybe it's web compression, but those pictures look way worse than the shots my several year old Note 10 takes. Did they mess something up in the software for the 13? I've seen several reviews with pictures that are not impressive at all.

  14. ggolcher

    Paul, your decision to drink Topo Chico (visible in the background of the photo with the drink) is 100% de right one.


    There is nothing better to drink on Earth.

  15. spacecamel

    When MKBHD did his annual Camera phone comparison video, he basically came to the same conclusion that you did. He liked the Pixel 5a photos the best.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yeah. The Pixel 5a has performance issues, of course, but I could see the camera being better overall.

  16. crunchyfrog

    Paul, I recently jumped off of the iPhone bandwagon when the Galaxy Fold 3 was released so I'm in the opposite position. I don't have any real problems with the iPhone or Apple, just needed a change of pace. As good as iPhone's are, they're almost too consistent. Year after year, model after model, the design and OS are largely unchanged, just incrementally.

    That's not a bad thing and it's one of the big reasons people stick to the iPhone brand-it's easy to use and consistent. You can pick up anybody's iPhone and know where to find things. The same can't be said with Android's ilk.

    As a self proclaimed tech nerd, I was getting restless with consistent and have really enjoyed being back on Android and using the wearables that are round and looking like watches instead of a piece of tech. I do miss a few things about the iPhone such as Apple Maps and CarPlay. Android Auto works good enough but I still prefer the CarPlay interface.

  17. ponsaelius

    I moved to the iphone 12 mini last year. My old Lumia 750 had a 5.2inch screen so the mini seemed quite normal.


    My own view is that you can make an iPhone just an Apple phone with their apps. You can download a bunch of Microsoft apps and make it mostly a Microsoft phone. You can even put on Google apps and make it a Google phone. You can mix up all three. I quite like that over the "all in with Google" approach that Android feels. I have even got Apple Music now. I think I have been drawn into the ecosystem.

  18. mike2thel73

    Paul, something to keep in mind regarding masks and face ID:. For iOS 15.4 beta apple is implementing an extra face ID mode for masks. Is it going to work as intended? That's anyone's guess.