iPhone 13 — how it can surpass iPhone 12 and be worth the upgrade

(Image credit: Apple Insider)

Assuming there are no big surprises, the iPhone 13 looks set to be a fairly safe iteration if the various leaks prove to be correct. 

We are, according to the iPhone 13 rumors, set to see four handsets that look nearly identical to last year's models, with a modest set of upgrades on board, including a (slightly) smaller notch, an upgraded camera, 120Hz screen technology and, of course, faster performance

All welcome, but perhaps more what we would have once assumed to be the iPhone 12S, rather than the iPhone 13 — an iterative update, rather than a game changer. Even the talk of life-saving satellite communications has lost a bit of its sheen, on account of potentially being limited and not even active until next year.

But all of these things add up to a phone that feels greater than the sum of its parts, and I suspect this is what is going to be reflected by reviewers when it arrives in their hands.

Solid foundations 

The first point is to acknowledge that the iPhone 12 family is excellent across the board. Three of the four handsets sit on our list of the best phones you can buy and the missing handset — the iPhone 12 mini — still scored four-and-a-half stars in our review. 

Each is simply a fantastic phone, offering lightning-fast performance, quality OLED screens, a great feel in the hand, extremely capable photography and, for the first time, 5G connectivity. These are excellent foundations to build upon.

But each one has an Achilles Heel: battery life. Every member of the iPhone 12 family has markedly weaker battery life than its iPhone 11 equivalent, with even worse performance in games. Rumor has it that Apple has made improving this a priority this time, with talk of  between 179- (iPhone 13 mini) and 665mAh (iPhone 13 Pro Max) more capacity per battery. Add that to other rumored improvements to efficiency with the iPhone 13’s A15 chip, and it could feel like a game changer.   

More battery life may feel boring, but you’d be surprised how many people care. In a recent survey of 2,000 British adults from uSwitch, “improved battery life” was the most requested feature, with 35% of respondents wishing for it. Similarly high numbers were supportive of other things we’re pretty sure are coming, with 22% wanting an “upgrade to the camera” and the same again looking for a “faster processor.” It would be astonishing if they weren’t satisfied by what Apple offers up this week.

Notably, just 14% wanted “a different general design” suggesting that the iPhone 12 looks perfectly modern in most people’s eyes. Yes, the leaked iPhone 14 renders look hugely exciting to followers of tech blogs, but it doesn’t look like most buyers are demanding such dramatic changes this time around. Although the 34% of respondents looking for a “cheaper price” are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Evolutionary changes can feel revolutionary in their own way, and it would be surprising to me if the iPhone 13 didn’t feel like an enormous upgrade even if it doesn’t feel like it should be when judged on each individual difference. Provided Apple doesn’t lose the superstitious demographic by embracing the number 13, I’d be astonished if the handset isn’t a huge hit for Apple, and our top recommendation in a month’s time.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.