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iPhone 13 launch hype is pointless without this one big upgrade

iPhone 13 launch
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 13 isn’t predicted to look much different than the iPhone 12 — with the exception of a smaller notch and new iPhone 13 colors — but there’s lots of other upgrades rumored to be in store for the inside of Apple’s new iPhones.

This includes a new A15 Bionic processor that could wipe the floor with Android phones (again), a faster 5G modem, and cool camera software upgrades like a portrait video mode and a Night mode that can actually shoot the stars.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max should be the stars of the show, with expected 120Hz refresh rate displays, a possible always-on display mode and improved ultra-wide cameras. But none of the above matter without a key upgrade: more battery life.

The good news is that an earlier rumor points to larger battery sizes for every iPhone 13 model. The bad news is that Apple likely won’t confirm this at the Apple event today (Sept. 14), as it doesn’t publish the battery capacities for its iPhones. We will probably have to wait until iPhone 13 teardowns take place right after launch. 

The iPhone 13 mini is tipped to be getting a larger 2,406 mAh battery. That’s up from a paltry 3,227 mAh on the iPhone 12 mini, which turned in a very poor 7 hours and 28 minutes on our web surfing battery test. We consider anything 10 hours or above very good.

A separate leak last week said to expect an hour of longer battery life for the iPhone 13 mini, which is certainly a step in the right direction. 

iPhone 13: Rumored battery sizes vs iPhone 12

Battery size (mAh) iPhone 12 equivalent
iPhone 13 mini2,406mAh2,227 mAh
iPhone 133,095mAh2,815 mAh
iPhone 13 Pro 3,095mAh2,815 mAh
iPhone 13 Pro Max4,352mAh3,687 mAh

Next up would be the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Both of these phones are tipped to offer 3,095 mAh batteries, up from 2,815 mAh. The caveat here is that the iPhone 13 Pro’s battery life could take a hit due to its rumored 120Hz panel. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max will reportedly scale down to 60Hz in low power mode.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max would also see a battery size increase if the rumors are accurate, going from 3,687 mAh to 4,352 mAh. The iPhone 12 Pro Max was the only phone to approach 11 hours on our battery test last year, so this 6.7-inch phone should once again be the endurance champ and earn a spot on our best phone battery life list. 

Of course, a lot more goes into a phone's battery life than just the battery size. For example, Apple may be able to realize some efficiencies with its new A15 Bionic chip and machine learning. And the 5G modem could wind up using less power as well, depending on how it's integrated into the rest of the design. 

It’s also possible that Apple could realize some power savings through the new iOS 15 software, which is due to launch alongside this phone. So far, the only iOS 15 battery feature Apple has detailed has been the Power Reserve feature that will let you use the virtual keys stored in the revamped Wallet app for up to 5 hours after the iPhone runs out of battery.

Anecdotally, I’ve found the iPhone 12 Pro Max battery life to be quite good, but a year after launch I find the endurance to be a bit less than when it was fresh. I’ll typically be down to 20% battery capacity (sometimes less) by the time 7 p.m. rolls around. 

So any meaningful progress Apple can make on battery life for the iPhone 13 would be welcome. We’ll conduct our battery test on all four models once we get them into our labs, so stay tuned for our full results.

In the meantime, check out our iPhone 13 hub for all the latest news and updates and follow our Apple event live blog for updates on everything Apple announces today. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.