The iPhone 13 is coming later this month — at least judging by the Sept. 14 product event Apple just scheduled — and you could say that we’re pretty excited about Apple’s upcoming phone. Even if those of us who don’t end upgrading to the new iPhone will be interested in seeing what Apple has up its sleeve. After all, the enhancements Apple makes to its own phones tend to reverberate across the smartphone market.
Judging by the rumors that have been swirling around the iPhone 13 for the better part of this year, there will be some noteworthy changes coming to Apple’s phone. There’s the usual array of expected changes like processor improvements and camera enhancements, but Apple could have a few other features in mind, particularly for its iPhone 13 Pro models.
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We’ve been on top of these rumors all year long, from displays with a faster refresh rate to possible improvements to Face ID unlocking. Here are the ones that have the staff of Tom’s Guide excited, as we count down the days until Sept. 14, when the iPhone 13 will get its moment in the spotlight.
Fast-refreshing 120Hz displays on the iPhone 13
I used to think high-refresh rate displays were just a-nice-to-have rather than a game-changing smartphone feature. But having used Android phones with 120Hz panels for more than a year now, I really can’t go back to a 60Hz display without feeling a level of resentment toward the phone. As much as I like my iPhone 12, its 60hz display simply feels sluggish compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 or Oppo Find X3 Pro.
So I really want — nay, need — to see Apple put a 120Hz display on the iPhone 13, or the iPhone 13 Pro at the very least. Rumors suggest that only the Pro models are getting this feature, and why I wish it were all four rumored iPhone 13 models, that’s better than nothing.
Combined with the 120Hz touch sampling rate the iPhone 12 already has, we could see the next iPhone sport a screen that feels very slick to use. If not then I'm afraid my interest in the iPhone 13 will wither on the vine very quickly. —Roland Moore-Colyer
Bigger iPhone 13 batteries across the board
As the first iPhones with 5G, the iPhone 12 battery life results were generally underwhelming. The only exception was the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which lasted an excellent 10 hours and 53 minutes surfing the web over 5G at 150 nits of screen brightness. The iPhone 12 mini (7:28), iPhone 12 (8:25) and iPhone 12 Pro (9:06) offered lackluster endurance. So it’s good to know that all four new iPhone 13 models are tipped for bigger batteries this time around.
For example, the iPhone 13 mini is rumored to pack a 2,406 mAh battery, up from 2,227 mAh on the 12 mini. The regular iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro would both go from 2,815 to 3,095 mAh, as they should have the same size display. The iPhone 13 Pro Max battery could get a boost from 3,687 mAh to 4,352 mAh. So the iPhone 13 Pro Max should make our best phone battery life list, but we’re hoping for more. —Mark Spoonauer
Face ID that works with masks on the iPhone 13
Right now, if you're using Face ID in public and wearing a face mask — you're wearing one indoors, right? — you're either frustrated or the proud owner of an Apple Watch that's gotten a little added value in the last year thanks to an unlocking feature in this spring’s iOS 14.5 update.
This should not be the case, and Apple knows it. With all the company's smarts, we're not surprised that the experts in Cupertino have reportedly been working on updating Face ID to identify you even with a face mask on.
As an Apple Watch owner, I'm not going to get as much of a benefit from this feature (though it will probably make the functionality work better, as there’s always the occasional error). I'm mostly excited for this out of want for everyone to have the same perk that I do. Not only will it be convenient to be able to use Face ID even with a face mask on, but it could encourage people to stay masked up, which (if it works) could be the best overall effect to come out of the whole new iPhone. —Henry T. Casey
Emergency calling and texting via satellite
I do a lot of hiking, and my family makes it a point to try and visit one National Park every year. There’s a lot of benefits to spending time in these remote locations — the sweeping vistas, the gorgeous sights only found in nature, the clean air and quiet surroundings. But the chief drawback is that in most of these pristine places, the cellular reception stinks.
I’m not talking about being able to check my email or post bucolic photos to Twitter or find out the score of the ballgame I’m missing while I’m out in nature. I’m talking about being able to contact someone in case something goes horribly wrong and we need medical care or some other emergency assistance. There’s only so much that first-aid kit my wife carries around everywhere can tackle.
A recent rumor suggests Apple may be working on addressing this problem. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 will have the hardware to connect to satellites. Bloomberg (opens in new tab) augmented that report with one of its own — that Apple is working on a way to allow iPhones to connect to emergency services, even when cellular connectivity is weak or non-existent.
From the sound of things, the hardware will certainly be in place with the iPhone 13, even if the software component won’t be ready until next year. Nevertheless, anything Apple can do to make my iPhone a lifeline when I hike beyond cellular’s reach will be a welcome addition.—Philip Michales
iPhone 13 astrophotography and portrait mode video
I can’t tell you how many times I tried to take a good photo of the moon with the iPhone 12 — and every iPhone before it — and came out with a lame result. And a starry night sky? Forget about it. The good news is that the iPhone 13 is rumored to offer a big computational boost with a new astrophotography mode. Yes, Apple iis behind the Google Pixel on this front, but I’m hoping the iPhone 13 catches up in a big way.
Another rumored computational photography upgrade for the iPhone 13 is portrait mode video. Again, Apple would not be first with this feature, as the Galaxy S21 Ultra offers this perk. But the iPhone really popularized portrait photography on phones, and its bokeh effect is typically more convincing than the competition based on our testing. So I’m really excited to see how Apple can make subjects pop when shooting videos while blurring the background. —Mark Spoonauer