Skip to main content

iPhone 13 needs to avoid this big iPhone 12 mistake

iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras
(Image credit: Future)

From the rumors we've heard so far, there seems to be still quite a lot of the iPhone 12 in the iPhone 13, despite the upgrades that leakers and rumor-mongers have detailed. There's one thing in particular that I hope Apple leaves behind for its 2021 flagship range: the division that has opened up between its Pro and Pro Max models.

In the first two "Max" edition iPhones (iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 Pro Max), the only difference between it and the smaller model was its display size and battery capacity. However, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, Apple offered superior cameras to the iPhone 12 Pro, upping the optical zoom from 2x to 2.5x, and adding sensor shift stabilization to the main camera instead of the usual OIS.

As a fan of Apple's smaller-bodied phones, I don't like that these excellent features didn't appear on my iPhone 12 Pro.

I haven't gone for Max-sized iPhones in the past because I like having a smaller phone as my daily driver. It fits in my pocket easier; I can use the handset one-handed; and it's a touch cheaper. I accept in return that the screen isn't quite as impressive, and that the battery will be smaller as a result. Having inferior cameras, because I've picked out the Pro rather than Pro Max model goes against the pattern that Apple established back when it introduced the Max label. 

Apple has done this before. A few years ago, from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 8, Apple did offer the "Plus" version of each iPhone model. These started out as just larger models like the Max models did, but eventually Plus handsets sported an extra camera and in some cases more RAM than their basic counterparts. 

While this name has apparently been retired since 2017, perhaps it should have been revived last year to make it clear that the largest iPhone 12 Pro available was superior to the other Pro model. While calling a phone "Pro Plus" can be a mouthful, I feel it would have better represented the difference between the two iPhone 12 Pro models.

If Apple went back to this naming convention, I'd still be annoyed that my preference for using smaller iPhones meant I didn't get the best from my new phone, but the name would make more sense based on its prior system for naming phones.

According to the current iPhone 13 rumors, Apple is sticking to the same four-model strategy as with the iPhone 12, including Pro and Pro Max editions. I'm happy to see that these rumors also indicate no difference in cameras between the Pro models, only between Pro and non-Pro iPhone 13s. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are both tipped to offer an improved ultra-wide camera with a wider aperture and auto-focus, which would be a welcome upgrade.

However, we don't yet know whether the iPhone 13 Pro Max will continue to offer a more powerful zoom. There have been reports that Apple is working on a folded periscope camera for the iPhone 13, but it's not clear which models will get this upgrade.

If I have to choose between the phone size I prefer and getting what may well be the next best camera phone on the market, it's no tragedy. A new iPhone is still a new iPhone, and will most likely be as much of a joy to use as the rest of Apple's recent phones. However, I hope this isn't the case, and Apple's best tech is available on both sizes of iPhone 13 Pro. And if it is, Apple could at least do me the courtesy of changing the name to make the difference in performance more clear.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.