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iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: Which one should you buy?

We pit Apple's new smartphones against each other to see which comes out on top.
iphone 13 vs iphone 13 pro
Image: Uswitch

The iPhone 13 series is here, and it’s just as bumper as ever with this year’s lineup comprising four different models: the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 Pro Max. While this means there’s plenty of choice for those eyeing up a new Apple smartphone, it can also make it difficult to pick which is the right model for you.

This is particularly true if you’re debating whether to get the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro, two phones that, on the face of it, look largely similar. Both feature 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED displays, pack Apple’s latest and greatest A15 Bionic chip, and sport boxy flat designs reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and last year’s iPhone 12 series. However, there are also a lot of differences between the two, with the latter boasting an additional camera, a beefier battery and, naturally, a heftier price tag; the iPhone 13 Pro is available in the UK from £949, while the iPhone 13 can be picked up from £779.

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So which of the two handsets is right for you? We’ve pitted the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro head-to-head in order to find out.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: Design and display

iPhone 13 Pro vs iPhone 13 3

On first impressions, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are near-identical from a design perspective. From the front, both devices sport a slightly downsized notch (it’s 20% smaller than the cutout on the iPhone 12 series) and bezel-free 6.1-inch screen, and both sport a boxy design similar to last year’s iPhone 12 complete with flat metal edges and a colour-matched camera bump. While often a feature reserved for top-end handsets only, both devices also boast IP68 certification against dust and water.

However, there soon become some noticeable differences between the two handsets. The iPhone 13’s chassis is crafted from aluminium, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro features a stainless steel body that feels weightier and more premium in hand. In fact, the iPhone 13 almost feels ‘cheap’ in comparison, tipping the scales at 174g, versus the iPhone 13 Pro’s 204g. Adding to its premium feel, the iPhone 13 Pro boasts a textured matte glass rear, whereas iPhone 13 features a standard glass finish that’s not quite as attractive.

Colour options could be another deciding factor for many in choosing between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. The former is available in Starlight, Midnight, blue, pink, and (PRODUCT)Red, while iPhone 13 Pro comes in silver, graphite, gold, and Sierra Blue.

In terms of display, both the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro have 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED displays that deliver crisp visuals, punchy colours and impressive levels of brightness. The Pro, however, also features 120Hz ProMotion technology, which means animations are speedy, transitions are snappy, and scrolling is buttery smooth when navigating around iOS 15. To ensure battery life isn’t drained as a result, the iPhone 13 Pro features an adaptive refresh rate, which means the phone will automatically change the frame rate from 10 to 120Hz depending on what you're doing. If you're reading a news article, for example, it will drop the frame rate to preserve battery when the screen isn't moving but will ramp it back up when you start scrolling.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

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iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: Performance and battery life

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro

On paper, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are fairly evenly matched when it comes to performance. Both smartphones feature Apple’s new A15 Bionic processor, a 5nm chip that packs 15 billion transistors - up from the 11.8 billion transistors found on the A14 Bionic - which the company claims is its fastest yet. Performance on both iPhones was impressive, as you’d expect: neither phone showed any sign of slowing down no matter what we threw at it, from emails and video recording to graphically intensive games. However, it’s worth noting that the iPhone 13 has four GPU cores, while the iPhone 13 Pro has five.

The similarities in performance between the two devices was backed up by benchmarking scores. In Geekbench 5, the iPhone 13 scored 1,727 and 4,582 in single-core and multi-core tests, respectively, while the iPhone 13 Pro scored 1,738 and 4,596.

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro aren’t quite so evenly matched when it comes to battery life. Apple claims you'll get an extra 2.5 hours on the iPhone 13 compared to the iPhone 12, and 1.5 hours more on the iPhone 13 Pro compared to the 12 Pro, totalling around 19 and 22 hours respectively, 19 hours vs 22 hours. This difference was noticeable during our time with the two iPhones; we found ourselves reaching for the charger before the day was out with the iPhone 13, while the Pro model comfortably made it through the entire day without needing any additional juice.

In terms of storage, the iPhone 13 is available with a choice of 128GB, 256GB or 512GB, while the iPhone 13 Pro is available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB configurations. Neither handset sports a built-in microSD slot, which means you’ll need to consider how much storage you need before you take the plunge.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro deals

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: Cameras

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro main

On paper, the iPhone 13 Pro is the top-dog when it comes to camera credentials, boasting a triple-lens camera setup comprising 12MP wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses, the latter adding 3x optical zoom. The standard iPhone 13, on the other hand, features only 12MP wide and ultra-wide lenses.

Adding to its on-paper win, the Pro-branded model also features a LiDAR Scanner in the rear camera array to accurately map environment and depth, is also able to digitally zoom in 10 times further than the iPhone 13, and is capable of shooting in Apple ProRaw recording video in 4K ProRes at 30 fps. However, while the iPhone 13 Pro provides a more capable, pro-oriented, and fully-featured camera experience, it’s worth noting that many of these features are aimed at professional photographers and videographers, which means that the vast majority of users will not make use features such as ProRAW, ProRes, and LiDAR, and will only really miss the third telephoto lens.

In terms of image quality, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are, once again, fairly evenly matched. We struggled to see a difference between images taken in bright, natural light, although thanks to the additional LiDAR Scanner, the iPhone 13 Pro produced slightly more impressive images at night. Overall, while the 12MP sensors sound middling compared to the 50MP lenses cropping up on Android flagships, the cameras on both iPhone 13 models remain among the best on the market.

In terms of video performance, both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro can capture video at up to 4K and 60 frames per second, and both feature Apple’s much-hyped new “Cinematic” mode for capturing videos with smart near-instant autofocus between different subjects, as well as more dramatic depth-of-field effects.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro deals

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: What’s in the box?

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro both ship in impressively compact boxes, although this does mean you won’t find many accessories inside. In both, you’ll find a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, a Sim ejector tool and Apple sticker - there’s no power adapter, no headphones and no Lightning-to-headphone jack adapter.

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: Verdict

Although, on first impressions, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro look almost identical, there are some differences between the two that should help you decide which one is best for you. If you’re after a phone that feels premium, boasts a professional camera experience and a best-in-class display, the iPhone 13 Pro would be the sensible choice; it’s stainless steel chassis feels high-end and expensive, its endless camera features are sure to impress budding photographers and videographers, and its new ProMotion display is an upgrade-worthy addition.

While it lacks a 120Hz refresh rate and features a less premium aluminum chassis, the iPhone 13 remains a capable device. It’s near on-par with its Pro sibling when it comes to performance and its camera is among the best on the market, so if you’re not fussed about having all of the additional bells and whistles, the iPhone 13 is a sensible choice - particularly when you consider it's almost £200 cheaper.

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