Few things are guaranteed these days, but you can always count on a new iPhone releasing every fall — and the temptation to upgrade that comes with it. The new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are looking like Apple’s best phones yet, with the company’s fastest-ever processors, some new camera upgrades that allow for professional-grade video capture and the promise of a few extra hours of battery life over previous models.
If you’re clinging on to an aging iPhone, the iPhone 13 will be a no-brainer upgrade that will likely offer a major boost in performance, battery life and camera capabilities. But if you just picked up an iPhone over the last few years, the question of whether to upgrade is a bit more complicated. Here’s who should and shouldn’t upgrade to the iPhone 13, as well as some tips for getting the best trade-in deals if you’ve decided to take the plunge.
You’re clinging on to a pretty old iPhone
Apple iPhones are built to last when it comes to software support — heck, the major iOS 15 update coming this month will work with phones dating all the way back to 2015’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. But just because your old iPhone technically still works doesn’t necessarily mean that it still works well, and if you find that your device is starting to show its age, it’s probably time to make the jump.
“Given the improvements to battery life, cameras and cellular modems, I would recommend upgrading an iPhone X or earlier,” says Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst at tech research firm Techsponential. “Not only will you get faster performance, better pictures (especially in low light) and much longer battery life, you’ll also likely get better reception.”
You’re serious about photos and especially video
Apple All of Apple’s recent iPhones take great photos, and the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 remain excellent options for capturing your family vacations and shooting fun TikToks and Instagram stories. But if you’re someone who uses their iPhone to shoot photos and videos on any kind of professional level, the iPhone 13 and especially the iPhone 13 Pro may be worth the upgrade for the cameras alone.
Aside from a wealth of technical spec improvements built to offer things like better zoom and low-light performance, the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro both offer new camera features such as Photographic Styles (essentially special filters for boosting things like color and contrast) and a Cinematic mode. The latter feature seems like one of the most significant, as it allows you to adjust what the camera is focusing on both during and after video capture. This could prove useful for amateur filmmakers who want to easily add immersive, movie-like focus effects while filming scenes with multiple people in them.
There are also a few Pro-exclusive camera features, including the ability to take dramatic portrait mode shots in Night mode, and the ability to shoot and edit in ProRes, a video standard commonly used in movies and commercials. In short, if photography or videography is a serious hobby, side hustle or even job for you, the iPhone 13 models are looking like some of the best camera phones ever.
You care about 5G
Apple The iPhone 13 is only the second iPhone to support 5G, the latest standard for ultra-fast cellular connectivity that’s available on most major carriers. We’ve had mixed results with 5G when testing it on the iPhone 12 — you’ll definitely notice faster speeds under the right conditions, but ultra-wideband 5G (the faster version of the standard) is still limited to very specific areas, and the more common nationwide 5G is a pretty modest improvement over 4G. Still, those with an iPhone 11 or older may want to consider making the jump in order to have an iPhone that’s fully future-proof once 5G becomes more of a thing.
“Carrier networks have changed a lot in the last five years, and the new iPhones not only include 5G but also all the other frequency combinations that the networks use these days to provide coverage and capacity,” says Greengart.
You want the smoothest screen on an iPhone
Apple One of the most significant new features on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max specifically is their 120 Hz ProMotion display, which is up to twice as smooth as the 60 Hz screens on recent iPhones. To put this in real-world terms, you’ll notice a lot more fluidity when scrolling through webpages or flipping through your camera roll, and your favorite shows, movies and games will be capable of playing more smoothly.
This feature is adaptive too — in order to save your battery life, the high refresh rate will automatically kick in when you’re rapidly scrolling, but not when you’re, say, reading a text message. This type of screen has been impressing us on Android phones for years, so if you’ve been waiting for Apple to finally catch up before switching to iPhone, the 13 Pro or 13 Pro Max may be for you.
Your only issue is battery life
Apple We’ve all been there — after a few years of owning an iPhone, you notice that its battery starts to drain faster than usual, sometimes suspiciously close to the launch of a new model. But while it’s tempting to get a brand-new phone just for battery life, keep in mind that you may be eligible for a battery upgrade depending on which phone and warranty plan you have.
If your iPhone is still under warranty or an AppleCare+ plan, you can get your battery replaced for free. All iPhones come with a one-year limited warranty. AppleCare+ plans vary by price based on your phone model but include a battery replacement if your iPhone’s battery is down to less than 80% of its original capacity, in addition to coverage for multiple instances of damage or loss every 12 months. If you’re out of warranty, a battery replacement will cost you $69 for all mainline iPhones dating back to the iPhone X, and $49 for both versions of the iPhone SE as well as the iPhone 8 through iPhone 6.
Note that the A15 processors in the iPhone 13 series promise a notable boost in battery life (up to two and a half hours more than their respective iPhone 12 models), so you will be future-proofing if you make the investment just for battery life. But if you’re pretty happy with your current phone’s performance and just want longer endurance, battery replacements are worth considering.
You want something that looks radically different from your iPhone 12
Apple The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro each have some small design refinements over last year’s model, including a slightly smaller notch where the front camera lives. But other than that, you’re pretty much getting the same stainless steel and matte glass design as on the iPhone 12 range, and even the colors offered on both the 13 and 13 Pro are very similar to what we’ve seen before. There are some small differences — the iPhone 13 comes in pink, and the iPhone 13 Pro has a lighter Sierra Blue variation — but those with a newer iPhone seeking something truly fresh-looking may want to hold out.
Related: Why I’m skipping the iPhone 13 and keeping
The iPhone 13 is coming — here’s who should (and shouldn’t) upgrade
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