Apple iPhone 13: Everything we know so far

Posted: 9 September 2021 11:40 am

The iPhone 13 will launch on 14 September 2021 in the US with four models to choose from. Here are the major improvements we're expecting to see.

Apple is a company that is famous for its secrecy. In Apple's ideal world, the first time we'd know anything about its refreshed iPhone lines would be when Apple CEO Tim Cook whips away the black cloth to show them off for the first time to a cheering crowd. (Or, given the state of the world in 2021, when the virtual video conference reveals them, anyway.)

However, in recent years we've seen more leaks around Apple devices prior to their reveals, leaving us with a better picture of what we might expect out of Cupertino in 2021 in the form of the iPhone 13.

To be clear, we don't explicitly know that the phones Apple will launch in 2021 will be called the iPhone 13. It's equally feasible that Apple may opt for "iPhone 12s" branding, although early rumours did lean more towards the 13 suffix.

Apple iPhone 13: Release date

Apple has announced that it will be holding a virtual event under the headline "California Streaming" at its Apple Park campus in Cupertino on 14 September 2021 at 10am PDT, where it's widely expected to debut the new line of iPhones, as well as new Apple Watch models, and possibly other hardware as well.

That will equate to 3am AEST 15 September 2021 in Australian time, but that's just for the announcement of the new handsets.

While we won't know for sure until that time, and shipping and chip shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic may play a role, we can take some educated guesses as to what that will mean for actual iPhone 13 availability in Australia.

Australia has long held the distinction of being the first (or near first, depending on New Zealand plans) country in the world where iPhones go on sale, and we can expect Apple to offer them as pre-orders prior to their general availability.

It's highly likely that pre-orders will commence on a Friday based on past history, most likely 17 September 2021 and probably in the early evening to coincide with US timings, with actual iPhone availability in Australia two weeks later. If that date holds solid, that would put the iPhone 13 family on sale in Australia from 1 October 2021. We'll have to wait and see to be sure.

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Apple iPhone 13: Price

Again, it's not as though we can look at an Apple retail pricing sheet to determine the price points of the iPhone 13. That's especially complex as it's expected that, like 2020, there won't just be "one" iPhone 13.

Instead, it's expected that Apple will continue with its four-model strategy of an iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, to provide models with differing sizes, features and above all price points.

There's little doubt that Apple will charge premium prices for its iPhone 13 lineup. It's most likely that they'll come to market at or around the same price points as the existing iPhone 12 models. For reference at full purchase price here's what you'll pay at the time of writing for each of those devices, as well as the comparative pricing for all iPhone models currently sold in Australia:

Apple iPhone 12 Mini 64GB$1,199.00
Apple iPhone 12 Mini 128GB$1,279.00
Apple iPhone 12 Mini 256GB$1,449.00
Apple iPhone 12 64GB$1,349.00
Apple iPhone 12 128GB$1,429.00
Apple iPhone 12 256GB$1,599.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 128GB$1,699.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 256GB$1,869.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 512GB$2,219.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 128GB$1,849.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 256GB$2,019.00
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 512GB$2,369.00
Apple iPhone SE 64GB$679.00
Apple iPhone SE 128GB$759.00
Apple iPhone SE 256GB$929.00
Apple iPhone 11 64GB$999.00
Apple iPhone 11 128GB$1,079.00
Apple iPhone 11 256GB$1,249.00
Apple iPhone XR 64GB$849.00
Apple iPhone XR 128GB$929.00

If Apple follows previous trends, those price points are where we'd expect to see the respective models of the iPhone 13 family land. It's possible we may see some bumps in storage capacities, however. The ongoing supply chain issues around the pandemic may lead to some price rises, especially if Apple wants to maintain its own healthy profit margins on each iPhone 13 sold.

When the iPhone 13 launches, we can expect to see most of those iPhone 12 models officially go off sale, excluding the lowest specification models. Typically, Apple shrinks its prior year offerings down to just one storage capacity in order to offer a more "affordable" iPhone option.

Why that matters right now is that with 14 September 2021 just around the corner at the time of writing, now is the worst time to buy a "new" iPhone. Even if the iPhone 12 would meet your needs, it's likely to see a sharp price cut as soon as the iPhone 13 is available.

Apple iPhone 13: Design

The Apple rumour mill loves to churn, and very early on there were all sorts of quite wild rumours doing the rounds, from "foldable" iPhones, to iPhones with either USB C charging or no ports at all, and plenty more besides.

As we've gotten closer to the expected launch date, however, many of those rumours have subsided, with early leaks and renders pointing more towards a relatively small number of actual design changes on board.

Indeed, what we've seen in early leaks suggest that Apple isn't going to make any radical design changes across all four iPhone 13 variants.

The biggest changes may come in colour choices, and possibly in a change in the orientation of the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13's rear dual camera arrays. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini place their cameras vertically, but a number of leaked images and dummy models suggest that the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini will instead place them diagonally.

Why diagonal? It's not entirely clear, and we may have to wait until physical units get torn down to work out if this is to achieve some kind of camera effect, or if it's because of other internal component needs.

What is pretty clear from what's known already is that there definitely will be different iPhone models to pick from. An EEC certification points to models with codenames A2628, A2630, A2634, A2635, A2640, A2643, and A2645, while separate models A2660, A2656, and A2653 have been certified in China.

Before you get too excited and figure that this means that 10 different iPhone 13 models are coming your way, it's worth realising that Apple releases multiple variants of what are essentially the same iPhones, with differences only in matters such as 5G radios or eSIM compatibility. Indeed, that's what it did with the iPhone 12, which had a whopping 16 variants, covering differences for models sold in the USA, China, Canada/Japan and the rest of the world.

There's also some suggestion that Apple may be looking to make the iPhone "notch" a little smaller. Apple hasn't gone with the industry trend towards smaller notches or "punch hole" cameras for its iPhone line, largely to accommodate its FaceTime camera functionality. Some rumours suggest that it may have been able to shrink those parts down, leading to a smaller top of screen notch.

It's also been rumoured for some time that Apple may be looking to use an in-display fingerprint reader to reintroduce TouchID to the mainstream iPhone lineup. It's still a feature on the iPhone SE, but not elsewhere, and it would solve for authentication issues many have had with FaceID when wearing facemasks in a socially responsible manner. However, in-display sensors do vary a lot in quality of recognition, and it would represent something of an about-face for Apple to go down this path. We'll have to wait and see on that score.

Many of Apple's competitors have adopted 90Hz or 120Hz displays as part of their premium offerings, and it's widely tipped that Apple may opt for 120Hz capable "ProMotion" displays for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max as differentiating factors.

Apple iPhone 13: Cameras

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Apple's cameras aren't – at a technical level – typically the fastest to adopt new technologies such as periscope lenses for expanded zoom. Instead, Apple has typically leveraged its strong control over not only the software but also hardware of each iPhone to eke the very best out of its smartphones when it comes to taking photos.

That's led to phones that, if you just look at them on a pure specification level might not seem to match up to the best on the Android side of the fence. When you come to shoot with them, however, Apple's iPhones often shoot well above what you might expect out of those handsets.

While it doesn't appear that we'll be getting extra lenses or massive lens design changes in 2021, early rumours suggest that some of the features only found in the iPhone 12 Pro Max may gracefully slide down the series for the iPhone 13. That includes sensor-shift stabilisation for improved low light and focus across the range. It's suggested that we might see that feature on all lenses in the Pro models, but possibly only the primary lens on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini.

There's also the suggestion that Apple will look to provide an improved ultrawide camera across the iPhone 13 family, with most pointing to an f/1.8 multi-element lens, although it's not clear if this will be a unique feature for the Pro model phones, or across all four iPhone 13 models.

Apple may also be taking a page out of Google's book with a specific astrophotography mode for capturing starscapes, presumably leveraging the superior processing power of whatever chip Apple places in the iPhone 13.

Apple iPhone 13: Power

The Apple iPhone 13 is expected to run on Apple's next generation ARM-based processor, most likely called the A15 Bionic, although it's always feasible that it might join the MacBooks, iMacs and iPad Pros in using a chip Apple calls the "M1" chip.

TSMC reportedly kicked off production on the A15 chips back in May. Bear in mind that large scale chip production at scale take serious time, and Apple will want to have a large quantity of actual iPhones ready to sell on day one.

There's not much known about the A15's internal workings, and Apple does have a sizeable performance buffer over even the best Android CPUs in a comparative sense. Still, it would be disappointing if Apple can't eke out a sizeable performance upgrade over the iPhone 12, especially given the fact it appears that the actual design won't change that much over last year's phone.

2020 was the year that Apple adopted 5G technologies in its iPhone lineup, although not all iPhone 12 models were created equal. US customers got models that supported both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G, while internationally most handsets (including those sold in Australia) were sub-6GHz only.

The good news here is that it appears that Apple will be using Qualcomm's newer X60 5G modem, with support for aggregated mmWave and sub-6Ghz frequencies. While it's entirely feasible that Apple may still segregate some models as sub-6GHz only – which would explain all those model numbers if nothing else – with the first mmWave 5G networks arriving in Australia this year, we should hopefully not be relegated to "second class" iPhones in Australia.

One feature we can confidently predict is that the iPhone 13 family will feature fixed storage allocations. Apple's never varied from that position from the very first iPhone generation, and it's not likely to change this year. When you're selling as many iPhones as Apple and can charge a premium for storage variances, if you were Apple, you wouldn't change either.

Apple iPhone 13: Battery

Apple has for years played a balancing game between making its iPhones thinner and making them capable of lasting more than a few hours before plaintively pleading for fresh electrons. Earlier iPhones had notoriously poor battery life, but in recent years what Apple's been able to eke out of small battery capacities has been nothing short of remarkable. iPhones with batteries half the size of most Android devices have been able to keep up and in some cases exceed the battery endurance of their counterparts, which is very pleasing indeed.

Rumours suggest that Apple's aggressively targeting space optimisation to increase battery capacity across the board for iPhone 13 handsets. It's suggested that the iPhone 13 Pro Max will tip the scales with a 4352mAh battery, the largest in any iPhone to date by some measure. If you opt for the iPhone 13 Pro, you'll score 3095mAh battery, and the same design and size will apply to the iPhone 13. The smaller frame of the iPhone 13 Mini doesn't afford as much space for packing in batteries, and it's rumoured to feature a 2227mAh battery.

Where the battery life story gets more interesting is in whether Apple does shift higher than the 60Hz displays it's used to date. Higher refresh rate screens use more power, and that could lead to interesting results for iPhone users, especially on the larger iPhone 13 Pro Max. It will also be interesting to see how Apple handles user choice when it comes to screen refresh rates. Some Android makers give you total control to switch between 60hz and 90Hz/120Hz (depending on the phone screen) while others handle it dynamically behind the scenes for you if you want 120Hz, with 60Hz offered as a battery saving option only.

Apple iPhone 13: Early verdict

Apple has for many years worked on a two year rotating principle, introducing totally new features one year and then refining them in the following year.

If the current crop of rumours is accurate, we're pretty clearly in a year of refinement, which would mark out the iPhone 13 family as more suitable for those upgrading from something earlier than an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12.

As always, we'll be reporting all the details you need to know here on Finder as soon as there's local concrete detail, as well as reviews, deals and everything else you need to know about the iPhone 13.

Current iPhone 13 deals

You can't buy an iPhone 13 yet, so there's no deals, although we'd expect a wide array of carrier deals as soon as the iPhone 13 lands.

You can score deals on the current iPhone 12 lineup, and indeed for some earlier iPhone models as well.

Apple iPhone 12 5G 64GB (Red) - $1,095 at Amazon
Apple iPhone 12 5G 64GB (Red) - $1,095 at Amazon

This product works and looks like new. Backed by a 180-day supplier warranty.

Buy now

Apple iPhone 12 Pro 256GB (Graphite) - $1,629 at Amazon
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 256GB (Graphite) - $1,629 at Amazon

This pre-owned product is not Apple certified, but has been professionally inspected, tested and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers.

Buy now

Apple iPhone XR 64GB (Black) - $505 at Amazon
Apple iPhone XR 64GB (Black) - $505 at Amazon

There will be no visible cosmetic imperfections when held at an arm's length.

Buy now

We updated this story on 8 September 2021 with details around Apple's planned launch.

Looking for more information on the latest iPhone launch? Check out all the available iPhone 13 plans from Australia's major telcos.

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