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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Which iPhone 13 Should You Get? (And the Best Deals)

Daydreaming about the iPhone 13? You'll be happy to know that the four new iPhones are officially here. If you're struggling to find the best deal, you don't know which model to choose, or you're wondering if you even need to upgrade, we've got you covered.

Below, we break down the differences between the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, and have details on how to order one of these shiny slabs of glass (or multiple, we don't judge). Be sure to check out our Best iPhone 13 Cases and Accessories guide to kit your new phone.

Updated September 24: We've tweaked the language to note iPhone 13 availability.

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Is the Upgrade Necessary?

All four iPhone 13 models come with incremental changes over 2020's devices. Slightly longer battery life here, more internal storage there. That's why we don't think it's a sound investment to upgrade if you currently own an iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, or iPhone 12 Pro Max.

That mostly rings true for anyone with an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro. Unless you're really into the boxier frame of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, have the cash to spare, and want to future-proof your device with 5G connectivity, then you're good with what you have. If you're dealing with poor battery life, the first step is to try a battery replacement, which can go a long way in extending the life of your device for a nominal fee. Got an older iPhone? Then have at it! Snag that iPhone 13 with no regrets.

Choose Your iPhone

The iPhone 13 has noteworthy improvements. Each model includes the A15 Bionic chip for slightly better performance, plus longer battery life, more internal storage, improved camera sensors, and new colors. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are the first iPhones with ProMotion, a 120-Hz refresh rate on the display, which you can read more about here.

Just like last year, there's 5G support, but it shouldn't be the sole reason to get a new iPhone, since 5G availability is still rather sparse in the US and not that different from 4G LTE in day-to-day use. To see more differences between each model, Apple's comparison tool can help. 

  1. iPhone 13 ($799): This is the iPhone most people should buy (8/10, WIRED Recommends). In addition to a 6.1-inch OLED display on the front, the back is home to a dual-camera system equipped with sensor-shift stabilization on the main sensor, meaning sharper low-light photos and less shaky videos. A larger image sensor helps take brighter photos at night, and you'll have access to Apple's new Cinematic mode, which essentially brings its popular Portrait mode to video.
  2. iPhone 13 Mini ($699): If you're looking for an iPhone that (literally) fits in the palm of your hand, the Mini's 5.4-inch display will do the trick (8/10, WIRED Recommends). But don't let its small size fool you. This iPhone packs the same features you'll find on the standard iPhone 13. One downside? Battery life struggles to last a full day, even if Apple says it's slightly longer-lasting this year.
  3. iPhone 13 Pro ($999): Those who want a new iPhone with all the bells and whistles should opt for the Pro (8/10, WIRED Recommends). The good news is that the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max share the exact same features, so you're really just choosing a size. In addition to everything mentioned above, there's a telephoto zoom camera along with the other two. All of these cameras work with Apple's Night mode for brighter low-light photos, and you can film in Apple's ProRes video format for extra editing features—though this isn't available yet. You'll need the 256-GB model of each Pro phone if you want to shoot ProRes in 4K. Otherwise, you're restricted to 1080p. The ultrawide camera can also double as a macro camera, so you can take photos of subjects super close-up. The 6.1-inch OLED display has a 120-Hz refresh rate, which means everything will look and feel buttery smooth. You get new color options including gold, sierra blue, graphite, and silver.
  4. iPhone 13 Pro Max ($1,099): This is the phablet of iPhones. With a 6.7-inch display and a battery that lasts two and a half hours longer than its predecessor, the iPhone 13 Pro Max Apple's most expensive option (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It's ideal for anyone who relies on their smartphone for everything. As we mentioned, the features are the same as the smaller Pro. The battery is slightly larger than the 13 Pro, and it comfortably lasts a full day and then some.

Apple is still selling the iPhone 11 ($499), iPhone 12 Mini ($599), and iPhone 12 ($699), so if you don't need the latest tech and want to save as much money as you can on a new iPhone, stick with one of these older models, which are still great. Only the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 range support the MagSafe accessory system. Read our Best iPhones guide for more details. 

How to Get It Unlocked

If the thought of signing a contract with a wireless carrier makes you want to scream, good. We always recommend you buy a phone unlocked. You won't run into any issues if you need to switch carriers or just have it work painlessly abroad. That said, Apple says all the carrier versions it sells on its website are unlocked—except for AT&T when you purchase on an installment plan. 

You can also trade in an eligible iPhone to receive credit toward the iPhone 13. But check out our guide on selling your iPhone to get the most for your current device. 

Deals on Network-Locked Phones

If you decide to go with a carrier version, you'll get $30 off the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini. That brings the Mini down to $699 and the standard 13 to $799. Here are a few promotions carriers are running on the iPhones. 

  • AT&T is offering both new and existing customers up to $800 off the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini and up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max when you purchase either on an installment plan with an eligible trade-in, and you need to be on an unlimited plan. It comes with a $30 activation/upgrade fee. The savings come in the form of bill credits.
  • T-Mobile/Sprint is offering up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 Pro with an eligible trade-in device and if you’re on a Magenta Max plan. You can also get up to $500 off the iPhone 13 series with an eligible trade-in. Those who buy any iPhone 13 model without an eligible device can get up to $800 off a second device when you activate 2 lines or more. The carrier is also offering up to $800 off when you upgrade to a new iPhone every two years after that with the Forever Upgrade program. New and existing customers also get up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 series with 30 monthly bill credits on T-Mobile's zero-interest equipment installment plan if you trade in an eligible device on the Magenta Max or Sprint Max plan. The savings come in bill credits.
  • Verizon is offering up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 series with select trade-in models (in any condition) when on select unlimited plans. You'll see the savings in bill credits.

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