The truth is that smartphones peaked a few years ago.
After so many advances, miniaturized computers have reached incredible speeds, their screens have become larger and brighter, and their cameras have produced images that make amateur photographers look like sorcerers.
The problem with so many great innovations is that upgrades are now so repetitive that it’s hard to know what to write about them every year. That’s especially the case with Apple’s iPhone 13, which is possibly the most incremental update ever for the iPhone.
The latest iPhones are only 10% faster than last year’s models. (For context, in 2015, the iPhone 6S was 70% faster than its predecessor, the iPhone 6) apps and scrolling through text – hardly a game changer.
Smartphone camera innovations also appear to be slowing down. Apple executives have described the iPhone 13’s cameras as “significantly more powerful” and the “most advanced” iPhones ever, largely because they can capture more light and reduce interference. But in my tests, the improvements were negligible.
This is all to say the annual phone upgrade, which companies like Apple and Samsung advertise with huge marketing events and promotional campaigns to boost sales for the holiday shopping season. ceremony, has become an illusion of technological innovation. In fact, the current upgrades are a glorification of capitalism in the form of ruthless incrementalism.
What better way to illustrate that slow march than with smartphone photos? To test the iPhone 13 camera, I bought a special tripod to hold the two phones side by side so I could take close-up photos of my dogs at the same time. I compared photos taken with a new iPhone, last year’s iPhone 12, and a three-year-old iPhone XS.
When I got the results, I was really surprised by how well the iPhone XS camera held up against the latest models. And the iPhone 13’s camera is only slightly better than the iPhone 12’s.
Enough words. Let my dog photo guide you on the latest iPhone.
To compare photos taken in daylight, I took all my phone and dogs, Max (it’s a smaller corgi) and Mochi (it’s a brown Labrador), to a park in Richmond, California. In one test shot, they sat next to each other in the shade, the iPhone 13 and 12 photos were barely distinguishable. The iPhone 13 did a little better at capturing shadows.
In a test that compared the $1,000 iPhone 13 Pro with the iPhone XS, a $1,000 model released in 2018, both shots of dogs in bright sunlight looked clear and detailed. I will tell you that the iPhone 13 Pro produces images with more vibrant colors.
But during a test on a shady road in the middle of a forest, a photo taken with an iPhone 13 Pro caused Mochi to be blinded by sunlight; Shadows and light captured by a three-year-old iPhone look more natural. Apple disagrees with my assessment. (You are the judge.)
The improvements in the new iPhone camera are most evident in low-light shots with night mode, which takes multiple photos and then merges them together while adjusting color and contrast. counter. Low-light shots of Max sitting on the balcony just after sunset look clearer when taken with the iPhone 13 Pro than with the iPhone 12.
Low light is an area where the three-year-old iPhone XS can’t compete because its camera lacks a night mode. In the same test, Max is covered in darkness, except for his handsome white mane.
The iPhone 13’s cameras also have a new video feature called cinema mode, which uses algorithms to automatically focus on faces – even my dogs – as they move around. It’s hard for me to imagine why someone with no ambition to be a filmmaker would use this mode, but I can think of some TikTokers who might enjoy it.
So, in summary, the iPhone 13’s camera is slightly better than last year’s iPhones. Even when compared to the iPhone from three years ago, the camera is much better if you care about taking good pictures in the dark.
How important is night photography? I asked Jim Wilson, a longtime New York Times photographer, as he was photographing new iPhones for this review. He said that would be an important feature for people like him, but not for casual shooters.
“Sometimes I wait until the night to turn an ordinary scene into something different and interesting,” he says. “But for most people who are not professional photographers, this is of no consequence.”
The fact that the smartphone has stabilized is not a bad thing. It means you can enjoy the one you have for years to come without missing out on anything specialized. And when it feels right to upgrade, you’re in possession of a piece of mature technology that is slowly – albeit insignificantly – getting better.