By Zac Hall
September 28, 2021
Over the years, my iPhone upgrade ritual has developed a few patterns. My routine involves talking myself out of pre-ordering, driving to whatever far-away retail store has launch day inventory, and ending up in New Orleans to try out the new camera system.
This year is no exception. I sold my silver 128GB iPhone 12 Pro Max to a local buyer who thought I was joking when I said the charging brick no longer comes in the box. Then I traveled 90 minutes to a Best Buy that had a Sierra blue 256GB iPhone 13 Pro ready for pickup.
The Apple Store was an option, and I’m sure the reservation system is great for both customers and employees, but it wasn’t as flexible for me as driving up to a designated parking spot and having someone bring out the iPhone.
The new wrapper-free packaging paired with someone walking to my car to hand it off does create such a casual buying experience that it almost feels like buying someone’s iPhone off Facebook or something. If only opening CD packaging in the late ’90s was this easy…
Any-who, a few first impressions: • iPhone 13 Pro feels compact and dense when used as a camera (like a nice camera should) • Sierra blue is impossibly hard to perceive online or in photos and videos; I wasn’t confident I would like it but it’s darker than I expected • iPhone 12 Pro Max had slightly higher camera specs than iPhone 12 Pro; it’s nice that both Pro models have the same camera system this year, even if the camera plateau is comically disproportionate to the body size on the smaller phone
• ProMotion, Apple’s variable refresh rate screen technology that can lower or even double refresh rate, is a fantastic feature for year-over-year upgraders who can see it and invisible for those who can’t; fortunately I’m in the former camp but have demoed to people in the latter camp as well • Photographic Styles, which lets you adjust tone and warmth of your camera, may be my favorite feature; I’ve been switching between vibrant and high contrast so far (but who thinks this won’t come to iPhone 12 eventually?)
Macro photography and Cinematic Mode video are two things I haven’t spent enough time with to evaluate yet, so more on those features in the future. For now, I’ll share a few photos that surprised me from my walk around New Orleans.