My new iPhone 13 Pro – great camera and more

While I felt I could wait a year, and was a bit leery about the extra 30 g weight and square edges (though my iPad Pro has the same square edges and it’s fine), and while I felt my iPhone X was “sufficient” for another year, I went ahead and upgraded to a new iPhone 13 Pro.

Cathy will soon be the proud hand-me-down recipient of my four year old iPhone X, joining the “no home button” FaceID generation, and getting a phone that supports current iOS updates. It was all done with remaining gift certificates accumulated over the years (thanks again, Dave…), so no cash was involved, and everybody is happy.

Anyway, I love the new iPhone.

Sierra Blue

The new Sierra Blue is a really nice, subtle, new shade. There have been some discussions in forums from people saying their iPhone 13 Pro Sierra Blue didn’t look Sierra Blue. Mine arrived a few days ago and it definitely looks like a beautiful Sierra Blue.

But note: It depends on lighting, and visual angle. And when taking a photo of the iPhone, you also have to be careful of the angle.

But I think it looks beautiful, and as advertised.

Sierra Blue iPhone 13 Pro

I also got a nice quality, protective, inexpensive, clear ESR protective case. It has slightly raised camera and screen guards, protects against scratches and falls, and you can still see the nice color of the body through it. The case is actually 10 g lighter than my old case, so even though the iPhone itself is a bit heavier, the net weight difference is just 20 g and I didn’t notice after about 5 minutes.

Note: The case link is an affiliate link, so I do get a small commission if you purchase through the link. I do own it and recommend it though.

ESR Protective Phone Case

The Camera is Great

This is the iPhone to get if you are really into taking pictures, which I always have been. The camera spec upgrades over four years are substantial. Of particular interest to me were (1) the new macro mode, which lets you take pictures as close as 2 cm, (2) the longer 3X optical zoom, (3) the new 0.5X “zoom out” feature to get more into your photos, and (4) a really amazing “night mode” feature which lets you take beautiful photos even in almost no light.

Here are a few samples of photos I took so far. And there are many more camera features also I haven’t tested yet, such as Cinematic Movie mode.

First, a couple of macro shots. These were very tiny plants I saw in my neighborhood – smaller than the size of my finger.


Here’s a night mode shot of the Sky Tree, taken from my bedroom window on an overcast evening. I’m also using 3X optical zoom here.


Here’s a night mode shot of Pao, getting ready to fall asleep on my bed. I’ve turned off all the lights except for a dim bulb next to my bed. Without night mode, this would be just a dark, pixelated blur.

May be a closeup of dog

In the next few photos, I’m playing with the optical zoom on Pao’s walk. In the first three I’ve zoomed out (0.5), then regular, then zoom in 3X optical zoom. In the last two Pao meets a couple of friends and the first photo is regular, and then I zoom out to get everybody in the picture.

May be an image of body of water
Sky Tree across the Nakagawa, 0.5X zoom out.
May be an image of body of water and sky
Sky Tree across the Nakagawa, 1X no zoom.
May be an image of body of water
Sky Tree across the Nakagawa, 3X zoom in. The bridge on the left has become more visible here.
May be an image of 2 people, cat and dog
Pao meeting some friends. No zoom effect.
May be an image of 2 people, dog and outdoors
Zooming out 0.5X to get everybody in the picture.

So I’m really pleased with my camera upgrade.

Other Upgrades

There are many other nice features with this version also. Four years have passed, so the speed is noticeably improved – everything happens almost instantly. The screen itself is brighter, and also somewhat larger (6.1″ vs 5.7″) which has a pleasant effect on almost all activities, including reading books with the Kindle app, checking email, and browsing. The battery life is noticeably longer – something you feel right away. And this iPhone also supports 5G. You can see a complete side-by-side comparison of the new iPhone 13 Pro and the old iPhone X here – there are still many features I haven’t tried yet.

While there is a large range of iPhones available (and an even larger-sized iPhone 13 Pro Max with the same camera specs) I think this is a great choice for people really into photography. If you take fewer photos, then the non-Pro model, or even older models like the iPhone 12 or iPhone 11 will also probably serve you just fine. And there is the inexpensive iPhone SE 2020 series, which has home buttons with TouchID and a smaller screen for basic, yet perfectly good daily use.

iPhone AppleCare+ with theft and loss coverage costs much more in the U.S. than in Japan

AppleCare+ is a must for me. It has saved me countless times – and not just with battery upgrades. I think it’s worth the cost. In fact, for my four year old iPhone X, after the two year initial subscription ran out I continued on the monthly subscription and have already had one battery upgrade since then, done by Apple.

It’s also given me two Apple Watch replacements so far, and saved my MacBook Pro a few times, when it was still under warranty.

Anyway, it’s a good security blanket.

I was thinking of upgrading to a new iPhone 13 Pro this year. They are back-ordered, and I still haven’t entered my order. But the camera is much improved, and the screen is so much nicer that I think I might go that way. I’m really into taking photos.

While comparing prices between the U.S. and Japan I was struck by how much more expensive AppleCare+ with theft and loss coverage (an extra option) is in the United States compared with Japan. Take a look at these screenshots from the Apple online shop in both countries.

As you can see, the two year standard AppleCare+ coverage in the US is $199. That’s 22,680 yen. But look how much it goes up if you add theft and loss protection – $269. That’s $70 extra. And that total comes to 30,657 yen.

Now take a look at the Japan prices for the same coverage.

For the standard two year AppleCare+ the cost is 24,800 yen. That’s $217. So the standard AppleCare+ protection is slightly higher in Japan – $18 more. Spread out over two years that’s a $0.75/month difference.

But look at what it costs to add theft and loss protection in Japan – just an extra 2,000 yen = $17! So the total with theft and loss protection is 26,800 yen = $235. Considerably less than the U.S. cost.

Monthly also, if you add theft and loss protection in the U.S. it’s an extra $3.50, which is $84 over two years. In Japan, the monthly extra charge is just 100 yen = $0.88, which comes to just $21 over two years.

My thoughts, all kidding aside, are: (1) there is less personal theft in Japan and (2) lost items are almost always returned to the owner or turned into police stations or lost and founds. I guess that reflects in the insurance coverage costs.

iPhone 12 thoughts

To upgrade or not?

I checked, and there is 5G millimeter broadband available from my carrier, Softbank, here in Tokyo. But I got the feeling that it is in some locations, and not in others. Plus if you make a contract with a 5G phone the monthly fee is an extra 1,000 yen/month. I don’t know why considering that they’re already likely to sell more data if it really is faster.

Plus the iPhone 12 only switches from 4G to 5G under certain download circumstances to save battery and prevent overheating.

My feeling is that 5G is “not quite there” yet, and my expectations would be greater than what I actually see.

There are some improved camera features. That’s of interest, but what really is much improved over the original X which I have? The zoom is a bit better, but I’m mostly interested in zoom in. That apparently just changes from 2 to 2.5 because of the zoom out, which I would rarely use. In other words, the advertised 5x zoom is from 0.5x out (with wide view) to 2.5x in.

There are some miscellaneous features which apparently are supported by later models, like the selfie “mirror mode” (so your selfies look like what you actually see on the display rather than the reverse). That doesn’t work on the X.

Anyway, my X is still in perfect condition. The battery was recently replaced under AppleCare+ warranty. So I’m wondering what would really be so much better in day to day life at the moment.

I’m “on hold” thinking about it, or whether it’s worth waiting yet another year. I’m leaning towards waiting, at least until 5G is realistically more useful.