15 Sep 2021 6:33 PM +00:00 UTC

iPhone 13 120hz Explained: Is It Worth It?

Credit: Apple
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Apple recently announced the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro alongside a Pro Max variant of the iPhone 13 Pro. The iPhone 13 Pro comes with one of the biggest new features to the iPhone in a long time: a 120hz display. In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about 120hz on iPhone 13.

What Is a 120hz Display?

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Credit: Apple

To start things off, it's important to keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of mobile phones on the market and across history have had 60hz displays. This mirrors the longstanding tradition of running televisions and computer monitors at 60hz as well.

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A display's "hertz," abbreviated ‘hz,' refers to the display's refresh rate, or how many frames-per-second the screen can display at a given time. For gamers, FPS is a very familiar metric, but if you aren't familiar, whenever a phone or a tablet or computer is displaying something on-screen, that screen is refreshing itself many times each second.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Buy the iPhone 13

With many frames displayed each second, motion appears smooth. This is how video games can feel responsive or simply scrolling through social media can feel extremely smooth when displayed on a high refresh-rate monitor. For computer monitors, 60hz is largely a relic of the past with many monitors offering refresh rates far above 60.

120hz on Phones Like iPhone 13

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Credit: Apple

The same smoothness benefits apply to phones, where much scrolling and gaming alike is done. However, unlike monitors, phones are still mostly stuck at 60hz. To some extent, doubling your hertz from 60 to 120 is avoided because of the additional power required to maintain that many frames-per-second, which can cut down on battery life.

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In the modern-day, some phones are coming with 120hz displays as battery technology improves and more customers demand better gaming experiences on mobile. Until the iPhone 13, this was only available on Android, and the phones that most often came with a 120hz display were targeted at gamers.

Related: Why Are Graphics Cards, PS5s, and Xboxes So Expensive?

While a huge win for mobile gamers, 120hz makes simply using your phone and scrolling around the internet much, much more smooth. It also brings with it a boost to motion clarity, cutting down on blur when watching videos. It's important to remember though that content that runs at or is shot in high refresh-rates is the only content that can actually take advantage of a high refresh-rate display. All told, using an iPhone 13 Pro will feel significantly smoother than even an iPhone 12 Pro, which is a powerful phone.

The benefits of a 120hz display may be significant, but this technology isn't a game-changer for every consumer out there. Many simply don't care how smooth their phone is, and if you won't play any mobile games, or don't take them seriously, the frames-per-second advantages of a 120hz display might well be lost on you.

The Cost of 120hz on iPhone 13

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This is all not to mention the price: the base model of the iPhone 13 Pro has 128GB of internal storage and retails for $999. Today, 128GB is a fairly small storage capacity, especially considering how iPhone storage capacity can't be easily upgraded.

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When you consider the camera that's packed into the iPhone 13 Pro, the base model looks even worse: iPhone 13 can record at 4K/30FPS, but it can only record at 1080P/30FPS on the base 128GB variant. The higher-res recording is limited to the 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models of iPhone 13 Pro. These retail for $1,099, $1299, and $1499, respectively.

That's a lot of money for a cell phone, and the iPhone 13 Pro isn't even the highest-end model of iPhone 13 Apple introduced: that honor goes to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which boasts a larger screen than the Pro. The Pro Max comes in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB variants that retail for $1,099, $1,199, $1,399, and $1,599, respectively.

The same restrictions apply to the 128GB base model of iPhone 13 Pro Max: you'll only be able to record in 1080P/30FPS, and with only 128GB of storage you can't upgrade, you'll probably want to opt for a variant with a larger storage capacity.

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iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 13: Is 120hz Worth It?

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Credit: Apple

While the iPhone 12 hasn't seen a major, official price-cut yet, as the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pros actually come to market, which is set to begin September 24th, 2021, iPhone 12s will start selling for less. The iPhone 12 line of iPhone is almost as powerful as the iPhone 13 line and comes with many of the key features of the iPhone 13 line.

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iPhone 12, and iPhone 12 Pro, do not have 120hz displays, however. No other iPhone in history has come with a 120hz display like the iPhone 13 Pros will. So, if a high refresh-rate iPhone is something you've always dreamt of, you'll have to bite the $999 bullet to get a taste of ultra-smooth iOS 15 action.

Is a 120hz display worth the price? Unless you're a tech-enthusiast, a huge mobile gamer, or care a lot about your image quality and have a ton of expendable income, 120hz isn't likely to be enough of an upgrade all by itself to justify the investment. Though if you last purchased an iPhone a couple years ago and are looking to upgrade to a Pro variant, the iPhone 13 Pro becomes a much more reasonable ask.

Related: Where to Buy Steam Deck: Is It in Stores?

Apple's Financing, 120hz, and iPhone 13

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Plus, while the startup cost for an iPhone 13 Pro is high, Apple has widely available financing for iPhone 13. This means that as long as you have a decent credit score and ID, you can apply for financing and set up a payment plan with Apple. These payment plans can work with most major US carriers, too.

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Even if you kit out an iPhone 13 Pro Max and go for the 1TB variant of the Pro Max line, which costs $1,599 all told, you can get away with paying around $66 a month in a two-year contract. This number does not factor in a trade-in either: If you already have an iPhone, especially a reasonably new one, you can cut down that monthly cost considerably.

Nonetheless, Apple's financing plans aren't good fits for everyone, and the money you'll be putting down once the contract is over is still the same ask. Unless you've come into the mobile phone market keen on getting a device with a 120hz display, the iPhone 13 Pro probably isn't for you.

Related: Is Steam Deck Upgradeable?

Other 120hz Phone Options

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Credit: OnePlus

If this technology does sound intriguing, there are other options you can consider. They won't come with all the luxury features of iPhone 13, but there are both 90hz phones and 120hz phones out there that won't break the bank. However, as mentioned before, they won't be iPhones. And some of the biggest name phones in the high refresh-rate space are designed for gamers, like the ASUS ROG phone.

Many won't want a phone that looks like it's built for gamers, but there are still other options out there, like OnePlus Pro phones that look much more like traditional smartphones that also come packed with a 120hz display. The 128GB variant of the OnePlus 8 Pro can be found for as little as $600 today, which is still a lot of money but is much less compared to an iPhone 13 Pro.