The iPhone 13, 13 mini, Pro, and Pro Max support the widest array of 5G and LTE frequencies of any iPhone, but globetrotters should be aware that there’s a subtle difference in the models sold in different countries.
This is par for the course with Apple, but now there are even more models than before. There have previously been US, North America/Japan, China, and rest-of-world models. Now there’s a special Russian model, presumably because of Russia’s new “law against Apple” demanding preloaded Russian software.
The five models have slightly different LTE and 5G network setups, and slightly different software loads. (Typically, the China model omits the Taiwanese flag from its emoji set, for example.)
This year, the US-only model is the only one with millimeter-wave 5G. The US and Canada/Mexico/Japan models have some frequency bands used in those countries but not the rest of the world, such as bands 11, 14, and 71.
Compared to the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 lineup now includes several new 5G bands, most notably n48 or CBRS, a frequency Verizon has recently used for 4G enhancement but which should be transitioning to 5G soon.
There’s no banding difference between the rest-of-world, China, and Russia models, showing the difference between those three may be primarily legally required software loads. However, in the past, the China models have sometimes had two physical SIM slots. It’s not clear whether that’s true this year. Other models have one physical SIM slot. They can support one physical SIM and one eSIM, or two eSIMs.
This will likely hearten potential iPhone buyers. In general, iPhone gray-market importing goes one way, from the US to other countries, because iPhone prices in the US are lower than elsewhere. In the past, US iPhones have often omitted key frequencies needed in other countries. That isn’t the case anymore. US iPhones will work well everywhere, while it’s the foreign iPhones that won’t have full capabilities in the US.
The new iPhone 13 models are presumably based on the Qualcomm X60 modem, with Apple’s own antenna design. As I wrote in my column last week, the X60’s ability to combine mid-band and low-band 5G in a single connection will potentially improve the range and latency of 5G connections, especially when AT&T’s and Verizon’s new C-band networks launch next year.
Meanwhile, there is just one global model each of the new $329 iPad and the new $499 iPad mini. The new $329 iPad has 4G, but not 5G. The $499 iPad mini supports global 4G and sub-6GHz 5G. Both have a single eSIM.
Here’s how the banding works out across phone models.