Despite the fears of a global recession, analysts believe Apple will go ahead with some big upgrades in the iPhone lineup this year. Though the series is expected to look like the one last year, it could feature a new camera system, a hole-punch screen as well as a brand new ‘Max’ model. Apple’s most important product continues to be the iPhone, accounting for half of 2021’s overall sales. Here’s a curation of five possible new features in the iPhone series, subject to the usual disclaimers surrounding any news from Cupertino.
The iPhone 14 Max will replace the ‘mini’ model
To start with, it’s being said that the “mini” variant in the iPhone lineup will get replaced by a new “Max” model. Apple’s decision is likely due to a lack of takers for the compact smartphone. According to US iPhone sales data for the March quarter that was shared by Consumer Research Intelligence Partners (CRIP), the iPhone 13 mini had just 3 per cent of sales of all the iPhone 13 models. Considering that the 2020’s iPhone 12 mini was also an unpopular model, the move seems to make commercial sense.
And if the iPhone 14 Max does indeed replace the iPhone 13 mini, it is going to be the same size as the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro. This brings in good news for those who always wanted a large-screen sized iPhone but could not afford the “Pro” model due to financial constraints. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will sell the iPhone 14 Max at $899, $200 less than the iPhone 14 Pro. It will be however be $200 more than the iPhone mini and much more profitable for Apple even if it sells a bit more than the model it is replacing.
Superior front-facing camera across the iPhone 14 lineup
The iPhone 13’s front-facing camera is good but not great. Given that more users now want a high-quality front-facing camera for video calling and live streaming, even post the lockdowns, an improved selfie camera on the iPhone 14 would be a logical move. Apple is reportedly in talks with LG Innotek for a more expensive high-end front-facing camera with auto-focus for the iPhone 14 lineup. Typically, Apple sources front-facing cameras used in iPhones from Chinese component suppliers.
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But this time, Apple wants to source front-facing cameras for the iPhone from South Korean component makers. In fact, the new front-facing camera that is said to be used in the iPhone 14 will cost three times more than the cameras used in previous models. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kou has also heard from his sources that the entire iPhone 14 series will get an upgraded front-facing camera with auto-focus and a wider f/1.9 aperture. That should mean a wider aperture would allow more light to pass through the lens, thus resulting in improved image quality alongside a better depth-of-field effect for portrait mode photos and videos.
Is the always-on display coming to the iPhone 14 series?
It’s happening, finally. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple may add an always-on display to the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. The Cupertino giant is expected to introduce the feature alongside iOS 16. To bring the always-on display mode to the iPhone, Apple has to use a new type of LPTO (low-resolution polycrystalline oxide display). This is the same display tech Apple also uses in newer Apple Watch models. The new LPTO display not only helps conserve energy while the display is powered on but also brings variable refresh rates. Samsung’s flagship smartphones, including the Galaxy S22, already support the always-on display.
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Some iPhone 14 models may use the old A15 Bionic chipset
Apple is said to use a new two-chip strategy to differentiate the regular iPhone 14 from the “Pro” models. Although a controversial move, experts say this strategy for the iPhone 14 makes a lot of sense. So essentially, the standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max would continue to use the A15 Bionic chip that was also found in the existing iPhone 13 series. Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max would get the new A16 chipset.
According to insiders, Apple’s two-chip strategy will not only help the company separate the “Pro” from the “non-Pro” models but also cut costs given manufacturing A16 processors won’t be cheap at a time when chips are in short supply. The bigger picture is that even if the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max come with the A15 chip, they would still be faster and more power-efficient than most flagship-grade Android smartphones. Logically, Apple does not need to put the best processor on a $799 iPhone anymore. The fastest mobile processor in the market will help Apple better market the iPhone 14 Pro to pro-level users.
Good-bye notch, hello hole-punch display
When Apple introduced the iPhone X in 2017, its distinctive “notch” at the top of the screen which housed the cameras and FaceID hogged all the limelight. In fact, Apple was heavily trolled for putting the “notch” on the iPhone X. Years later, Apple is getting rid of the notch on at least two iPhone 14 models with a more modern design. According to leaked schematics, the notch will get replaced by dual pill and hole cut-outs on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. The concept of a hole-punch screen is nothing new. Every Android smartphone has a small circular cut-out on the display to accommodate a front-facing camera.
The iPhone 14 will be the first Apple smartphone to use a pill-shaped cutout for the selfie snapper and the infrared camera but it also includes a hole for the dot projector. The cutouts will not only take up less space than the notch but will also look more refined. Last year, Apple made changes to the iPhone’s infamous notch by shrinking the notch’s size on the iPhone 13. Clearly, another move to remain competitive in the cut-throat smartphone landscape. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Apple uses a pill-shaped hole-punch design for its front-facing camera to differentiate between the expensive iPhone 14 Pro range and the standard iPhone 14 models.
Finally, a larger 48MP camera sensor
A 48MP camera sensor on the next iPhone? Historically, Apple has stayed away from megapixel wars but why would the tech giant want to put a 48MP camera sensor on the next iPhone. It’s a reasonable question. The reason is simple – and a logical one. The bigger the sensor, the more light it can gather, and when combined with AI and machine learning algorithms, the image quality gets dramatically better.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says a 48MP wide camera system will be a jump from the 12MP camera on the current iPhone 13 series. While the new 48MP camera system sounds better than the 12MP camera on the iPhone 13 lineup, Kuo says the next iPhone will actually have a bigger bump. In fact, the 48MP camera system will increase the diagonal length of the camera bump by about 33 per cent , while its height will increase by about 10 per cent. But cramming the highest-resolution sensor takes more space in a device as small as a smartphone.