Last week, Apple announced its latest “new” iPhone — if by “new” you mean “yellow,” of course. But that’s not unusual for the company, which added a new tint to its phones around mid-model year.
However, if you’re waiting for a truly new iPhone to come out, you still have six months. Of course, that means the rumors about the upcoming iPhone – the new new iPhone, if you will – are starting to pile up. But is this year’s update likely to be a big change from its predecessor? Or will that only be on par with a yellow iPhone 14? Let’s take a look at what are probably the more significant changes.
Do me a favour
The latest rumor circulating about this year’s iPhone models is the replacement of the sleep/wake and volume buttons, as well as the ring/silent switch, with solid-state alternatives.
Solid-state buttons are sort of a middle ground between traditional physical controls and touch controls. Think of the home button from the iPhone 7 onwards, which still appeared as a standalone control but had no moving parts. (Newer Mac trackpads have also used similar technology for a while.) While they respond to touch, they also provide haptic feedback that makes you think you’ve pressed a button.
While this certainly makes sense from the perspective of the sleep/wake and volume buttons – getting rid of moving parts that can get dirty, sticky, or jam – the ring/silent switch is a little more dodgy to me. Reports suggest it will be replaced by a button, but it’s unclear how there will be other tactile feedback to indicate condition. (It could be as simple as a vibration when put on silent and a beep when put on ringer mode.)
One thing I’m wondering: is this a change that Apple is even likely to spend a lot of time promoting? I’m not sure it’ll get a significant mention in the keynote, which makes sense since most users probably won’t notice the difference. But removing physical buttons means fewer moving parts to break – and that’s always a good thing.
The end of Lightning is near.
Now USB-C me
Rumors of Apple changing the port on the iPhone have persisted for years, but finally this is the year. Really it is. We are sure.
It seems the stars have finally aligned with Apple shifting ports: namely the combination of regulatory pressure from the European Union and increasing acceptance of USB-C. If the recent move of the Siri Remote to USB-C is any indication, Apple is about to make the transition.
Aside from allowing you to charge all your Apple devices with a single cable, USB-C also opens up some additional possibilities for iPhones, if iPad is any indication. Connecting external storage and additional peripherals via USB-C could be useful in some situations – although some less exciting rumors suggest Apple could lock down the port for approved accessories. (Color me more skeptical about this part.)
No, your iPhone will not have a little camera that pops out. One of the challenges of installing a long focal length telephoto lens in smartphones is simply the space available. In order to be able to achieve greater zoom, you need a combination of lenses and distances that, if put together using the traditional smartphone camera layout, would result in an absurdly large camera bump.
Instead, the periscope design uses mirrors – like a periscope – to allow these lenses to run lengthwise along the phone, rather than being constrained by its depth. That means the potential for a telephoto lens that is rumored to offer a closer zoom to 6x, improving the availability of current models.
The iPhone 15 Pro’s camera could have a larger zoom range.
However, this may not be an overall improvement. Some rumors have it that the periscope lens will be limited to the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max, for example, due to the space available in the device. That’ll be a bummer for those who just don’t want a bigger phone, but it wouldn’t be the first time Apple has put its best camera in just its most expensive model.
Speaking of which, another question about the iPhone 15 range is how Apple will differentiate its Pro and non-Pro models. Last year, the company put just its latest chip – the A16 – into the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max for the first time, opting to keep the standard iPhone 14 and 14 Plus on the 2021 A15 Bionic. Presumably the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus will get the A16 this fall, while the 15 Pro and Pro Max will step up to the new A17.
But between that and the possibility that some features like the periscope lens are only available on the Pro Max/Ultra model, Apple is definitely making its lineup more complex. Colors, processors, body materials and even software features are now all ways Apple has chosen to separate the Pro phones from their non-Pro counterparts.
That’s not surprising, however, as the company still sees significant room at the top of the iPhone market; As Tim Cook said during Apple’s recent financial results conference call, “I think people are willing to go out of their way to get the best they can afford in this category.”
Is this iPhone 15 poised to be a significant update over this year’s models? The smartphone has definitely matured as a product, with the annual changes feeling more evolutionary than revolutionary these days, but most people don’t replace their phone every year, so for those trading in a device that’s a few years old, the iPhone 15 series could very well feel like a big step up.