The iPhone 13 is currently Apple's best iPhone, but offers fairly incremental upgrades over the iPhone 12. If you skipped this year's iPhone then 2022's iPhone 14 is beginning to look like a great excuse to upgrade — but be warned we're expecting an exciting new design that will be a big departure from the current model.
The waters are muddied somewhat in that Apple is likely to unveil a new iPhone SE model next year. Predicted for the first quarter, we're expecting Apple to add 5G to its very popular small and affordable iPhone, a move one analyst recently predicted could make a billion Android users leave the ecosystem for iPhone. Don't count on that.
iPhone SE will get an upgrade
The truth is, I'm a little apprehensive about the iPhone SE. We know that one is coming, but we're not quite sure what. As I said, we may get a simple update to the iPhone SE we currently have, same form factor, better processor, 5G. We might also get a larger 'Plus' version of the SE. Remember, the iPhone SE is just the iPhone 8 in terms of physical design, so the blueprint for a plus model is already in place.
Either way I'm not excited for this phone, but for Apple, that's probably a good thing. I believe the iPhone SE in its current state is really starting to age when pitted alongside Apple's newer iPhone range. The old chin and forehead design, complete with a Touch ID and Home Button to me screams antiquity. Yet we do know the iPhone SE is immensely popular with Apple customers; many people prefer Touch ID over Face ID and many also prefer the rounded design of the SE to the harsh edges of the iPhone 12 and 13.
I think the SE stands to have some success where Apple has failed with the two previous "minI" iPhones. Apple wanted to offer people a smaller form factor and a cheaper price point, however, in truth, the mini iPhone battery was simply never adequate to support all the iPhone 12 and 13 features that accompany it; namely the spice processor, 5G, and powerful camera.
The new SE should have a new processor and camera improvements, as well as 5G. But Apple will be keen not to overstep the affordable price point that makes the current SE so popular (prices currently start at $399), at least not significantly. It is the price of the iPhone SE, more than anything, that sets it apart from the rest of the iPhone range.
If you're a latest-and-greatest Apple user like me, you probably don't care about the iPhone SE, but that's okay. I often refer to the iPhone SE as "the phone I'd buy for my Mom" if I thought she needed an upgrade because it guarantees continuity and usability for her as a current iPhone user, and it won't break the bank.
The iPhone SE should be a welcome upgrade to plenty of iPhone users early next year.
iPhone 14 will debut
We probably say this every other year, but the iPhone 14 really is shaping up to be a massive leap for iPhone. As I mentioned in my 2021 year in review for iPhone, the processor of the phone has become a non-issue simply because it's so good that it doesn't really need to be talked about. 5G is also now well established in lots of countries and cities, so where might we see big upgrades?
There are multiple reports and rumors that this could be the year of the 48 megapixel iPhone camera. Apple prides itself on making remarkable smartphone cameras, and this would be the most significant upgrade to the iPhone camera probably ever, and certainly since the jump to 12MP. Yet more pixels just means bigger photos, and Apple's secret iPhone camera sauce has always been the processing and image handling that takes place during and right after taking a photo. So if we do get a big 48MP upgrade, you can bet your bottom dollar Apple will have some of the best processing around to go with it.
According to some reports, Apple might also be ditching the rear camera bump by making the device thicker, which might prove to be a welcome design change for some. The great thing about an iPhone redesign is that it opens up upgrading for folks who have skipped previous generations to get in on the action with a form factor more to their liking.
A big iPhone talking point next year will be supply, with Apple reportedly looking to increase production by 30% next year. If that's the case, the iPhone SE and 14 might be a little easier to get hold of than the iPhone 13 was.
Off the field issues
Of course, Apple endured a lot of antitrust and legal opposition to the way it does business on the iPhone in 2021. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on the Epic Games vs. Apple trial, which is moving to its next stage in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Epic Games wants to turnover basically the whole ruling, while Apple will look to quash antisteering measures passed down by the judge. Apple also has troubled waters to navigate in South Korea, where the country is expecting compliance with new laws mandating alternative in-app payments. Apple claims it already complies with these laws, but lawmakers have come out in force to say that this isn't in keeping with the intentions of the law, designed to reverse Apple's exact current business model.
As Apple battles to create bigger and better ways of doing iPhone, it is also battling external forces intent on reshaping its business model, a move Apple says will be to the benefit of precisely nobody.
A new year, new phones
That being said, there is still plenty of excellent hardware coming down the line in 2022 that we can all look forward to. See you in 2022, iPhone!
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9
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