iPhone 13's camera sensors and A15 Bionic were 'frozen' 3 years ago

Iphone 13 Pro Sierra Blue Hero
Iphone 13 Pro Sierra Blue Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple says that its iPhone 13 camera sensors and the A15 Bionic chip were "frozen" three years ago.
  • Graham Townsend (VP of camera hardware engineering) says that hardware was planned out before deciding on the experience users would be able to enjoy.
  • Two Apple camera VPs were talking to GQ about iPhone 13 and more.

Apple had the iPhone 13 camera sensors and A15 Bionic chips set out by this time three years ago, according to the company's VP of camera hardware engineering, Graham Townsend.

Townsend was speaking with British GQ alongside Jon McCormack, VP of camera software engineering, about all things iPhone when the tidbit popped up. Townsend noted that its when the sensors and the processor have been "frozen" that attention turns to getting the experience right. And that's when McCormack's team comes in.

"The planning has to start about three years ahead, because that's when we actually fix the specification of the silicon," says Townsend. "So, for instance, the sensor gets defined at that point and the A15 Bionic processor is also frozen. That's when we have to begin to talk with Jon and predict the experiences that we want. Obviously when we designed the new ultra-wide lens, we were going to deliver macro photos. But how is that going to work both in stills and video?"

There has never been any doubt that Apple's devices are mapped out long ahead of time and that right here, right now, iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 are likely sat in a room beneath Apple Park. But having hardware set out three years in advance is impressive, if only because it means there's little room for wiggle room when we get closer to launch. Or a pandemic hits.

The full GQ interview is a great read and covers how Apple created a suite of cameras that suit both TikTok users and people wanting to great movies, at least at home.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.