120Hz refresh rate. Always-on. Smaller notch. A15 chipset. X60 modem. Wi-Fi 6E. Bigger batteries. Bigger cameras. Better cameras. Better video. Mini, non-mini, Pro, Pro Max. Maybe 1TB. Maybe even Touch ID. It's the iPhone 13… or iPhone 12s, and it's as close as a month away. So, should you start saving?
There were a lot of early rumors flying around the return of Apple's fingerprint identity scanner. Not to replace Face ID but to bolster it. And not necessarily in the power button like the latest iPad Air, but in the actual display, either using Apple's own acoustic tech, Qualcomm's already licensed ultrasonic tech or — yes? Either way, it would be super snazzy, really a convenience, seeing as how 2020 Jr. seems by no means done with us yet. But more recent rumors have claimed in-display Touch ID has been pushed back a year or more. So… expect it when you see it?
Same with a 1TB storage option. It was leaked earlier this year, only to see our hopes MDK'd, just murder death killed, by more recent reports. I mean, I want it, but if we get it, what'll it cost? And will it come with a RAM bonus like the previous iPad Pro? Because it would be all-shades of handy, given fresh leaks over Apple, including the glorious but gluttonous ProRes video format as a recording option.
ProRes is Apple's professional resolution video codec, favored in Final Cut Pro and used in cinema cameras from Arri to BlackMagic. Rumor has it ProRes will support 1080p and 4K, but will it be highly compressed LT or less lossy HQ, 10-bit, or 12-bit? 12-bit Dolby Vision? Would Apple, could Apple go RAW? Regardless, it should make pro video editing a dream, almost if not quite like ProRaw did photo editing last year. No new rumors on USB-C, much less Thunderbolt 4 to pull all that data off the iPhone, though, but also no new rumors on going full portless either, at least not this year.
There will be faster and more efficient wireless, though. With Qualcomm's X60 modem, which should offer better mmWave high-band 5G for… Verizon? Maybe a few other markets? But fabbed on Samsung's 5-nanometer process so it won't be so damn power-thirsty.
That's not quite as good as TSMC's 5 original, much less improved 5-nanometer process, but Apple has that all bought up for A15. And yes, A15, not M1, because M1 is A14 generation silicon. And Apple already shipped that last year in the iPhone 12. A15 will be M2 generation silicon, and I already have a full explainer up on that, which I'll link in the description right below the like button. And we'll probably be looking at somewhere around the usual 20% boost to single-core performance, maybe for the graphics cores, maybe some extra vector efficiencies from ARMv9 and whatever other surprises Apple sneaks into the silicon.
As to Wi-Fi 6E, that's like… the Enterprise E, the same thing, just the best version of it. In this case, it has the same potential speed, but it can go into the 6GHz range, which is less congested, meaning you should see more of that potential if you have a compatible router. Personally, I skipped 6 because this is the Wi-Fi update I've been waiting for.
Also, on-deck is Cinematic Video, which adds computational depth of field, or bo-kay — basically what Portrait Mode has been doing for photos going on 5 years already, but with better face tracking for video. Does Apple really have the silicon and segmentation algorithms necessary to make it work on video? If so, one less reason to lug around bigger cameras.
On the stills side, the dual rear cameras on the non-Pro models are expected to go diagonal, but since it seems like early rumors of LiDAR coming to all models have… come to naught, will it actually make a difference for image fusion, or is it purely aesthetic, so everyone will know you have the new units?
Sensor shift, which is basically Apple's version of in-body image stabilization from the iPhone 12 Pro Max wide-angle camera, sounds like it's coming to more cameras on more models. But does that mean all or just most? Basically, bigger and better sensors all around, though, including the ultra-wide-angle that starts auto-focusing all on its own now. Giant, pixel binned sensors and periscope zooms seem to be another year or couple away, but this will all mean way better looking low light, night, and astrophotography as well.
Especially on the iPhone first ProMotion display. That's Apple's name for adaptive refresh rate. This means it can boost up to 120Hz for buttery smooth scrolling and better gaming, but also drop down to 48Hz to show movies the way nature and Hollywood intended, 24Hz for static photos and interfaces, and balance out the higher power draws off the higher refresh rates. Pretty much what the iPad Pro has been doing since 2017. But rumor also has it'll be able to go down to 1Hz like the Apple Watch has been doing since 2019, and for the same reason — ultra-low-power always-on display, in this case for the Lock Screen. So you can check the time, maybe some widgets, without even having to pick it up to wake it up, or, you know, bark at Siri like an animal. But given the extra cost of the extra tech, will it be Pro models only?
It looks like Apple will be packing slightly more battery into all the new iPhone models just in case, though. Making them slightly thicker if not thicc. But, combined with the increased efficiencies, even with some more demanding features, it should result in a net positive, including and especially for the mini.
Which, rumor has it, should be back for this one last year, at least for now, so tiny phone fanatics, you might want to jump on it while you still can. Because it will otherwise be the same 5.4-inch size, same with the non-pro and pro, same 6.1-inch sizes, and same 6.7-inches for the Pro Max. Also, similar colors, if Apple holds to a pattern. Which means black, white, red, with a couple or few wild-card options for the regular… so orange, yellow, green, purple, or pink? And then silver, some variation of gold, and maybe matte black, even bronze rumored for the Pros?
Then, if Apple wants to temper expectations as they did with the 10s, they'll slap a 12s on the slides, or if they want to push it hard, they'll go full-on, full-number again, as they did with the 8, and Tim Cook will Good Morning us right into the iPhone 13.
Enough to upgrade?
But just because Apple makes a new iPhone every year doesn't mean you need to upgrade every year; any more than a new car or TV model every year means you need to upgrade your car or TV every year. It just means any year you're ready to upgrade, and you'll get the latest, greatest model possible, which will last you the longest amount of time possible until you're next ready to upgrade.
And, I mean, I know — YOU know — that come launch time, 90% of the coverage will totally fetishize whether it's a compelling upgrade for iPhone 12 owners, even though that's like 10% of the market, after you take out people on yearly upgrade programs, tech enthusiasts like me, affluent people who get the latest and greatest of everything every year, and you 9000IQ types who have figured out how to use the iPhones excellent resale value to sell and buy for pennies on the dollar every damn time. Respect.
But the vast majority of people keep their phones for two, three, four, or more years. I know that you know that; Apple knows that. So the sweet spot this year will be around iPhone 8, even iPhone X. That's where the sum of the new features will really kick in for you. And anything older, certainly. You know, unless something I just went over is especially critical or compelling for you, or you can get a too-good-to-pass-up offer.
So, which way are you leaning?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.