Apple announced its latest “new” iPhone last week – if “new” means “yellow” of course. But it’s not uncommon for the company to start adding a new hue to its phones around the middle of the model year.
However, if you’re waiting for a truly new iPhone to hit the market, you still have six months to go. This naturally means that rumors about the upcoming iPhone are new new iPhone, if you like, start buying. But will this year’s update be a major change from its predecessor? Or will it just be on par with the yellow iPhone 14? Let’s run through what is likely to be one of the most significant changes.
Make me hard
The latest rumor 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 kind of the middle ground between traditional physical controls and touch controls. Think back to the iPhone 7 home button, which still looked like a separate control but had no moving parts. (Recent Mac trackpads have also used similar technology for some time.) While they respond to touch, they also provide haptic feedback, making you think you’ve pressed a button.
While it certainly makes sense in terms of the sleep/wake and volume buttons – getting rid of moving parts that can get dirty, stuck, or jammed – the ring/silent switch is a bit trickier for me. Reports suggest it will be replaced by a button, but it’s not clear how it will provide different tactile feedback to indicate status. (This could be a simple vibration when muting and a beep when switching to ring mode.)
One thing I do question is: is this a change that Apple is generally likely to spend a lot of time advertising? I’m not sure it will get a significant mention in the keynote, which makes sense considering most users probably won’t notice the difference. But removing the physical buttons means fewer moving parts to break, which is always a good thing.
Now USB-C to me
Rumors that Apple would switch the connector on the iPhone have persisted for years, but this year has finally arrived. Indeed, this is it. We are sure.
It seems that the stars have finally aligned for Apple to switch ports: namely, a combination of regulatory pressure from the European Union and the growing adoption of USB-C. If the recent transition of Siri Remote to USB-C is any indication, Apple is going to do its best to make the transition.
As well as getting closer to being able to charge all your Apple devices with a single cable, USB-C also opens up some more options for the iPhone, if there’s any indication on the iPad. Connecting external storage and additional peripherals via USB-C can be useful in some situations, though some less interesting rumors suggest that Apple may be blocking the port for approved accessories. (Color me more skeptical about this part.)
up the periscope
No, your iPhone won’t have a small camera that pops out of it. One of the problems with putting a long focal length telephoto lens in a smartphone is simply the space available. To be able to get more zoom, you need a combination of lenses and a mounting distance that, if assembled using a traditional smartphone camera layout, would result in an absurdly large camera bump.
So instead, the periscope design uses mirrors like a periscope to allow these lenses to move. along on the phone, not limited to it depth. This means the potential for a telephoto lens that could zoom closer to rumored 6x, improving on what’s available in current models.
But this may not be an overall improvement. According to some rumors, the periscope lens is limited to, for example, the large iPhone 15 Pro Max, given the available space in the device. It’s going to be a bummer for those who just don’t want a bigger phone, but it won’t be the first time Apple has put its best camera in just its most expensive model.
Speaking of which, another unresolved question about the iPhone 15 lineup is how Apple will differentiate between its Pro and non-Pro models. Last year, the company only put its latest chip – the A16 – in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max for the first time, choosing to leave 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 get the new A17.
But between that and the possibility of some features like the periscope lens for the Pro Max/Ultra model only, Apple is definitely making its lineup more sophisticated. Colors, processors, body materials, and even software features are now all ways Apple has chosen to separate Pro phones from their non-Pro counterparts.
That’s not surprising, though, given that the company still sees a significant margin of safety in the iPhone market; As Tim Cook said during Apple’s latest earnings conference, “I think people are willing to really put in the effort to get the best they can afford in this category.”
Is this iPhone 15 a significant upgrade over this year’s models? The smartphone has definitely matured as a product, and the changes from year to year seem more evolutionary than revolutionary these days, but most people don’t change their phone every year, so for those who trade in a device that’s a couple of years old, the iPhone 15 line might well seem big step forward.