The "iPhone 14" is more than a year away, yet rumors about the 2022 iPhone are already here. Apple could remove the notch, add a hole-punch camera, and return to an iPhone 4-like design. Other design changes are expected to include no camera bump and round volume buttons.
● TBA 2022
● Lightning connector returns
● No camera bump
● No notch with hole-punch camera
● 120Hz display with LTPO on pro models
● no iPhone mini
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Rumors show that Apple may be preparing a significant design change for the "iPhone 14" in 2022. However, in order to implement the suggested changes, Apple will need to overcome several design and technology challenges year-over-year.
Apple tends to reuse product design languages for several release cycles to save production cost and increase margins. The flat-sided redesign in the iPhone 12 carried over into the iPhone 13, with only a couple of modifications to the external case. A drastic redesign for the 2022 iPhone may be early for Apple's usual update cycle, but it is possible.
While Apple sometimes referred to iPhone updates using the "s" naming convention, it hasn't done so since the iPhone XS. Therefore we'll be referring to the 2022 iPhone as the "iPhone 14" throughout this text.
"iPhone 14" Features
The functionality and feature set of the iPhone is highly reliant on iOS updates. Other than processor changes and camera updates, there is little alteration that can be made to the hardware that will fundamentally change how iOS operates.
Apple previously introduced features like Force Touch and Face ID that caused operating system features to emerge around them. For example, swiping down from either corner around the notch will open different menus, something implemented around the existence of the True Depth sensor array.
Observing Apple design trends
The iPhone 12 saw a departure in the rounded-edge design seen since the iPhone 6. It moved to a flat-edge with thinner bezels to emphasize the all-screen display. However, it did retain some of the iPhone X design language like the original notch and button placement.
The iPhone 13 was introduced in 2021 with many of these same design elements, and the two generations of devices are so similar a casual observer may have trouble differentiating them. The most significant changes were to the rear camera bump and the notch.
When observing Apple's design trends over the past decade it is easy to pick out a pattern. The iPhone 4 design was prominent for four generations of iPhones, with some display size alterations. The iPhone 6 redesign stuck around until the iPhone X, another four year cycle if you include iPhone 8 in that tally.
The iPhone X design paradigm evolved from the iPhone 6 with the rounded edges, though it only stuck around for three years this time — changing in the iPhone 12 generation. If Apple does another three year design cycle, that means the "iPhone 14" should technically borrow from the same elements as the iPhone 12.
That being said, the iPhone 12 was only a slight departure from the iPhone X design, not as drastic as moving from iPhone 6 to iPhone X. Therefore, notch alterations and a camera bump removal for the 2022 iPhone isn't overtly outlandish if the technology exists to make it happen.
Removing the notch would be the most significant design change for iPhone since introducing the notch. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will instead use the hole-punch camera system that is used by its competitors like Samsung.
This Kuo report arrived on March 1, 2021, more than a year from the potential "iPhone 14" release. Apple may be considering a hole-punch camera in lieu of the notch, but a lot can change between that report and release.
Apple's iconography has always relied on what the front of the iPhone looked like. Previously it showed the Home Button, then the notch — both of which were iconic and unique to Apple. The move to a hole-punch camera would make Apple's phone very similar to its competitors, especially in iconography or silhouette.
Kuo has an amazing track record, but the further from a product release, the less accurate he is by the nature of the supply chain. He also mentioned the hole-punch could be limited to pro-model iPhones depending on the yield rate of the supplier.
In another report, Kuo says that the 2022 iPhone will have a unibody design that includes the camera module. This design would add additional internal space for more components.
Apple may use titanium for the pro model's chassis. The use of the premium material could drive up cost, but improve durability overall.
Avid leaker Jon Prosser shared renders of the purported "iPhone 14" just days before the iPhone 13 was announced. These renders show an iPhone 4-like design with glass that goes all the way to the frame and no camera bumps.
These renders corroborate both of Ming-Chi Kuo's reports about the hole-punch display and the unibody camera bump. Prosser says the renders were created based on images obtained by his sources.
Prosser's track record for pre-release renders is nearly perfect, with one notable, and recent, example. He shared renders of the supposed Apple Watch Series 7 with flat sides, which isn't at all what the actual product looks like. There is some chance, however, that the renders are of a product that does exist that may never release or belongs to something like the "Apple Watch Series 8."
In order for Apple to make such a large leap in design, it must also make a leap in technological progress. As with any rumor, it is healthy to have some skepticism to more radical claims.
The iPhone 13 has a 20% smaller notch, but it is still prominent on the display. Apple isn't going to give up Face ID in a trade off for a hole-punch display, so somehow, Apple must hide all six components of the True Depth camera system behind the display.
As for the unibody, flat, camera bump — Apple would need to alter the internal layout of the iPhone to make space for telescoping lens systems. Apple has been looking into such systems, though it hasn't been implemented yet.
Such technologies are possible, and Apple could have been developing them in secret within Apple for years. If Apple is able to pull off such a significant design change, then expect the "iPhone 14" to be a very popular upgrade.
Apple added improved sensors and brought sensor shift technology to its entire lineup in iPhone 13. However, it kept the same 12MP image size and added only a slightly longer telephoto lens to pro models.
Apple doesn't change its camera's megapixel count very often, with the last jump from 8MP to 12MP occurring in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X lineup. A leak suggested Apple is considering a jump to a 64-megapixel wide lens and 40-megapixels on the other lenses. Such a large jump seems out of character for the company where a move to 18-megapixels would be more natural.
A later leak in April 2021 says that Apple could adopt a 48MP sensor for its camera which can output 12MP images using pixel binning. These 12MP images would have a pixel size of 2.5um which would compete with some DSC models. The camera would also have a mode that can output large 48MP images in certain situations.
Some rumors suggest a fourth camera module could be added to a future iPhone. This would be a periscope lens using "light folding" for long-distance shots. It is more likely that this is coming to the "iPhone 15" according to a report from Ming-Chi Kuo.
Apple did add macro capabilites to the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, though this is done using the ultra-wide lens, not a dedicated lens. Adding a fourth lens to the already large camera array could prove too complex or costly for the company.
If the notch is removed then Apple can make use of the entire iPhone display. This may affect the aspect ratio of the screen, but Apple could choose to keep devices at the same size regardless. Currently, 16:9 videos fit perfectly within the display below the notch so the added space wouldn't change how content is viewed.
Apple could choose to make their devices shorter so the active display space is kept relatively the same. This is unlikely, however, since it would require a redesign of the phone case and internals.
The hole-punch camera would affect how the OS displays information as well. The notch allows a short status bar with battery and signal information, while the hole-punch would enable a full-length status bar. Apple could show users more information or provide developers the ability to add status icons similar to Android.
Apple will have to address how content is viewed when a hole-punch camera is in place. Videos will need to fit on the display without being obscured by the camera, and games will need to acknowledge that in some orientations buttons might be covered by the camera.
Thanks to Promotion, the iPhone 13 Pro can alternate from 10Hz to 120Hz based on content being viewed on the display. This isn't quite as wide a range as the variable refresh display on Apple Watch, so features like always-on didn't come to the iPhone.
Some speculate Apple could improve on this technology and introduce an always-on display for "iPhone 14." This could include information like the clock and some notifications or widgets for viewing information at a glance.
Cables and connectors
Popular leakers continue to assert that Apple will never release an iPhone with USB-C but skip to a port-less design altogether. This could manifest itself in a few ways, but Apple will likely choose a method that keeps proprietary connectors on iPhone.
The most obvious solution is to remove the Lightning port and rely on MagSafe and wireless connectivity for charging and data transfer. Ming-Chi Kuo says in order for this to occur, MagSafe will need to become a much more mature system.
In the iPhone 12, MagSafe is a charging and accessory attachment system. It can provide power up to 15W and hold wallets or cases onto the device with some awareness of what is being attached, but there is no data over MagSafe.
The move to a port-less phone should provide users with an experience similar to the port that is being removed. Currently, users can fast-charge their iPhone at 18W and transfer data at 5GB/s and MagSafe with wireless data syncing is not an exact replacement for that.
MagSafe charging is inefficient and generates heat. The iPhone will throttle its charging rate on MagSafe if it gets too hot, just like it will over a cable, but that threshold is more difficult to cross when using a cable.
With 5G and WiFi 6 becoming more standard around the world, the data transfer component is becoming less of an issue. Only the most specific use cases or diagnostic tools would need a wired connection. Apple is testing a method to hide a diagnostic port in the SIM tray of the iPhone to give technicians some kind of wired access when required.
Another solution is to do a half-step approach to port-less. Apple may want the iPhone to be waterproof and submersible but wouldn't want to remove key functionality from power users. The middle ground lies in MagSafe, but not as we have it today.
A new magnetic connector on iPhone similar to the old MacBook MagSafe or the Smart Connector on the iPad could be the solution. Apple could make such a port waterproof and provide data and power over a proprietary connector.
This transition will require users to move to a new system of charging. The previous transition from the 30-pin connector to Lightning was seen as user-hostile behavior and customers complained about Apple's greed.
If the future lies in MagSafe as we know it today, then it means the transition will be to a charging device that is available for purchase now and may cause less of a shock for customers. If Apple moves to a magnetic USB-type connector, then the company faces backlash yet again over a port transition.
Rumors assert that the "iPhone 14" will still use a Lightning connector, but the "iPhone 15" could be the first port-less iPhone.
Apple introduced Face ID with the iPhone X as a better and more convenient alternative to Touch ID. It has more data points to analyze and less opportunity to be faked out by bad actors. One thing Apple did not anticipate, however, is a global pandemic that would require everyone to cover their faces in public.
Since mask mandates began users have been clamoring for a solution from Apple. The iPad Air 4 introduced a new version of Touch ID embedded in the Side Button, which could be implemented in future iPhones.
Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple has no timeline for implementing Touch ID in the iPhone power button. While the technology would improve the user experience on iPhone, it isn't ready for the small device.
Apple has also been working on implementing Touch ID in the iPhone display. Despite the pandemic, Apple may be waiting to add Touch ID back to the iPhone until it can perfect this approach.
Smartphones with fingerprint readers in the display use ultrasonic scans to authenticate the user. This system is less reliable and less secure than Apple's original Touch ID system. Also, this requires a specific location on the screen to be used for Touch ID, while users may expect an entire half of the display to be used for Touch ID.
The 2022 iPhone could have multiple forms of biometric authentication. For example, Apple added Apple Watch unlock to the iPhone in iOS 14. This enables the Apple Watch to authenticate an unlock attempt when the user is wearing a mask.
Other biometric authenticators could be implemented in the future. Apple could one day constantly authenticate a user via voice, walking gait, Apple Watch proximity, Face ID, Touch ID, and Ultra-Wideband technology. Expect devices like the "iPhone 14" to have more than one way to authenticate users.
2022 iPhone pricing and release
Apple tends to find a price point and stick to it for a few years. Market trends and currency rates can sometimes affect iPhone pricing, but it is rare to see a drastic change in price.
Given Apple's release cycles, the "iPhone 14" will likely be priced very similar to the iPhone 13. Expect Apple to retain the 1TB storage option for pro models, and maybe 2TB at some point in the future thanks to the existence of ProRes video recording.