Last updated: 2 weeks ago
The "iPhone 13" is expected to launch in late 2021 with a big divergence in technology and design from the current iPhone line. While still very early in the cycle, rumors about this phone have begun to ramp up as we get closer to the "iPhone 12" launch, and internal decisions for future plans are beginning to solidify. Leaks about a device more than a year away should be taken skeptically, as iPhone design and features are usually not finalized until after the flagship release.
● TBA 2021
● "port-less" model; to drop Lightning connector
● Smart Connector for accessories
● May reduce the notch, or remove it altogether
● Touch ID in the display or power button
● 120Hz screen with LTPO
● Potential four-camera array + LiDAR
● Image credit to AppleHub on Instagram
Apple devices are developed over a few years, which means multiple years of devices can be developed in parallel. This leads to leaks about products that can be a year or more away, and those leaks have delivered early info about the 2021 iPhone.
It is not yet known what naming scheme will be used for the 2020 iPhone, so the 2021 model name is even more of an enigma. To keep things simple, since we refer to the 2020 iPhone as the "iPhone 12," the model to follow that up in 2021 will be referred to as "iPhone 13."
"iPhone 13" Features
When it comes to leaks and rumors for devices more than a year away, most of the information is derived from supply chain information and patents. Devices this early in development leak from inside Apple only very rarely, but with working from home inducing some difficulty in containing leaks, more information is "known" about this future device than normal.
The "iPhone 12" is expected to see a few design changes, which means the "iPhone 13" will likely not. Apple has had their iPhone lines on a tick-tick-tock refresh cycle for redesigns due to how their supply chain and design cycles work. The longer a design can be reused, the wider the margins Apple can make on their current models.
The 2020 iPhone is predicted to have an iPhone 4-like metal frame according to some rumors. This would mean flat sides all around with a glass front and back. The "iPhone 13" would utilize the same design.
The notch may be reduced on the "iPhone 12" due to new Face ID technology and better frame design, so the 2021 iPhone notch is expected to remain similar.
As with the body design changes, a camera change usually occurs on a longer cycle. The "iPhone 12 Pro" is rumored to have the same three-camera system as the iPhone 11 Pro, but with an additional sensor for LiDAR. This camera design is said to be carried over to the 2021 Pro iPhone lineup as well.
A leaker known as choco_bit on Twitter has shared a questionable image saying the 2021 iPhone would have a 4-camera system with additional LiDAR. Other leakers are at odds with this image, with Jon Prosser saying it is a 0% chance of being correct and L0vetodream saying it aligns with their leaks.
The same leak said the 2020 iPhone will feature a 64-megapixel shooter with a wide lens and 1x optical zoom (6x digital zoom), 40MP telephoto lens with 3x to 5x optical zoom (15-20x digital zoom), 40MP ultra-wide with 0.25x "optical reverse zoom," and a 40MP anamorphic lens sporting a 2.1:1 ratio.
Ming-Chi Kuo has not released any specific details about the 2021 iPhone camera, so far.
The iPhone could gain a Promotion display in 2021 to optimize viewing content, but may necessitate the use of LTPO technology to keep the battery life under control. This rumor comes from a supply chain consultant, and may not be entirely solid.
It is claimed that Apple wants its Pro models to have 120Hz refresh rates, but they must be variable to prevent inadvertent battery drain. This would be accomplished by using LTPO backplanes, which is what the Apple Watch uses to remain always-on by slowing the screen to as little as 1Hz.
The iPad Pro has a 120Hz refresh rate but does not use LTPO, so it is hard to consider the validity of the rumor.
Cables and Connectors
There has been some controversy about Apple and cable standards in the past, and it seems that the "iPhone 13" will reignite that controversy. Rumors point to the 2021 iPhone dropping the long used lightning connector in favor of a port-less design.
Many have speculated at iPhone moving to USB-C, as the iPad Pro did in 2018, just to have a uniform connector across all Apple devices. Both Jon Prosser and choco_bit believe USB-C will never come to iPhone, with Apple forgoing a port altogether in 2021.
Mockups of the device from the same people who did mockups of the rumored "iPhone 12" were shared. Both Prosser and choco_bit dismissed the design, which did not align with their own sources.
To charge an iPhone, Apple will expect users to utilize wireless charging, which may be efficient enough in future models to quickly fill a battery without worrying about heat or damage to the device.
Rumors claim there will be a kind of Smart Connector on the "iPhone 13" to connect external accessories. It may be able to charge via the Smart Connector.
The 2020 iPhone will have 5G in both bands according to some rumors. The 2021 models will likely change that based on where they are sold. There are two 5G bands: mmWave and Sub-6GHz.
Having both technologies would mean more variety of choice for the user when traveling, but could add additional expense to the user and to Apple. The faster mmWave 5G could be used exclusively in regions that actually make use of the technology, where the rest of the world would likely only need the Sub-6GHz version.
Supply chain rumors have suggested exactly this methodology when distributing iPhones around the world. If true, some users may have to import their iPhone from different countries to take advantage of the faster 5G bands.
The fingerprint sensor was replaced with Face ID on the iPhone X, and this caused a shift in the entire smartphone market. Some manufacturers moved to face recognition, while others moved to place the fingerprint sensor below the display.
Apple has been rumored almost every year since the iPhone X to be resurrecting Touch ID in the iPhone through some kind of under-screen or power button implementation. The latest rumors point to both being used in some regard in the 2021 iPhones.
The smaller budget iPhone may have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power switch, which could allow the device to reduce the notch significantly by removing Face ID. This implementation leaves a lot to be desired however, as the smaller scanning area of the button and the nature of fingerprint security would result in a less secure device than one with Face ID.
A more likely rumor points to fingerprint-on-display Touch ID that works via ultrasonic waves. This would be used in tandem to Face ID, meaning the user would be offered two biometric options on one device for the first time.
The "iPhone 13" could see a major shift in use cases with multiple new technologies pushing the device forward. 2021 is a while away yet, so expect a lot more leaks to detail these devices until its launch.