Apple iPhone 15: What we know so far

The company is expected to ditch the notch, use a more power-efficient chip and improve its camera in 2023

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The dust has largely settled from the much-hyped launch of Apple's iPhone 14 but there has already been quite a lot of chatter around the company's next flagship devices that are expected to be released in 2023.

This is not really a surprise as Apple is always working on future products and has an extensive road map for its hardware and software.

Early reports suggest that the iPhone 14 line-up, specifically that of the Pro model, is a hit among consumers.

In the UAE, queues at Apple's stores were long in September, with some customers buying several devices, leaving others empty-handed.

Moving into the future, Apple's next flagship device line-up, which presumably will be called the iPhone 15, is expected to be released in September 2023.

Here is what we know so far — although these remain indications.

Design: titanium casing and the pill-and-hole combo

The iPhone X in 2017 (when the highly polarising notch was introduced) and the iPhone 12 (which was released a couple of years ago in a return to the geometric design of the iPhone 5) featured some of the most significant changes in design.

This year, the notch was eventually replaced with pill-and-hole cut-outs, although only with iPhone 14 Pro models. This powers the Dynamic Island feature, which gives users access to several functions in one display.

Next year, Apple is leaning towards using this feature across the entire iPhone 15 line-up, said Ross Young, chief executive of Display Supply Chain Consultants, a market intelligence company.

It appears that Apple is using the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max to test how Dynamic Island is received, and what it can do to further improve it.

While rumours of an in-screen fingerprint scanner are also doing the rounds, there are no more details on this for now.

There are also suggestions that the iPhone 15 will feature a titanium chassis with curved rear edges, rather than the current squared off edges. The last model to have curved edges was the iPhone 11.

The iPhone 14 is made of aluminium and stainless steel. Titanium is more resistant to scratches and was in the most recent Apple Watch models.

Camera upgrade: a periscope zoom lens

This had already been floated by Ming-Chi Kuo, known for leaking highly reliable news on Apple, in December last year.

A periscope lens is, without being too technical, a set-up that allows greater amounts of optical zoom. This uses the actual hardware to magnify an image in better quality (as opposed to digital zoom, which relies on software).

A handful of smartphone manufacturers have already introduced this technology in their devices, including Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and Oppo.

Mr Kuo had previously predicted that the periscope lens would come in the iPhone 14. However, that didn't happen, so it is a feature that could come with the next iteration of the device.

He also said, more than a year ago, that the 2023 iPhones would come with a hole-less, edge-to-edge design, although there are no updates on these at this point.

Lightning port to be replaced by USB-C

Apple has used its proprietary Lightning port and connector since the release of the iPhone 5 a decade ago. Talk of Apple switching it for a USB-C port has been around for some years and, when the company integrated it into the 2018 iPad Pro, speculation accelerated.

However, it has been five years since the iPad's switch and the iPhone still uses Lightning to this day. Apple is known to be very protective of its proprietary technology, which is important in ensuring its control over its ecosystem's security.

That iPads are now using USB-C is a clear signal that Apple is willing to make a total switch. But it could presumably be holding off on the change as it works out to how to handle Lightning-related stock and manufacturing.

Several sources have reportedly confirmed to Mr Kuo and Bloomberg technology reporter Mark Gurman, who has a long history of accurate reporting on Apple's product plans, that the switch to the USB-C port for iPhones is not a question of if, but when.

Mr Kuo said other Apple products — including the AirPods, MagSafe accessories and Magic Mouse — could switch to the USB-C port too.

Add the fact that new EU regulations on standardising electronics devices input are putting pressure on device makers, and Apple's jump to USB-C would be inevitable.

Also remember: Apple has its own take on the USB-C with its Thunderbolt technology used in Macs. We can, therefore, presume that the company is working on making its USB-C stand out from others, much in the same way it does with other existing technology.

Half the chargers sold with mobile phones in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector while 29 per cent had a USB-C connector and 21 per cent a Lightning connector, which is used by Apple, a 2019 European Commission study showed.

Upgrade to 3nm chips

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max use Apple's new A16 Bionic chip, which is built on a 4-nanometre process. Not too long ago, smartphone manufacturers used 10nm processors in their devices, but they figured out that they could make them smaller while going big on performance and efficiency.

In the semiconductor industry, a nanometre does not refer to the actual size of a chip but to the distance between the transistors in it. The smaller the number, the more transistors that can be fit in.

This makes chips more powerful and efficient, but also more expensive to produce.

Apple is prepared to go a step “lower” next year, as it is poised to use a 3nm chip from one of its key suppliers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), on the iPhone 15, sources told Nikkei Asia.

However, much like this year, the upgrade will be limited to the high-end iPhone 15 units — expected again to be the Pro and Pro Max, with some rumours also floating about an “Ultra” device, the report said.

The shift to smaller chips has already begun in the industry. Samsung, the world's biggest mobile phone maker and Apple's chief rival in the smartphone market, announced in June that it had begun to manufacture its own 3nm processors.

In the process, Samsung beat TSMC to the draw in making 3nm chips. The latter had previously announced that it would start manufacturing 3nm processors in the second half of 2022, with Apple as its first customer.

The South Korean company said that 3nm chips, compared with 5nm ones, can achieve up to 23 per cent improved performance and 45 per cent less power use. That last bit is related to one of the biggest performance updates to the next iPhones, potentially.

Reducing power consumption

With Apple slated to use TSMC's 3nm chips, the iPhone 15 Pro models are poised to be more power-efficient, according to numbers provided by the semiconductor manufacturer.

TSMC's 3nm technology will offer “up to 70 per cent logic density gain, up to 15 per cent speed improvement at the same power and up to 30 per cent power reduction at the same speed as compared with N5 [5nm] technology”, its website says.

Whether supply chain challenges, which have hit the production capabilities of Apple and its peers, will persist next year remains unknown.

However, TSMC said volume production of the new chip was scheduled for the second half of 2022.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 6:30 AM
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