After the massive design overhaul for the iPhone 12, it's easy to assume that the iPhone 13 will be a spec bump update to one of the best smartphones of the last year, however, all signs are pointing to that not being the case.
While the exterior design is almost certainly going to stick to the new squared-off aesthetic that Apple has been circulating throughout its hardware lineup, there's quite a bit of change going on inside. With about half a year until its launch we already know quite a bit about this phone, here's everything we've assembled on the iPhone 13 including the potential release date, pricing, design, specs and more.
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iPhone 13 release date
After the iPhone 12 saw a roughly one-month delay between its announcement and release, it appears that Apple will be returning to its traditional September timeframe with the iPhone 13, at least according to Ming-Chi Kuo, the well-informed supply chain analyst.
Obviously, we're far out from the release so it is impossible to project this, but with fewer potential manufacturing setbacks likely this year, it certainly stands to reason that the company would revert to its typical schedule. Then again, we wouldn't be surprised to see another October release if the coronavirus pandemic extends deep into 2021.
iPhone 13 price
There have been no leaks regarding the price of the iPhone 13 just yet, but the smart money would be on Apple sticking with the iPhone 12 pricing, particularly in light of Samsung’s price reduction to the Galaxy S21 line.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the smallest iPhone 13 hangs on after the iPhone 12 mini sales wildly underperformed when compared to the rest of the lineup. Turning again to Ming-Chi Kuo, an investor’s note from the analyst, spotted by MacRumors, suggests Apple won’t make any changes to the iPhone 13 lineup with all four models returning in 2021. This was later supported by the oft-reliable leaker Jon Prosser, who indicated his sources point to Apple passing on a new iPhone SE rather than giving up on the mini.
So, for now, the expectation is that pricing will hold steady at $699, $799, $999 and $1,099 for the respective models: iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
iPhone 13 design
After the significant, albeit throwback, redesign of the iPhone 12, it's highly unlikely that any kind of meaningful changes will be made to the look of the iPhone 13. Apple has once again created a signature look for the iPhone that makes it easily distinguishable from the rest of the market, so we predict the company will cling to that for as long as it can.
One change we could see is a reduction in the size of the display notch. That would please fans who have waited for slimmer bezels since the iPhone X. A DigiTimes report indicated that a redesigned Face ID system will allow for the long-awaited change. More recently an allegedly leaked set of replacement panels for the iPhone 13 showed a notch roughly half the size of the current version. With most of the rest of the industry moving to hole-punch cameras, the large notch on the iPhone feels dated at this point, but maintaining the integrity of Face ID is crucial for Apple.
A rumor dump from Max Weinbach via EverythingApplePro offered a few more design details for the iPhone 13, including the return of a matte black color option and a reduction to the size of the lenses on the rear cameras.
Talk of Touch ID making a comeback has also been bubbling up with some disagreement on whether this would be via an under-display fingerprint sensor as we see on most Android devices today or integrated into the power button as with the iPad Air 4.
Dreams of Apple moving to USB Type-C on the iPhone remain just that; virtually every source has indicated that this is simply never happening and Apple will move directly to a portless iPhone (when that will be is unknown). This was certainly bolstered by the introduction of MagSafe last year, but don’t look for Apple to drop Lightning with the iPhone 13. Max Weinbach was the most recent to weigh in on the matter saying in an info dump via EverythingApplePro that the iPhone 13 will stick to a lightning port.
iPhone 13 cameras
Apple made significant strides with the camera performance on the iPhone 12, although that was largely due to its computational photography; the hardware itself remained largely unchanged on all but the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Look for that to potentially change with the iPhone 13, with rumors of the sensor-shift image stabilization from the iPhone 12 Pro Max trickling down to the rest of the lineup. That alone would be a big move as it allows Apple to leverage more of its newfound computational photography prowess.
Another Pro feature may make its way to all four iPhone 13 models: the LiDAR sensor. The cool AR apps are one benefit of this hardware, which is an area that Apple will continue to push with its rumored Apple Glass AR headset somewhere on the horizon. Those who don’t care about AR will still benefit from LiDAR as it can apply that wealth of depth data to portraits or other photos where you want to introduce bokeh.
For iPhone fans looking longingly at the massive 10x optical and 100x digital zoom capabilities of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, there have also been rumors of Apple looking into folding/periscope camera suppliers, including Samsung itself. Apple presently sticks to a fairly modest zoom, exclusively on the Pro models, that is more akin to a portrait lens than a true telephoto. We are most likely a year or two away from these efforts coming to fruition though.
On the other end of the zoom range, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple will introduce dramatically improved ultra-wide sensors for the iPhone 13 Pro models, moving to an f/1.8 6p six-element lens from the current f/2.4 5p five-element lens. This would be a massive boost to low-light performance for the ultra-wide, among other benefits.
Kuo also claims that the iPhone 13 Pro Max may be alone in getting an improved main wide-angle sensor, dropping to an unbelievably low f/1.5 from the already impressive f/1.6 sensor in the iPhone 12 lineup.
iPhone 13 display
Display improvements are perhaps the most significant change we are expecting from the iPhone 13 as Apple has sat out of the high refresh rate race so far while most Android flagships moved to 90Hz or 120Hz panels over the last couple of years.
Reports prior to the release of the iPhone 12 indicated that it was down to the wire as to whether the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max would include a 120Hz display, but ultimately, that didn’t come to pass.
All signs point to Apple rectifying that with the iPhone 13 by using similar LTPO OLED displays to those found in the Galaxy S21 lineup, meaning they can provide adaptive refresh rates ranging up to 120Hz. A recent report from UBI Research reaffirmed this claim indicating that the Samsung-made LTPO TFT OLED panels would begin production in the first half of 2021. That report suggested that the new ProMotion displays would be limited to the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple may take another page from Android's playbook with an always-on display, meaning your phone will display the time and battery at all times with notifications also popping up without fully powering on the display.
Hopefully, Apple can avoid the battery impact that we've seen with some of these high refresh rate displays, that was one feature that most iPhone 12 models didn't exactly excel at.
iPhone 13 performance
Apple’s A14 Bionic processor in the iPhone 12 is so comically far ahead of the competition that it could put it in the iPhone 13 and still be the fastest smartphone on the planet by a wide margin. But safe it won’t do that.
While rumors are fairly limited on this front at the moment, we did get a report from China Times that the A15 Bionic destined for the iPhone 13 will be based on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) N5P process. This is an enhanced version of the N5 process used for the A14 Bionic that should deliver roughly a 5% boost to performance and improve power efficiency by around 10%.
Those aren’t the dramatic jumps we saw with the A14 Bionic, but again, the rest of the industry is still chasing A12 Bionic performance, so this should remain a significant differentiator for the iPhone 13.
Battery performance was one of the few notable downsides of the iPhone 12 lineup last year, so Ming-Chi Kuo's claims that the company is adding larger batteries to the iPhone 13 is certainly welcome. With that said it was virtually impossible for them to get smaller, so we'll need to hear more about the actual size of these batteries before we get too excited.
iPhone 13 outlook
The iPhone 13 probably won’t look too different from the iPhone 12, but it could represent a much bigger upgrade than the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 12.
The move to an adaptive 120Hz display could be transformative; the iPhone has long delivered a smoother visual experience than its Android competitors, but with the latter moving to 90Hz and 120Hz panels, the roles have been flipped. Apple and iOS developers have years of experience with high refresh rates thanks to the iPad Pro, so OS-level support should be solid from day one and app support should come much faster than what we’ve seen on Android.
The limited rumors we have so far regarding the iPhone 13 cameras are similarly exciting, particularly as we see Apple turn harder into computational photography. Google has transformed some of the least impressive camera hardware into the best-performing smartphone cameras on the market for years; if Apple can catch up on the software front it could become far and away the best smartphone on the market when it comes to both photo and video quality.
We have a long way to go until the fall, but the iPhone 13 is beginning to take shape already, and rest assured, we’ll keep you updated with all of the latest leaks and rumors along the way.