You may want to hold off getting excited about the iPhone 13, since the upgrades in store for the next couple of years are even more compelling.
Thanks to new predictions from Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors (opens in new tab)), we can be confident that this year's iPhone will get some solid upgrades to its front and back cameras. However, in 2023, Kuo said Apple will finally add a "periscopic telephoto lens."
- iPhone 13 release date, price, specs and leaks
- Find your next smartphone on our best phones guide
- Plus: RIP USB — These new cables thinner than a strand of hair are 10x faster
A few flagship Android phones already use periscope lenses. For example, one of the telephoto cameras on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is capable of 10x optical zoom, which also augments a maximum of 100x digital zoom.
The current best iPhone for zoom, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, can only manage up to 2.5x magnification before needing to resort to digital zoom up to its 12x maximum.
The iPhone 13 this year won't get this new periscope lens, but its telephoto camera won't be left unchanged. Kuo said Apple will swap the current 5-part lens out for a 6-part lens. This should translate to more accurate images with less distortion when zooming in on a subject.
This year's model will also receive a new Face ID module made with plastic instead of glass. This should make the component cheaper overall. But whether that means Apple will reduce the price, in turn, is questionable.
Looking further ahead, the iPhone 14 in 2022 will see refinements along similar lines, Kuo claimed, although it will still miss out on the periscope lens. Its telephoto camera will move from the 6-part to a 7-part lens, plus it will also get a new "unibody lens design" for the front camera.
This latter upgrade should make the notch even smaller than the shrunken notch rumored for the iPhone 13. Apple could even adopt the same punch-hole style camera that we see on many current Android phones, either for its "Pro" models or the whole range, as Kuo has suggested previously; how that would work with Face ID remains a question.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is already the top-ranked device on our best phones list. It's not a perfect phone though, and one of the big areas it could make big improvements is with its camera hardware. Its excellent photo processing software means it still beats the other phones on our best camera phones list.
But an iPhone with a powerful telephoto camera and no display notch could yield an Apple phone that might be hard to fault at all. We might just need to wait for a couple of years yet.