It seems that Apple is betting big that its iPhone 13 will be a huge sales success, as the company is apparently making a ton of them this year.
That's one possible interpretation out of a new report that Apple's looking to its suppliers to boost production on this year's phone. Specifically, Bloomberg says, that Apple wants to ramp up new iPhone production by 20% over last year's output heading into a likely fall launch for the latest devices.
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That's not a small ask, by the way. The iPhone 12's been driving record sales at Apple since the four models debuted last fall. To ask suppliers to build even more phones suggest that Apple thinks there's going to be even greater demand for the iPhone 13.
On the surface, that wouldn't seem to track with what we're expecting the iPhone 13 to deliver. While some enhancements are rumored to be in the works, for the most part, iPhone 13 expectations suggest phones that aren't radical departures from the iPhone 12.
Still, even though many iPhone 13 features remain a rumor at this point, there's a few reasons to buy into Apple's optimism about this year's iPhone.
Time for a 5G upgrade
The iPhone 12 was the first Apple handset to support 5G. And while the strong iPhone 12 sales mean that 5G-ready iPhones are in the hands of a lot of Apple customers, there's many more people still toting around older devices. (I'm still alternating between an original iPhone SE and an iPhone 11 Pro Max, for example, with a 5G-ready iPhone 12 available for testing purposes.) That means a number of people ready to upgrade this fall when the iPhone 13 rolls around.
"5G is a generational shift," said Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential. "While at first there was mostly hype, carriers around the world are now deploying 5G with meaningful coverage in mid-band frequency ranges which provide a noticeable boost in speeds. "That means consumers will actually see a real benefit if they upgrade their old iPhone to take advantage of the new networks — faster app and file downloads, better quality video, and possibly new types of apps down the road."
To that end, CNBC notes a new Credit Suisse report points to 5G as a driver of phone upgrades, as the growth of 5G networks means that it's not just for early adopters anymore. T-Mobile's 5G network now reaches 300 million people, while AT&T announced this week that its 5G coverage has expanded to 250 million people. Verizon isn't that far behind at 230 million.
Rumors point to the 5G experience improving on the iPhone 13 as well. While the iPhone 12 supported an extensive number of 5G bands, Apple's new phone is expected to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem for a speed boost over the current models.
Other potential iPhone 13 features
But the iPhone 13 could pack other enticements to fuel a big surge in upgrades — particularly for customers eyeing the iPhone 13 Pro models. Those more expensive phones are expected to adapt fast-refreshing displays that adjust their speed depending on what activity you're engaged in. Such a feature would put the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max on par with the Galaxy S21 lineup as well as other Android phones that have adopted the technology.
While rumors peg the iPhone 13 Pro as a more exciting upgrade than the standard iPhone 13, those less expensive models figure to benefit from faster A15 Bionic processors and a tweak to the phone's design that will shrink Apple's distinctive notch. While a recent rumor claims that the Pro models will remain the only ones with LiDAR sensors, adding that feature to the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini would mean greater support for augmented reality apps — something Apple has been pushing for in recent years.
Then again, as detailed as iPhone 13 rumors have been up until this point, there's always the possibility of another feature we haven't yet heard of emerging by the time the phone's launch later this year. Even if the actual iPhone 13 models are exactly as the rumor mill paints them, though, it sounds like Apple thinks that it has another potential winner on its hands.