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iPhone 13 isn’t getting a major camera upgrade — and that’s a good thing

iPhone 12 Pro Max review vs iPhone 12 pro
(Image credit: Future)

If you were waiting for the iPhone 13 in hopes of a major camera upgrade, you might end up being disappointed. According to a new note by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors), the 2021 and potentially 2022 iPhones, aren’t going to get any major updates to their camera hardware.

The note is all about a price war between camera lens suppliers Largan and Genius Electronic Optical. In it Kuo mentions that in relation to future iPhones there will be “no significant upgrade of the camera lens in 2022.” As such, we might not sees a significant camera lens upgrade to the iPhone range until the iPhone 14, or even the iPhone 15. 

That may seem disappointing to a lot of people, but Apple has ever been in the habit of making hardware changes for the sake of it. While a lot of other phones have started including four camera lenses, like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Apple’s most expensive devices are still rocking three. 

Likewise, the iPhone 12’s lenses all offer 12MP of resolution and haven’t fallen into the trap of trying to make people think that higher resolution sensors are the best way to improve picture quality. Because resolution doesn’t really change much except file size.

We have heard reports that Apple will be bringing LiDAR sensors to the iPhone 13 and 13 mini. That's nothing we haven’t seen before, since LiDAR was available on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. But it would a significant upgrade for Apple’s standard iPhones, which have thus far made do with a dual-camera setup.

As for rumors that Apple is set to include a new periscope-like folded optical lens, we’ll just have to wait and see about that. Maybe Apple will upgrade the telephoto lens in the iPhone 13 Pro, or maybe it'll wait for a future phone. It’s too early to know for sure.

The lack of hardware changes doesn’t mean Apple is leaving the camera to stagnate either. While Kuo’s note doesn’t discount the possibility of a smaller, incremental upgrade of the iPhone 13’s camera sensors, the past few years have shown us hardware isn’t everything.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Apple will make significant improvements to the iPhone 13’s image processing capabilities. That way there’s less focus on the camera hardware, and more on what the phone can do to improve the final image after it’s been taken. 

There’s also room for other advanced camera modes like ProRAW, none of which will be reliant on changes to the physical camera module. Rather, such features rely on computational photography, an area Apple has made big leaps in since the iPhone 11 Pro

The iPhone 12 range really impressed us with its camera performance, and we have high expectations for the iPhone 13 when it arrives later this year. We’ll bring you more on that as we hear it.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.