While the iPhone 13 may a little ways off at this point, we've already started seeing plenty of rumors about what Apple has in store for us when the phone arrives in the fall.
From everything we've heard so far, the iPhone 13 is set to offer a 120Hz LTPO display on both Pro models, improved battery life thanks to a more efficient 5G modem, as well as substantial upgrades to the all-important camera. That includes a LiDAR sensor on cheaper iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.
As for the design, we've heard that the notch is shrinking and at least one iPhone 13 model may come with a truly portless design. Yes, really. That's actually possible now that we have MagSafe charging. So based on all the rumors and leaks out there already, here's everything we know about the iPhone 13.
Latest iPhone 13 news (updated January 11)
- A new report claims the iPhone 13 could get a smaller notch than its predecessor.
- According to analyst Ming-Chio Kuo, the iPhone 13 might not get much of a camera hardware upgrade.
- Another leak claims the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro will both feature 120Hz LTPO displays, and that the vanilla iPhone 13 modes will get some screen tweaks as well.
iPhone 13 release date
If the iPhone 13 release date follows Apple's pattern for previous launches, we could see this device hit shelves on the fourth Friday of September 2021. That would be September 24.
Despite the coronavirus-related delays that faced the iPhone 12, pushing its launch to October 13, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 should return to a normal release schedule in 2021.
iPhone 13 price
A report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple will once again offer four sizes for the iPhone 13. So you can expect a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max.
We'd expect these to cost the same as the iPhone 12 range, so $699, $799, $999 and $1,099, respectively. Apple tends to keep its pricing structure fairly rigid from generation to generation, so we're not expecting any increase to the sticker price.
iPhone 13 design
One report from Mac Otakara, having spoken to sources in Apple’s supply chain, reports that the iPhone 13 design will finally offer a thinner notch. This could be accomplished by moving the top speaker. In addition, the iPhone 13 may be slightly thicker, which would allow for a larger battery.
The the biggest change we can expect from the iPhone 13 is that one model could feature a portless design, dropping the Lightning port and opting for charging and data transfer to be carried out wirelessly. That would be a radical change from the iPhone 12, but could also spark a move for the smartphone world to slowly ditch its reliance on ports and bundled chargers and cables. (Apple already made such a move with the iPhone 12, by not including a charger with any of those phones.)
Bearing that in mind, it's possible Apple could introduce a way to integrate Face ID into the the bezels of the iPhone 13. Last fall, leaker Ben Geskin published a render on Twitter detailing how the system could work, by embedding the entirety of the TrueDepth system and earpiece inside the handset's top bezel.
Furthermore, there's speculation that the iPhone 13 could see the return of Touch ID on a flagship Apple phone. Cupertino has never released an iPhone with both Face ID and Touch ID, but analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims Apple is looking into adding an in-screen fingerprint sensor to its 2021devices.
Kuo noted that Apple viewed both biometric technologies as complementary, with potential to work well together, so we could potentially see the iPhone 13 sport Face ID and Touch ID. Given that the current version of Face ID can't recognize people with masks, and Apple updated its iOS software to better accommodate users with face masks, we suspect that the company has to at least be thinking about how to bring back Touch ID in a sleeker way.
A patent unearthed by AppleInsider sheds light on how Cupertino might be able to pull that off, with a sophisticated in-display system that uses an array of micro lenses to focus on a subject's fingerprint. Theoretically, this would improve readability that is typically diminished by screen translucency.
The latest iPad Air 4 embeds a fingerprint scanner in the side-mounted power button. This is a tactic we've seen used in many Android devices over the years, and could also present an ideal way to add fingerprint recognition back into future top-line iPhones.
iPhone 13 display
If Apple sticks to having four models of iPhone 13, then we can expect the displays to measure in at 5.4 inches, 6.1 inches, and 6.7 inches.
A report from ET News says that Apple will adopt a 120Hz refresh rate for the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. This will allow for smoother scrolling as well as improved gameplay and video playback.
That leak was given further credence by a more recent one that noted the two iPhone 13 Pro models will get the 120Hz display, which will be able to dynamically scale its refresh rate up or down depending on what's being viewed courtesy of an LTPO panel from Samsung Display. This will help save on battery life.
And the nature of an LTPO panel means it doesn't need extra components under the display to enable an adaptive refresh rate, meaning phones with such screens can sport a thin chassis. In the iPhone 13, an LTPO display could enable the phone to not only have a super smooth refresh rate but also keep the neat frame of the iPhone 12.
iPhone 13 specs
As night follows day, so to can we expect a chip upgrade for the iPhone 13 over its predecessor. It's likely this will come in the form of the A15 Bionic, a successor to the very powerful A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12.
This new system-on-a-chip (SoC) could be a reasonable upgrade on the A14 Bionic, likely boosting overall performance and efficiency. A major upgrade doesn't look likely until the iPhone 14, when Apple could potentially make a chip based on a 4-nanometer process node. Currently, the A14 Bionic inside the iPhone 12 is a 5nm chip.
However, the iPhone 13 could get a big boost in terms of wireless connectivity. Documentation of Apple's settlement with Qualcomm revealed that Apple has plans to use Qualcomm's X60 5G modem in upcoming iPhones, which will likely include the iPhone 13. This is important because the 5nm X60 modem can integrate directly into a phone’s chipset, meaning a smaller footprint and lower battery drain.
Plus, the 5G performance should be better, as the modem can combine mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G networks simultaneously. Furthermore, the iPhone 13 is tipped to come with Wi-Fi 6E, a variation on the Wi-Fi 6 standard that will support even faster wireless speeds.
A Digitimes report hinted that the iPhone 13 could adopt liquid crystal polymer circuit boards for imaging purposes, resulting in faster data transmission. The addition of LCP boards, coupled with 5G connectivity, has the potential to accelerate applications like live streaming or augmented reality.
When it comes to storage, we're not expecting any upgrade over the iPhone 12. As such, we predict the iPhone 13 will come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB variants.
The iPhone 12 models did not wow on our battery life test. Only the iPhone 12 Pro Max truly impressed with its large battery. However, another report from Ming-Chi Kuo about so-called soft battery technology in the iPhone 13 claimed that the new iPhones could offer increased battery capacity without growing the design footprint. Apple could also decide to offer similar capacity in even thinner designs.
With the faster battery drain 5G can put on phones, we're hoping the iPhone 13 finds a way to eke out as much life as possible from a battery pack. And if the iPhone 13 does indeed come with no ports, we'd hope that Apple brings in faster wireless charging, so we don't have to wait around for hours for the handsets to fill up on electrical juice.
iPhone 13 cameras
We haven't heard much about the entire iPhone 13 range yet, but one leak has the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max offering a new 6-element ultrawide lens. It would also offer autofocus capability. The current iPhone 12 Pro models sport a 5-element ultrawide angle lens. The more elements in a lens, the better the image quality tends to be as a rule.
One interesting rumor that has come up suggests Apple is looking for suppliers for a "folded lens" camera that will improve the iPhone 13's optical camera zoom. The periscope-like design means the telephoto lens would be stacked vertically, instead of horizontally, meaning you can increase the optical magnification without increasing the size of the phone.
In fact, this design is commonly used by other phone makers, including Samsung and Huawei, to increase their own optical zoom capabilities. Which iPhone 13 models will get the improved zoom is still unclear.
Larger sensors mean larger pixels for increased light intake, which should produce better quality photos. Unfortunately, it's not clear which iPhone 13s are set to take advantage of these sensors, though the iPhone 12 Pro Max featured a larger sensor when it debuted in the fall.
On top of that Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max will both include larger apertures on their ultra-wide cameras. Kuo said that both phones will come with an f/1.8 aperture, up from the f/2.4 on the iPhone 12. Paired with a six-element lens, that means more light will come in through the camera and improve picture quality.
Kuo also said that the iPhone 12 Pro Max's sensor-shift optical image stabilization will also be returning to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, alongside the iPhone 13 Pro. The current model makes 5,000 adjustments each second to keep the lens steady, and a steady lens means better pictures, especially in low-light.
However, in a more recent report, Kuo has claimed there'll be no new camera lens for iPhones until 2022. That means the iPhone 13 might not get any new rear camera hardware, though we'd expect Apple to bolster smartphone photo snapping with improved computational photography.
One final addition would be the inclusion of LiDAR sensors on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, rather than just the Pro models. That's according to sources speaking to DigiTimes, at least, who say all 2021 iPhones will include the advanced sensor
Could the iPhone 13 be portless?
Imagine if the iPhone 12 was the last generation of Apple handsets to feature a physical charging port in every model. It's a shocking thought, but Apple could begin phasing out Lightning ports starting with one of the iPhone 13 models — and USB Type-C won't be there to replace it.
A tweet from Apple tipster Jon Prosser spells it out clear as day: There will be one port-free iPhone in 2021, he says, and eventually, all iPhones will go that way. "Never USB-C," Prosser adds, killing some enthusiasts' hopes that Apple would adopt the same standard as Android phones and the vast majority of other modern consumer electronics.
The idea of a portless iPhone may sound a bit ridiculous, but ironically, it's become likelier ever since the European Union made moves to force all phone manufacturers to use a common port for charging. Lightning has been the Apple's go-to solution since 2012, when it was introduced alongside the iPhone 5.
Rather than engineering future iPhones to work with the same interface as all Android phones — at which point, Apple would stand to miss out on the very lucrative market of accessory licensing that it's always enjoyed — reason suggests that the company would rather ditch ports entirely, and turn to Qi induction as its common charging solution. Qi is, of course, the wireless charging framework shared by all smartphones releasing today.
With the iPhone 12, Apple introduced MagSafe for more convenient wireless charging. It's also raised the iPhone's peak wireless charging speed to 15 watts. MagSafe would appear to be the logical evolution for future iPhones without ports, and also enable a wealth of customization options and new potential use cases.
But what else could a port-free iPhone allow? Theoretically, eliminating the device's largest ingress point would improve durability and water resistance. It could also assist in making handsets thinner down the line, though given the rapidly accelerating size of batteries across the industry and the advent of especially energy-hungry 5G networks, it's also possible that iPhones in 2021 will be larger and perhaps thicker than those on sale today.
iPhone 13: What we want to see
Chances are we'll begin to hear the first concrete details on the iPhone 13 just after the dust settles from the iPhone 12's 2020 reveal. That's because Apple's strategy with its forthcoming handsets will allow us to deduce where it goes after that.
In fact, one of the earliest reports that Apple was planning a compact, 5.4-inch variant of the iPhone 12 dropped last September, mere days after the iPhone 11 series debuted. That device, of course, ended up known as the iPhone 12 mini.
Here's what we'd love to see from the iPhone 13 when it does surface, beyond what rumors are suggesting.
- 128GB of storage, standard: Apple only granted 128GB base storage in the higher-tier iPhone 12 Pro models, leaving it out of the regular iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. That's a good first step, but Apple has really got to get with the times and offer a floor of 128GB of storage in all iPhone 13 models. It's borderline offensive to spend nearly a grand on a premium smartphone that only packs 64GB from the factory, especially considering Apple's aversion to microSD expandability.
- Improved camera zoom: Either through hardware, software or a combination of both, Apple has to punch up the iPhone's photography abilities when shooting from a distance. Many smartphone users love having a good ultrawide lens, but a strong telephoto is just as important for when you can't get up close to your subject. Perhaps Apple could learn a thing or two from Google's Super Res Zoom feature, which uses clever algorithms to nearly make up for the lack of a high-powered periscope lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has improved things slightly to 2.5x optical power, but we'd really like to see at least 3x in future telephoto-equipped iPhones.
- 120Hz display: If you've never used a phone with one before, a fast refresh-rate display just makes every scroll, tap, task and game so much more responsive than on standard 60Hz panels. We'd settle for 90Hz if 120Hz is deemed too costly for battery life, but a swifter refresh rate could go a long way toward making iOS feel even smoother than it feels now. Unfortunately, this was another feature teased for iPhone 12 early on that never ended up panning out for release.
We expect that the iPhone 12 Pro, with its flatter design, complete 5G support and LiDAR-boosted camera, will form the foundation for Apple's 2021 devices. So keep a close eye on this page over the coming months as the future of iPhone takes shape.