The iPhone 13 has been in the hands of early adopters for all of a weekend. And yet, some folks' thoughts are already turning to the iPhone 14.
With the iPhone 13 available in the flesh, all our questions about iPhone 13 additions have been definitively answered, even if the answer turned out to be "not this year." And now we're eager to see if the features that didn't make the final cut for the iPhone 13 are somehow still in the discussion for a future version of the phone.
The latest speculation comes from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman who wrote that a "complete redesign" was in the works for next year's iPhone, just as everyone has been getting used to the iPhone 13's current design.
- iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Big phone battle
- How the best iPhones rank
- Plus: iPhone 13 Pro Max has a charging surprise
As our iPhone 13 review found, the new models do a great job addressing some of the lingering complaints about the iPhone 12. The different iPhone models 13 feature bigger batteries and brighter screens while also introducing enhanced camera capabilities aimed at keeping Apple at the top of the rankings for best camera phones. But there are still some issues left to tackle, and that's where the iPhone 14 will come into play next year.
Heck, we're not above turning our gaze away from the iPhone 13 to do a little iPhone 14 wish casting. Here are the changes that we hope are on the drawing board for future iPhones.
1. ProMotion on every iPhone
The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have joined other premium flagships in offering refresh rates that dynamically adjusted based upon your on-screen activity. Tasks that would benefit from a smoother screen, for example, get a refresh rate of 120Hz, while more static activities can scale all the way down to 10Hz as the iPhone preserves battery. The fact that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max landed on our best phone battery life list suggest that Apple figured out a way to implement fast-refreshing displays without the hit on battery life we've seen on some other handsets.
So bring the feature to the iPhone 14, we say — and not just the Pro models. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini remain stuck at 60Hz, and while that's fine if it was a reflection of supply issues, as some Apple watchers have claimed. But a year should be enough time for Apple to get its display supplies in order.
Whatever entry-level flagship Apple introduces in 2022 — and bear in mind, the iPhone 13 mini is rumored to be the last phone we'll see at that size — it had best be able to match the ProMotion feature already offered by Apple's Pro phones.
2. Bring back Touch ID
Considering I'm on the record as saying that the lack of Touch ID is the biggest omission on the iPhone 13, I think I'm to be congratulated for my restraint in not bringing that absence up until now. But seriously, Apple — bring back a way to unlock the iPhone that doesn't rely solely on Face ID.
You can probably recite this part along with me now, but Face ID — wondrous though it may be for unlocking phones and verifying payments in normal times — is of limited use when we still have to wear face masks in many situations. I don't see the need for face masks abating any time soon, so Apple should figure out a way to restore a fingerprint reader to the iPhone, be it under the screen or on the power button.
3. Get rid of the notch
Apple says it reduced the notch on the iPhone 13 models by 20% and while any reduction's a sign of progress, we think there's still about 80% of the notch left to go.
As Android users will smugly remind us, nothing beats an uninterrupted view of a phone display when it comes to gaming or watching a video. Even having a punch-hole cutout in one corner of the screen is preferable to having a full notch dip into the top of the display.
Apple's ability to move away from the notch will depend upon how easily it can relocate Face ID sensors and house the front camera. Given how under-display cameras perform on a handful of current phones — spoiler alert: not very well — we'd imagine there would have to be some big improvements or a much better alternative if our notch-free future is to be.
4. AR-friendly features
Apple's been including tools for building augmented reality apps in its iOS developer releases for some time now. The company even added LiDAR sensors to its Pro phones in 2020, which brought the potential to deliver more immersive AR apps to your phone. And then there's the not inconsiderable matter of Apple's rumored AR Glasses, which could debut in 2023, though some people aren't ruling out a 2022 launch.
If Apple's serious about AR, it needs to start showing it more with the iPhone 14. That means adding LiDAR sensors to all iPhone models, not just the Pro versions. And we hope that next year's iOS update adds more AR tools to the mix to set the stage for a future Apple Glasses launch.
5. Faster charging
Read any of our iPhone 13 model reviews, from the tinniest iPhone 13 Mini to the mightiest iPhone 13 Pro Max, and at some point, you'll find a mention of the iPhone's charging speed. It will not be a complimentary reference. All the iPhone 13 models charge at 20W speeds, with wireless charging via MagSafe limited to 15W.
The Galaxy S21 — not exactly a speed demon when it comes to charging — is faster than the iPhone at 25W. And we're not even talking about OnePlus phones and their support for 65W charging. The Pixel 6 is rumored to be getting a charging boost, too, so Apple's phone is really going to stick out — and not in a good way — unless something's done with the iPhone 14.
6. Apple Pencil support
I can't help but feel a little envious when I look at Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 owners who are able to use the S Pen with their respective devices. And when I saw how awkwardly the Galaxy Z Fold 3 implemented S Pen support — you need a separate case to even house the stylus — I long to see Apple do a much better job with this feature.
The Apple Pencil seems uniquely suited for this task, especially with Apple including features like the Pencil-friendly Quick Note capability in iPadOS 15. Apple may never overcome its aversion to designing input devices for its phones — cue the obligatory clip of Steve Jobs insisting that our fingers are the only input devices we should ever need — but Apple makes a pretty good accessory that would fit in as well with the iPhone as it does with the iPad.
7. USB-C instead of Lightning
Those faster charging speeds we mentioned earlier could already be possible if Apple were to take a cue from Android phone makers and use USB-C as the way to charge and connect its mobile devices. That Apple sticks with its own proprietary Lightning interface is just obstinance at this point.
Apple's hand might be forced int his regard with the European Union mulling rules that could force all phone makers — Apple included — to use USB-C. Such a rule wouldn't take effect for a few years, though, so maybe Apple could speed things up by adopting USB-C on its own volition.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.