Only the so-called iPhone 15 Ultra could get a periscope camera come the launch of Apple’s next wave of flagship phones, likely in September of this year.
That’s according to relatively reliable analyst and Apple oracle Ming-Chi Kuo who tweets (via translation) that only the iPhone 15 Ultra or iPhone 15 Pro Max will get a much-improved telephoto camera, leaving the likes of the regular iPhone 15 Pro behind.
And Kuo reckons that trend will continue into 2024, with only the highest-end iPhone 16 getting a periscope camera.
(1/5)2H24新款iPhone 16可能僅一款/最高階機型配備潛望鏡相機，低於市場預期的兩款，鏡頭升級需求低於市場預期，不利大立光與玉晶光。如先前預測，2H23最高階新款iPhone 15 (15 Pro Max或15 Ultra) 將配備潛望鏡，市場並預期潛望鏡相機將隨更多iPhone機種採用，成為2023-2024年推升鏡頭升級需求關鍵January 31, 2023
iPhone 15 Ultra: Why a periscope camera matters
First off, let's tackle what a periscope camera is. By using a prism mirror system, whereby an image sensor and zoom lens array is positioned sideways, the focal length of the camera can be increased and thus offer a greater optical zoom range; phones like the Oppo Find X2 Pro use this to deliver a great 5x telephoto camera.
Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max currently tops out at a 3x optical zoom on its telephoto camera, lagging behind the longer zoom ranges of the 5x Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, — the latter with its 3x and 10x optical zoom telephoto cameras. So by adopting a periscope camera system, the iPhone 15 Ultra/Pro Max could hit back at its smartphone rivals.
But if the periscope camera is limited to just the highest-end iPhone 15 model, then it will force those keen on zoomed-in photography to splash the cash for the most expensive iPhones, seemingly two years in a row.
Kuo reckons that a lack of market interest in lens upgrades will be the reason for not equipping periscope lenses in the other iPhones 15/16 models.
Given how good even an iPhone 13 Pro is at photography, I’m not surprised people potentially have fatigue around the small improvements new lenses or sensor upgrades bring to the smartphone world, especially when any of the best camera phones will deliver a photos that are basically great for nearly everything other than being blown up to canvas size or used professionally.
And for Apple, limiting the adoption of a periscope camera would make sense. Periscope cameras are more complex than their standard telephoto brethren, and thus could ramp up the price of production for Apple if applied to all next-gen iPhone models.
Analysis: An annoying divide
At the same time, for people like me who love the 6.1-inch size of regular Pro iPhones, being forced to get a bigger model to get a zoom upgrade would leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, especially as a base iPhone Pro is hardly cheap.
Conversely, adding a periscope lens into the iPhone 15 Pro, as well as the Max and Ultra models could pave the way for more people to use such zooming capabilities and give Apple more scope to tweak its computational photography algorithms to take advantage of added zoom range. And that could offer prospective users a greater overall camera system upgrade.
Even if Kuo is on the money with this rumor, and only one iPhone 15 gets a periscope camera, there’s still some upgrades to get excited about. We can expect the iPhone 15 range to have chip upgrades, the Dynamic Island on all models, potentially a curved design, and finally the arrival of USB-C for charging and data transfer.
In fact, I’ve decided to wait for the iPhone 15, as my iPhone 13 Pro is more than good enough, and I think we could see a step change in Apple phone hardware with the iPhone 15 come the second half of the year.