Apple sells Macs, smartwatches and tablets and will very soon start dabbling in headsets. But the iPhone remains the company's bread and butter, accounting for 52% of the more than $383 billion in sales Apple recorded in its 2023 fiscal year. As a result, any look ahead to the next 12 months is going to focus heavily on Apple's iPhone plans.
Apple certainly has its work cut out for it if it wants to top the iPhone 15. Those phones, released this past fall, represent the best iPhones Apple's ever put out. The standard iPhone finally adopted the Dynamic Island feature introduced to the Pro models a year earlier, and it now relies on a 48MP main camera.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro continued to stand out from the regular iPhones, thanks to a lighter titanium frame and a powerful A17 Pro chipset. The iPhone 15 Pro Max went a step or two further thanks to 256GB of storage in the base model and a redesigned telephoto lens that now supports a 5x optical zoom.
Still, early iPhone rumors suggest that Apple is already hard at work on new models for 2024. And while the iPhone 16 release in the fall figures to be the biggest iPhone news in the coming year, it may not be the only time we hear about Apple's phone business.
Here's a look at the year ahead for the iPhone, arranged in chronological order as to when iPhone-related announcements are likely to surface.
iPhone in 2024: Apple Vision Pro
Apple's first big product release of the year isn't likely to be an iPhone. Instead, Apple watchers are tipping a February 2024 launch for the Apple Vision Pro, the spatial computing headset the company previewed at last June's Worldwide Developer Conference. Still, while the Apple Vision Pro may be an entirely new product category for the company, we imagine there will be some tie-ins to Apple's phone lineup.
For starters, we already know that iPhone 15 Pro models running iOS 17.2 can capture spatial video for optimized viewing on the Vision Pro. Spatial video melds together footage from both the main and ultrawide lens of the iPhone 15 Pro. When viewed on your iPhone's screen, it looks like any other video, but people who've had a chance to watch their own spatial videos played back on the Apple Vision Pro say it's a more immersive experience on the headset, with added depth that makes you feel like you're right there in the scene.
We wonder if the launch of the Apple Vision Pro launch will highlight more tie-ins with Apple's iPhones. (Already, a rumor has emerged that the standard iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus will feature rearranged camera lenses so that they, too, can capture spatial video upon their release in the fall.) If nothing else, we expect to hear about visionOS versions of popular iPhone apps that will be optimized for use on Apple's new headset. And even if they aren't, Apple says that regular iOS and iPadOS apps should run just fine o the Apple Vision Pro.
iPhones in 2024: iPhone SE 4
Even-numbered years in this decade have seen new versions of the iPhone SE launch in the spring — first in 2020 and later in 2022. Could the iPhone SE 4 join the mix with a 2024 launch?
Probably not. The iPhone SE 2022 followed so closely on the heels of the 2020 model because of the emergence of 5G: Apple was keen to put out a model capable of connecting to the faster cellular network, and so it rushed out a new version. There's not as much incentive to trot out a new model two years later, though both Google and Samsung have surged ahead of Apple with much better midrange models in the form of the Pixel 7a and Galaxy A54.
That said, the latest rumors do not suggest a 2024 release for the iPhone SE 4. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who had earlier reported a pause in work on the iPhone SE, now suggests that 2025 is a more likely launch date for the new model.
When it does arrive, you'd expect the iPhone SE to shed its aging iPhone 8-inspired look for something more modern. Current rumors suggest a design reminiscent of the iPhone 14. The new SE would be in line to run whatever Apple's current top silicon is — that would be a member of the unannounced A18 family of chips if we're talking about a fall 2025 release. There's also the possibility of an upgrade to a 48MP sensor for the iPhone SE's lone camera.
Should the iPhone SE 4 surprise us with a 2024 debut, it would likely happen in the spring time, around March or April. But we suspect Apple's going to hold out on new phone hardware until the fall.
iPhones in 2024: iOS 18
Assuming no iPhone SE 4 then, our first look at an iPhone-specific news announcements could come at WWDC 2024. That developer conference, typically held by Apple in June. That's where Apple previews the year's major software updates to a crowd of app makers, and we'd anticipate that iOS 18 will be a big focus.
iOS 18 details have already trickled out, with reports suggesting that artificial intelligence will be the centerpiece of this year's iPhone software update. Specifically, Apple could add generative AI to iOS 18 in the form of a chatbot that's a more sophisticated version of Siri. This virtual assistant would be able to perform more complex tasks triggered by a simple voice command, and we could also see features like text summary and image generation that are fairly typical of AI models at this point.
One interesting wrinkle with Apple's AI efforts in iOS 18 is that phones released in 2024 will have enough processing power to run AI features entirely on the device itself. Older iPhones may have to turn to the cloud for help. The end result would faster AI performance on the iPhones Apple releases later in the fall.
If Apple sticks to its usual timeframe, we'll see an iOS 18 preview at WWDC 2024 in June, with a public beta arriving a few weeks after the developer conference. That beta would be updated throughout the summer ahead of the iPhone 16 launch in the fall.
Apple hasn't yet indicated with phones will run iOS 18, but the company typically drops support for phones after five years. That puts the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max — all released in 2018 — on the chopping block for ongoing support.
iPhones in 2024: iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus
Based on rumors so far, it sounds like the standard iPhone along with the 6.7-inch Plus model will continue to pick up iPhone Pro features a year after Apple introduced the to more expensive models. For the iPhone 15, those new-to-this-model pick-ups included the 48MP main camera along with the notch-replacing Dynamic Island.
This time around, the Action button that debuted on the iPhone 15 Pro looks like it's set to appear on the iPhone 16. The button replaces the mute switch and can be programmed to launch specific shortcuts.
In addition to the aforementioned redesign of the iPhone 16's camera array — vertically stacked cameras are better for capturing spatial video than the current diagonal design — a report claims that the built-in microphone on the iPhone 16 will see improvements, with an eye toward making the most of those incoming AI features.
The most promising rumor suggests that Apple is dropping its policy of splitting up chipsets, ao that the standard iPhone always gets the older silicon that appeared in the previous year's Pro models. Instead, Apple is likely to use A18 chipsets in every iPhone 16 model, though the Pro versions may see a more powerful variant of the A18.
One feature that's unlikely to find its way to the iPhone 16 is a fast-refreshing display. Reportedly, Apple's not going to use the LTPO panels that make such a feature possible until the iPhone 17 at the earliest.
iPhones in 2024: iPhone 16 Pro
Just as the standard iPhone 16 is tabbed to pick up more Pro features, the iPhone 16 Pro looks like it's going to follow the lead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max and adopt a telephoto lens with a tetraprism design that expands the zoom length of the camera to 5x. Both the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max also could adopt an ultrawide camera sensor with more megapixels — 48MP, to be exact, as Apple makes an upgrade from the current 12MP ultrawide camera.
After adding an Action button to the current Pro phones, this year's models could include a new Capture button. The specific capabilities are still unknown, but it's likely a Capture button would make it easier to launch the Camera app on the iPhone and start recording video.
After years of featuring 6.1- and 6.7-inch displays, the iPhone Pro lineup could see larger screens. Rumors suggest a 6.3-inch panel for the iPhone 16 Pro while the Pro Max would feature a 6.9-inch screen. If true, it marks another potential split between the regular iPhone and its Pro equivalents. (See our iPhone 16 vs. iPhone 16 Pro comparison for a complete list of potential differences between the two models.)
iPhones in 2024: iPhone 16 Ultra
There's another potential move Apple could make with its fall 2024 lineup in the form of an Ultra model for the iPhone. The idea, which first surfaced in the buildup to the iPhone 15 launch, is that Apple would reduce an iPhone equivalent of the Apple Watch Ultra — a more advanced and more expensive version of its basic smartwatch.
Because Bloomberg's Mark Gurman cited 2024 as the earliest Apple might release an iPhone Ultra, there's particular interest surrounding the potential of an iPhone 16 Ultra, most likely as an iPhone 16 Pro Max replacement. But the lack of iPhone 16 Ultra rumors up until now — especially compared to the iPhone 16 Pro Max-related tips floating around out there — makes us think that an Ultra likely won't happen in 2024. Our opinion could change should Ultra rumors start to pick up.
iPhones in 2024: iPhone Flip
There's another rumored phone potentially arriving at some point, and it's the iPhone Flip. It's widely assumed Apple is working on a flip phone-style device with a foldable screen to be released at some point. The only question is when?
Some observers had pinpointed 2024 as the likely date for Apple's first foldable, but a prominent Apple analyst doesn't think so any more. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote that the earliest a foldable iPhone might appear would be 2025, with the device taking the form of "a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone."
As with the iPhone 16 Ultra, if rumors don't start picking up in the new year, the iPhone Flip is one rumored device you can probably move to the backruner. And with four new iPhones plus a major iOS update all but certain to be on the agenda for 2024, you can understand if Apple ends up holding off on any surprise device launches for now.
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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.