iPhone 14 would be more exciting with this one upgrade

iPhone 13
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: The iPhone 14 launch date has been tipped by an Apple leaker, and could arrive with a lot more.

It's no secret that stacked up against the iPhone 14 Pro rumors, potential changes to the rest of the iPhone 14 lineup sound less than earth-shattering. The Pro models of this year's iPhone are expected to lose the notch, get a faster A16 processor and possibly even an upgraded 48MP main camera. None of those things are likely to come to the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max.

Don't get me wrong — I still think the iPhone 14 will be a worthwhile upgrade, especially for people who've been holding on to their iPhone for three years or more and don't want to pay $1,000 or so on their next phone. The rumor of an iPhone 14 Max joining the lineup means you won't have to pay top dollar for a 6.7-inch display, as you have with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 where only the $1,099 Pro Max edition offered a super-sized screen.

But optics matter in the phone-selling business, and right now, the rumored changes to the standard iPhone 14 don't suggest a phone that's radically different from its predecessor. That could make the new model a hard sell in the fall, particularly if the rising cost of living has people unwilling to pony up $999 for an iPhone 14 Pro.

That's why it would be ideal for the iPhone 14 to depart from the iPhone 13 in at least one significant way. And a leak posted to Twitter the other day suggests a way forward for Apple.

The leak comes from someone posting as Shadow_Leak, who's not yet among the most established leakers posting rumors about upcoming phones. Nevertheless, Shadow_Leak claims to have iPhone 14 Max specs, and one potential feature stands out from an otherwise predictable list. The leaked specs claim the iPhone 14 Max's display will have a 90Hz refresh rate.

That would be a significant change from the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, both of which feature refresh rates fixed at 60Hz. The iPhone 13 Pro models, in contrast, can adjust their refresh rate to 120Hz, which means smoother scrolling and better graphics. Even better, the refresh rate adjusts automatically on the Pro phones, so you don't have to toggle anything in settings.

Earlier reports have claimed that 120Hz refresh rates will remain limited to Apple's Pro phones — another way in which the iPhone 14 Pro models will differentiate themselves from the standard iPhone. But this latest spec leak raises the prospect that the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max could see a modest upgrade to their refresh rate, which would certainly be welcome.

It wouldn't be an unprecedented move among phone makers to have different refresh speeds for different models of phone. Google's Pixel 6 Pro model offers a 120Hz refresh rate, for example, while the less expensive Pixel 6 makes do with 90Hz. In other words, the Pro-level handsets gets the more advanced feature, but the regular flagship still enjoys a modest boost over the usual refresh rate.

It's a tactic Apple would be well advised to adopt for the iPhone 14. A 90Hz refresh rate on the less expensive iPhone models would make shoppers feel like they're getting something extra for their money, especially since the these two phones are rumored to be sticking with the A15 Bionic instead of a newer processor.

Unfortunately, a 90Hz display for the iPhone 14 models isn't that widely circulated a rumor. The only other instance I can find for it comes from... Shadow_Leak, who raised the possibility of a faster-refreshing display back in February when posting rumored iPhone 14 specs back in February.

Given the lack of widespread pick-up for a 90Hz screen, I'd say that this is still an iPhone 14 rumor that's very much up in the air. But if it's something Apple could pull off, it would make the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max much more exciting upgrades in the fall.

Philip Michaels

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.