The iPhone 14 models still may have that new phone smell, but that's not going to stop us from thinking about what Apple can improve when the iPhone 15 appears this time next year.
While that may seem early to some, there's no time like the present to start thinking about changes Apple can make with future smartphones. We've just reviewed three of the four models — the iPhone 14 Plus doesn't ship until October 7 — so we've got a good sense of where the latest iPhones thrive and where they falter. The good news is, Apple's latest phones don't come up short in many areas. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
Besides, even if you're not ready to contemplate the iPhone 15, Apple is certainly thinking long and hard about what to do with next year's devices. And when the company does think about possible improvements, we hope the following will be at the top of the list for making the best iPhones even better.
Dynamic Island on every iPhone
It's clear that the winning addition to this year's iPhone update is the arrival of the Dynamic Island, Apple's replacement for the notch on the front of its phones. Dynamic Island gets rid of the notch in favor of a single cutout for the front camera and Face ID sensors, but it does a lot more than that. Information about your phone — the status of timers, album art for whatever's playing in the Music app, incoming call status and more — also appears in the Dynamic Island. When Live Activities appears with a future iOS 16 update, they'll be accessible from Dynamic Island, too.
But that's only on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. The standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus still have the notch, and that's a shame. With the understanding that Apple wants to more clearly differentiate between its Pro phones and its less expensive models, Dynamic Island seems like a feature best enjoyed by everyone.
To that end, we have some potentially good news. Display analyst Ross Young thinks Dynamic Island will be a universal feature as of the iPhone 15. We're in for a long wait to see if that forecast pans out, but it's certainly at the top of our list for iPhone 15 improvements.
Here's an iPhone 15 request we could have made for the last few years of iPhone updates. While Android phones add support for ever-faster charging, the iPhone continues to putter around with 20W wired charging speeds. Yes, if you spring for Apple's 30W charger, you might be able to enjoy some slightly better charge times. But for the most part, it will take you 30 minutes to get a drained iPhone to a 50% charge, and that's not changing any time soon.
We hope that it does by this time next year, though. Adopting 30W charging would seem to be the least Apple could do, considering that the Galaxy S22 supports 25W charging and the other phones in Samsung's flagship lineup hit 45W. We wouldn't even dream of comparing the iPhone's charging speeds to those found on OnePlus flagships, as the OnePlus 10 Pro can get close to a full charge in those same 30 minutes the iPhone 14 is moving past the halfway mark.
Improved battery life for some iPhones
While we're talking batteries, let's talk battery life, which seems to have taken a step back on some models. iPhone 14 Pro Max, you are excused from this discussion, since your 13.5-hour result on our battery test places you second on our list of best phone battery life.
No, the problem with battery life on the iPhone 14 seems to center around the 6.1-inch models. The iPhone 14 Pro still turned in a result that was better than the average smartphone, but its time of 10 hours and 13 minutes was around 2 hours worse than what the iPhone 13 Pro managed. The 7 hour, 41 minute time we recorded with the iPhone 14 was well below average.
We're still trying to figure out what's up here, but if this isn't something that improves with a subsequent software fix, it's something Apple should address with in the iPhone 15. Apple has priors here, as the iPhone 13 models all posted much improved battery life after three of the four iPhone 13 versions disappointed. We're hoping history repeats itself.
A better telephoto lens
Let's be clear about this — the iPhone 14 Pro Max is currently the best camera phone you can buy, and the iPhone 14 Pro isn't that far behind it. But as good as Apple's new phones are at capturing pictures, there are still areas where their rivals have an edge. And that's especially clear when you compare the telephoto lens on the latest iPhone Pro models to what Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra can do.
The iPhone 13 Pro models support a 3x optical zoom and can keep zooming up to 15x. But at that level of detail, the S22 Ultra's telephoto camera captures a more detailed picture, as you can see in the sample shot above. And if you wanted, you could keep zooming in with Samsung's phone until you hit 100x (though we'd advise having a tripod handy to keep the shot from shaking).
Surely, Apple can give us more with a telephoto lens. And it just well might, if rumors of a periscope-style lens coming to the iPhone 15 Pro prove accurate. We certainly hope that's true, as it could make the iPhone 15 Pro the greatest camera phone of all time.
We wouldn't expect Apple to add a telephoto lens to the standard iPhone, given Apple's preference for packing premium features into the Pro phone. But there is one Pro-level capability we hope to see trickle down to the iPhone 15...
Dynamically refreshing displays on the standard iPhones
... And that would a dynamically refreshing display. The iPhone 14 Pro models are capable of adjusting their refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz. The higher rate can make scrolling smoother while the lower rate can preserve battery life when the on-screen activity is more static. That kind of adjustable refresh rate also supports features like the always-on display the iPhone 14 Pro models now offer.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus remain stuck at 60Hz. That's slower than even budget phones, which have seen their refresh rates get a boost in the past year or so.
Enough is enough — it's time for Apple to let the screen of its standard iPhone adjust to reflect more frenetic on-screen activity like scrolling, games and the like. Even if Apple won't go up to 120Hz with the iPhone 15's display, it should at least offer a 90Hz panel, which would match the Pixel 6's faster refresh rate.
At long last, USB-C
We hope this is the last year we have to include this on our wish list. And it could be, if the European Union's mandate that all phones need to support USB-C by the fall of 2024 plays any role in Apple's decision making. Nevertheless, it's time for the iPhone's Lightning port to give way to a USB-C one.
Adding USB-C to the iPhone 15 will make charging the phone less of a hassle — USB-C chargers are more ubiquitous compared to Apple's proprietary charging standard. Such a switch could also usher in the faster charging speeds we talked about above while also improving data transfer from your iPhone to connected devices.
Apple's already brought USB-C onto some of its iPad models, so it's not as if Apple can't make this move. And if the EU has its way, Apple is going to have to make it anyway, so why not take the plunge with the iPhone 15.