This iPhone 16 rumored change could fix the biggest design flaw

iPhone 16 prototypes
(Image credit: MacRumors)

A theme seems to be emerging for the iPhone 16 release, based on all the rumors surrounding this year's flagship phone release from Apple. From what we've heard so far about the entry-level iPhone, a lot of the likely changes Apple has planned could be filed under the category of Writing Past Wrongs.

Take the rumor about the silicon Apple plans to use in its upcoming iPhones. For the first time since the iPhone 13, all iPhone 16 models are set to get the same A series chipset, most likely the A18. Now, the iPhone 16 Pro models might be due a more powerful variant of the A18, but at least it's not a situation where the Pro phones get the new silicon while the standard iPhone makes do with last year's hand-me-down chipset.

That's easily my favorite rumored change for the iPhone 16. But running a respectable second is a rumor that emerged recently when CAD images of the next iPhone surfaced. If the renders are accurate, it means that Apple is changing up one of the biggest eyesores in the iPhone's current design — how the cameras are arranged on the back of the handset.

OK, so it's not the most pressing concern for an iPhone. But a fair portion of the iPhone's appeal relies on its aesthetics. And those figure to improve dramatically should Apple follow through with a new look for its rear camera array.

A brief history of iPhone camera arrays

As you're surely aware, the iPhone camera setup has featured two diagonally arranged lenses since the iPhone 13's release. But an iPhone 16 CAD render posted by leaker Majin Buo shows off a design that's more reminiscent of the iPhone 12, with the main camera and ultrawide lens stacked on top of each other.

iPhone 16 CAD render

iPhone 16 CAD render (Image credit: Majin Bu/X)

There's a practical reason behind this rumored change — it would allow the iPhone 16 (and iPhone 16 Plus) to capture spatial video for the Apple Vision Pro. Spatial video requires the main and ultrawide cameras to record footage simultaneously with the lenses lined up as they are on the iPhone 15 Pro models. Since spatial video is such a big selling point for Apple's headsets, I'm sure that the company is eager to make more devices that are able to record such footage — hence, the switch to vertically stacked lenses.

That's all well and good, but it's the design of the camera cutout on the leaked iPhone 16 CAD render that has me intrigued. It's a pill-shaped cutout that, to my eyes at least, looks a lot more subtle than the square block found on current iPhone models. And I think that's a terrific move since I consider the current iPhone 15 camera array a visual blight on the otherwise pristine Apple design.

Specifically, I don't care for the fact that the array is a separate block on the back of the iPhone, with raised glass lifting it off the surface of the phone. Apple then compounds the error by having the camera lenses jut out even further. It's especially noticeable on the iPhone 15, as those cameras are bigger than the ones on previous models.

How other camera arrays compare

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. iPhone 15

Galaxy S24 (left) and iPhone 15 (right) (Image credit: Future)

Contrast that with what Samsung's done with its recent flagships, particularly the Galaxy S24. The individual cameras blend quite seamlessly into the back of the phone, making everything feel more connected visually. Like on the iPhone, the lenses stick out from the back, but because there's not a raised array already, it feels a lot more subtle.

You wouldn't call the horizontal camera bar that spans the back of the Pixel 8 subtle, but I still think it looks a lot better than the iPhone's design. Because it stretches across the whole of the phone, the Pixel 8 camera bar doesn't feel like it's trying to separate itself from the rest of the device. And there's a practical effect, too, as the camera bar keeps the Pixel from wobbling when you set it down with the screen facing upward. Try that with the iPhone 15, and its Wobble City.

iPhone X in hand

iPhone X (Image credit: Future)

The camera cutout in the iPhone 16 CAD suggests Apple will once again go for an array that's separate from the rest of the phone. I'd prefer a more integrated approach, but the relative size of the rumored iPhone 16 camera cutout makes me think it won't be as visually obtrusive as the one on the iPhone 15. For reference, take a look at what Apple did with the cameras on the iPhone X, which used the same pill-shaped approach. I find that a lot more visually appealing than the setup Apple's been using lately.

iPhone 16 outlook

Like I said earlier, there are a lot more pressing concerns with this coming iPhone 16 update. Will Apple give this model enough attention or will it continue lavishing the better features on the iPhone 16 Pro models? Is the rumored Capture button a real feature and what will you be able to do with it? And will the A18 chipset be enough to give the iPhone 16 some breathing room from Snapdragon 8 Gen 3-powered phones in terms of performance?

But in the world of smartphones, looks do matter. And the redesigned camera array on the iPhone 16 is looking like a step in the right direction.

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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.