We’ve already heard rumors that Apple will be upgrading the optics of the iPhone 14 by improving the optical zoom. As a reminder — iPhone telephoto cameras have always had 2x zoom, compared to the main camera, and only on the iPhone 12 Pro Max do we have a 2.5x zoom, which is not even that crazy of an upgrade.
It is rumored that Apple will only be putting the folded lens module on “some” iPhones — I believe it’s fair to assume it’ll be exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro Max (or its equivalent in the iPhone 14 family).
Samsung has the zoom tech cornered
Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max
However, this is not where the story ends. Apparently, Apple isn’t looking to build a long-term relationship with Samsung on this and is already negotiating with a different supplier
for the OIS component of the 2023 iPhones, presumably the iPhone 15 series. This could be because Apple will be looking to design its own module and mass-produce it to fit all if the iPhone 15 phones, or at least the small Pro.
The supplier in question is Jahwa Electronics — a Samsung partner that was actually a co-developer on Sammy’s periscope lenses. To put it simply, there’s a nightmarish plethora of patents there, owned by both companies, that Apple will have to navigate. Nothing that a hefty sum of money can’t fix, right? Who cares if the iPhone 14 Pro ends up costing another $50 or so extra.
In all seriousness, though it’s unknown if Apple will be able or willing to shake hands with Samsung and Jahwa on any sort of licensing. The report says Apple is looking for “anternative ways to handle the patent problem”, whatever that might entail.
It does seem that Cupertino is dead set on getting those zoom modules, as Apple has already inspected the Jahwa Electronics OIS module factory earlier this year. Or so the report says.
Will the iPhone 13 have zoom cameras?
iPhone 13 dummy units, grain of salt not supplied
Short answer — no. No rumors or analysts have pointed to this happening. If you want an iPhone that can rival the super-zoom of Samsung’s and Huawei’s flagships, you’ll have to wait until the iPhone 14 comes out. And, even then, it seems probable that the periscope lens will only be installed on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
It does seem, however, that Apple is preparing for this super zoom feature by introducing an astrophotography feature
, which will supposedly make it easy to shoot beautiful pictures of the night sky. Also known as “Moon shot” or similar naming on other brands that already have stronger zoom cameras.
Is the Pro Max going to be the “best iPhone” going forward?
iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max
In the past, all iPhones would have similar features, as long as they were in the same tier. For example, an iPhone XS
and iPhone XS Max
had the very same cameras and internals, the only difference was size. An exception would be the iPhone X
, which was introduced together with the iPhone 8
, but carried a slew of improvements in design, camera, and hardware, probably to try and excuse that $1,000 price-tag (Ha, remember the days when that price-tag was actually ludicrous? Me neither.)
Anyway, the most recent iPhone 12
family was a bit weird, since the iPhone 12 Pro Max
was the only one to have a slightly improved 2.5x telephoto lens, a slightly larger sensor (with 1.7 μm pixels, as opposed to 1.4
μm), and the new sensor shift stabilization. That made the smaller iPhone 12 Pro
more of an “iPhone 12.1” than an actual… well, Pro.
It’s now rumored that the iPhone 13
family will all get sensor shift and bigger sensors. The non-Pro units will inherit those 1.7 μm pixels, but there are also talks about a 1.9 μm sensor. Will that be available for both Pros or just the Pro Max exclusively?
As for the periscope camera on the iPhone 14 — will that be just on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, or will it also be on the regular Pro? Because by the sounds of this report… it seems it might be a Pro Max feature first and it will be mass-produced to fit the other models by 2023’s iPhone 15.