There's just a couple of weeks to go until Apple is expected to launch its new iPhones for 2021. In this article we round up everything we know so far about the iPhone 13 - or perhaps the iPhone 12s, although we're hearing that Apple will go ahead with the "iPhone 13" branding this year. We'll run through what we've heard about the likely release date, on-sale date, new features, price, design changes and specifications.
The good news is it doesn't sound like we will have long to wait now: an investment analyst has confidently predicted that it will be unveiled in the third week of September, which almost certainly means Tuesday 14 September, and Jon Prosser claims his sources are indicating pre-order and on-sale dates of Fridays 17th and 24th.
Less pleasingly, it looks like the new devices will be in seriously short supply, after Apple predicted shortages in its (otherwise very positive) Q3 earnings report.
If you're wondering whether to buy this year or hold out for the 2022 models, read Reasons to wait for the iPhone 14 for our thoughts on why it may be worth waiting until next year. We also ask iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Buy iPhone 12 or wait for iPhone 13?
Or read iPhone 13 event: Why disappointment threatens for a thoroughly pessimistic view of the upcoming festivities.
We expect the iPhone 13 to be announced at an Apple Event on 14 September 2021, pre-orders are then likely to start on Friday 17 September, and the new iPhone may start to ship on the Friday after that: 24 September. This is how it usually plays out. It's typical for Apple to release the new phone around a week after the introduction.
On that basis these dates look most likely:
- iPhone 13 Keynote: Tuesday 14 September
- iPhone 13 pre-orders: Friday 17 September
- iPhone 13 on sale: Friday 24 September
Apple leaker Jon Prosser says his sources have the pre-order and start dates of the iPhone 13 lineup on the 17 September and 24 September confirmed. Of course until we have the event date confirmed by Apple, you should treat this information with caution.
Up until 2020, Apple had been quite consistent with the release dates of its iPhones. The new handsets are usually announced near the beginning of September and released a week or so later. Occasionally there are exceptions, such as last year's iPhone 12 models, but also the iPhone X and XR, which came out in November and October respectively, and the spring-launched iPhone SE series. But more often than not it's September. Here's an overview of every iPhone launch date if you are interested:
|iPhone 12||October/November 2020|
|iPhone SE (2020)||April 2020|
|iPhone 11||September 2019|
|iPhone XR||October 2018|
|iPhone XS||September 2018|
|iPhone X||November 2017|
|iPhone 8||September 2017|
|iPhone 7||September 2016|
|iPhone SE (2016)||March 2016|
|iPhone 6s||September 2015|
|iPhone 6||September 2014|
|iPhone 5s||September 2013|
|iPhone 5||September 2012|
|iPhone 4s||October 2011|
|iPhone 4||June 2010|
|iPhone 3GS||June 2009|
|iPhone 3G||July 2008|
COVID-19 caused major disruption in the Apple supply chain, delaying the announcement of the 12-series iPhones until October 2020. But the iPhone 13 is expected to return to its traditional place in the calendar, with a September 2021 release. For information about when to buy read: When is the best time to buy a new iPhone?
Back in March 2021 analyst Dan Ives predicted that the new iPhones would go on sale at the end of September 2021, which would suggest an announcement a week or two before that. Ives later became the first analyst to commit themselves to a specific week, claiming in July that the big day would be in the third week of September. Since iPhones are almost always announced on Tuesdays, that points strongly at 14 September 2021.
Evidence from the supply chain suggests that things are largely going to plan. The assembly partners have been named, and the A15 chip was in production as early as May 2021. Apple even appears to have committed itself to unit volumes: it has ordered 90 million handsets to last until the turn of the year, and 100 million units of the A15 processor chip which will appear in the devices. (If you're wondering about the 10 million leftover chips, these may be used in an upcoming iPad Air or other Apple device.)
Even with these large-scale orders, however, Apple itself has signalled that shortages are likely. "We expect supply constraints during the September quarter to be greater than what we experienced during the June quarter," company CFO Luca Maestri told investors during the Q3 earnings call. "The constraints will primarily impact iPhone and iPad."
There are various reasons for these worries. One is the current worldwide semiconductor shortage, whose effects Apple has largely escaped up to now but will probably hit the company at some point. Another is the high expected demand for the 13-series phones; one survey suggested that 44% of currently iPhone owners plan to upgrade to an iPhone 13 when it comes out (although we have some issues with the survey's methodology).
iPhone 13 (and 13 mini, 13 Pro and so on) still seems the most likely branding, particularly after the theory was backed up by a July report from Economic Daily News. "The supply chain has reported that this year's new phone will be named iPhone 13," the site says.
Further evidence of this came in late August when Twitter user DuanRui (who denies that he is a leaker, although we've seen his name in association with various bits of Apple information recently) shared an iPhone 13 sticker, which he said he believed to be "relatively reliable".
iPhone 13 🤔 source: http://t.co/INCk7dSbj9
Let me emphasize again that I am not a leaker. I don't have first-hand information. I just reprint some information that I have seen that I feel is relatively reliable. pic.twitter.com/Avy9ndDT4Q— DuanRui (@duanrui1205)
The photo he shares appears to show an Apple sticker that could be used for packaging. The name iPhone 13 can clearly be seen.
But there has been some resistance to the idea that the iPhone could be named 13: 18.3% of respondents to a survey in June said they would refuse to buy an iPhone 13 simply because they consider 13 to be an unlucky number. And even those who are not triskaidekaphobic themselves feel it might not be a wise choice, with an overwhelming 74% advising Apple to choose a different name.
There are other options. Apple's own engineers have reportedly been referring to the device internally as the iPhone 12s, which would align with the 'tick-tock' policy pursued from 2009 to 2015 (and returned to in 2018) where iPhone launches alternated between major, full-number updates in even years (iPhone 4, 5, 6, X) and minor, S-designated updates (4s, 5s, 6s, XS) in the odd years.
This has the side effect, of course, of making 'S' launches seem less important, and discouraging people from updating in those years. Apple may instead prefer to skip to "iPhone 14", or do away with the numbering system altogether and call the next launch the "iPhone (2021)" or similar.
Apple's staying quiet on the customer-facing brand it'll use for this year's phones, but we do now know the model numbers it will assign to them. In June 2021 it was noticed that the company had registered seven new phones with the EEC database, with the model numbers A2628, A2630, A2634, A2635, A2640, A2643 and A2645.
None of those correspond to the identifiers for known iPhone models. Such registrations have been a reliable indicator in the past that Apple will imminently launch a new set of products, so it does now appear that the iPhone 13 exists, whether it's called that or not.
How much will the iPhone 13 cost?
A report from Digitimes on 26 August 2021 claims Apple plans to raise prices for the new models of iPhone. The reason for the price increase is said to be the global chip shortage, which has caused component prices to skyrocket. Read: iPhone 13 will be more expensive than iPhone 12.
Not everyone agrees though. Researchers at TrendForce indicate that the iPhone 13 is likely to have similar pricing to the iPhone 12 series, with a starting price of around £799/$799. They said: "The iPhone 13 series is expected to remain similar to the iPhone 12 series assuming Apple is able to effectively control manufacturing costs, since the latest models do not come with significant hardware upgrades. As a result of this aggressive pricing scheme, iPhone shipment will likely maintain its growth trajectory for two consecutive years." More here: iPhone 13 'will cost the same as iPhone 12'.
iPhone pricing can be something of a moveable feast. The past few standard models have come with the following price tags:
- iPhone X: £999/$999
- iPhone XS: £999/$999
- iPhone 11: £729/$699
- iPhone 12: £799/$799
Now, the introduction of the iPhone Pro range that coincided with the iPhone 11 does explain the sudden drop, as it marks a bifurcation of the lineup. But, as you can see, the price of the iPhone 12 jumps up by £70/$100 when compared to its predecessor.
At the moment the range has a pattern that we think Apple may be settling on, with the following tiers:
- iPhone SE - £399/$399
- iPhone XR - £499/$499
- iPhone 11 - £599/$599
- iPhone 12 mini - £699/$699
- iPhone 12 - £799/$799
- iPhone 12 Pro - £999/$999
- iPhone 12 Pro Max - £1,099/$1,099
This gives potential buyers choices all the way up the price scale, with clear separation between the available devices. With this in mind, we expect Apple to stick with this structure and bring in the iPhone 13 at around £799/$799 and any mini or Pro models directly replacing their older siblings.
What will the iPhone 13 look like?
Apple is one of the more conservative companies in the tech sector when it comes to phone design. Historically it tends to find one (extremely elegant) chassis it likes and then stick with that for three or four generations, before eventually and begrudgingly changing things up to something else it will stick with for a long time.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that, while it's still early days and nothing is set in stone, you probably shouldn't expect a radical redesign in 2021. The square-edged 12-series handsets represented, if not the total design overhaul we saw with the iPhone X in 2017, a reasonably major tweak by Apple's standards. And it would be out of character for the company to change things again the year after.
For many of us this would be a big step backwards. Indeed the continued presence of a protruding camera module on the rear of the iPhone is a mystifying crime against design - albeit one that for many people is hidden by the use of a case.
So it's with a heavy heart that I report the publishing in May of design schematics that appear to indicate the iPhone 13 will have a camera bump that sticks out further than ever: a (comparatively) whopping 2.51mm, up from 1.5-1.7mm on the 12-series handsets. This will also mean the phones themselves will be thicker, with the new models measuring 7.57mm thick, up from 7.4mm on the iPhone 12.
This was backed up by a photo of iPhone 13 dummies published by in late June, which appeared to show camera modules that stick out more than on the 12-series handsets. It also shows a switch from a vertical to a diagonal configuration of the two lenses on the 13 and 13 mini.
Twitter user DuanRui has tweeted images apparently indicating that the camera lenses will be larger and the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera bump considerably thicker than that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Apple's engineers aren't doing this for the fun of it, of course: the larger module is designed to accommodate new features that will hopefully offer some consolation for the chunky chassis. You can read about these in the camera section.
Based on the dummies, it looks like the biggest change to the design will be the colours. Let's do a quick refresh on the colours currently available:
- iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max: Silver, gold, graphite, blue
- iPhone 12 and 12 mini: White, black, blue, green, red, purple
It's likely that most of those colours will reappear in the 13-series handsets: the 13 Pro is sure to come in silver, gold and some variant of grey/black, while the 13 will be available in white, black and red. But Apple will look carefully at sales of the blue and green options and may replace them.
There had been rumours that Apple is looking at two replacement colours: matt black and orangey bronze. The iPhone 7 came in a matt-black finish back in 2016 (alongside a glossier Jet Black, which doesn't appear to be an option this time), and is a fairly safe option; the source of the rumour says the orange finish is less likely to happen, and currently looks like an experiment rather than a commercial reality.
However, in August 2021 Twitter user Majin Bu published pictures of an alleged iPhone 13 Pro in a completely new shade of rose gold.
Based on what was sent to me today, has developed a Rose Gold colored iPhone unit, probably a variant discadred or planned for the future. Unfortunately I have no more information about it pic.twitter.com/ORvZ3eJ2aA— Majin Bu (@MajinBuOfficial)
This certainly won't be the first time the iPhone has come in a rose gold shade. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 both offered a rose gold option. It just seems strange that Apple would offer both a gold and a rose gold shade, what seems more likely is that rose gold could replace gold. Read: iPhone 13 Pro: New Rose Gold colour leaked.
There have also been rumours that Apple could introduce a purple shade to the pro models. Read about the possible colours Apple might choose here: iPhone 13 colour change could be most significant design difference.
iPhones tend to have good-quality displays that provide a slick user experience, but often lag behind those offered by other companies on raw specs - resolution being the most obvious example.
Is that going to change with the late-2021 generation of iPhones? Here are the technical changes and new features we expect from the iPhone 13's screen.
According to the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, we will get the same screen sizes this year as in the 2020 generation: 5.4in, 6.1in and 6.7in. That's the sensible and most likely outcome. But could Apple be tempted to withdraw the smallest of those options?
The iPhone 12 mini has been a failure by most metrics. In March we reported that Apple had to slash production orders for the 12 mini and its components after grossly overestimating demand. It hasn't sold well.
It seems surprising that Apple, with all its research and marketing resources, could have got this so wrong. But it's an understandable error, because we all thought the market was crying out for a small phone. You could hardly browse a fan site or use social media in 2019 and 2020 without stumbling across someone bemoaning the demise of the 4in smartphone and wishing they would make a return.
This wouldn't be the first time a vocal minority fooled the world into thinking it was more numerous than it really was. But there's another dimension to this misapprehension, which is that the nostalgics don't just miss the size of the first-gen iPhone SE; they also miss its price. The 12 mini is small but expensive, and the customers Apple was trying to appeal to were always more likely to compromise a little on screen size and buy the budget-friendly iPhone SE (2020) instead.
Based on this reasoning we feel that Apple should ditch the iPhone 13 mini and switch to a line-up of three iPhones this autumn: 6.1in iPhone 13, 6.1in 13 Pro and 6.7in 13 Pro Max. Or even add a new non-Pro model with the larger screen size.
But we suspect the company will give the mini design (at least) one more chance, and stick with 5.4in, 6.1in and 6.7in for another year. And Jon Prosser agrees that we can expect an iPhone 13 mini this autumn (or an iPhone 12 mini). For a summary of the situation, read Why Apple will make an iPhone 13 mini.
Here's another element of the display that Apple is expected to change: the notch.
While iPhone owners have grown used to that little bite taken out of the top of their screens, the notch remains a divisive feature; numerous Android phones manage to offer a true all-screen design without a notch in sight. (Macworld writer David Price, however, has written a surprisingly passionate opinion piece in defence of the notch, partly predicated on the problems with those Android designs, whether caused by popup cameras or under-screen sensors.)
Tech tipster Ice Universe reckons the notch on the iPhone 13 will be smaller than that of the iPhone 12, and Mac Otakara's sources in the supply chain agree - saying Apple plans to move the TrueDepth receiver from the front to the side of the phone to achieve this. Other sources reckon the TrueDepth sensor will remain in the same place but will be half the size of the current component.
It's worth considering, however, that there are different ways for a notch to be smaller. This is subjective, but it's probably fair to say that most iPhone owners would like it to be narrower - but Ice Universe and, more recently, Jon Prosser have been suggesting that it will instead be shorter.
In March 2021, however, a leaked image did the rounds showing the iPhone 13 with a notch that is both shorter and narrower - the best of both worlds. Here's what it looks like:
And just to be really confusing, Mac Otakara's sources have since supplied exact dimensions of the new notch design, and they suggest it will be narrower but very slightly deeper.
The width of the notch will drop from 34.83mm to 26.80mm, the site claims, but its height will increase fractionally from 5.3mm to 5.35mm. An extra half a millimetre won't hurt, we'd say, although it's a disappointment that it isn't getting shorter.
In April another leaked image came out hinting at a small-notched design for the iPhone 13. This shows a pre-release screen protector for the new iPhone, which is designed with a noticeably smaller space for the notch:
And the Indian website 91Mobiles has also released renders showing a smaller notch:
At some point, of course, the notch will be removed entirely, and there is a huge weight of wishful thinking behind this idea: you should expect notch-free predictions right up to the iPhone 13 launch event. But it will probably have to wait until the launch of the iPhone 14.
One iOS developer has published a series of concept illustrations, giving an idea of what a notchless iPhone could look like. (That may seem absurdly easy to visualise - just imagine a full-screen display! - but it's valuable to get a sense of how much roomier such designs would feel to the user.)
Sorry for the delay, I finally got around to those mocks. All of these remove the ambient light sensor and sub w/ induction speaker.
1st- Based on current notch layout— Cameron.swift (@CameronD_swift)
2nd - Based on 11/12 camera module (my fav)
3rd - #2 with under display concept like ZTE Axon 20 pic.twitter.com/KPLJNwP3wv
Finally, the concept designer Antonio De Rosa has come up with an unusual way of removing the notch and still accommodating forward-facing sensors - but you might not like it. Take a look:
ProMotion/120Hz refresh rate
It was disappointing when the iPhone 12 range arrived with 60Hz screens, given that a wide range of Android devices already boast 90Hz or even 120Hz refresh rates, and the iPad Pro has had 120Hz for some time. But of course, this leaves the door open for Apple to introduce the faster displays on the iPhone 13.
The consensus is that 2021 will finally be the year for the 120Hz iPhone. One source, indeed, has gone so far as to predict which partner will supply the 120Hz screens for this year's launch. (To see why this would be a big deal, read our coverage of why display experts say you should wait for iPhone 13.)
The new iPhones this year will again be OLED displays - Apple has even recruited a new OLED supplier for the new phones. There's no danger that the company will go back to LCD, despite the potential for cost cutting.
But there are other screen technologies Apple could add to the package. There's a recurring rumour, for example, that it will use LTPO display technology for the iPhone 13, as found on the Apple Watch. LTPO offers superior energy efficiency, lowering power drain and potentially boosting battery life. The technology can extend battery performance by up to 15%, although Apple may choose to sacrifice some of this by increasing power demands elsewhere.
Multiple sources have since added further weight to the LTPO rumour - an April report said the tech will appear in the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max only, while a May report backed this up and said the screens will have a 120Hz refresh rate - and claim production of the screens will begin in the first half of 2021.
Back in February the YouTube channel EverythingApplePro published a video discussing claims from leaker Max Weinbach about this year's new iPhones. Several of these claims are commonplace - 120Hz refresh rate, better ultra-wide-angle camera - but we were intrigued by his prediction that Apple will offer an always-on LTPO OLED screen.
Apple uses LTPO for the Apple Watch Series 5 and 6, whose always-on screens display time and a small amount of other essential information even when nominally 'asleep'; the displays update once per second. The iPhone 13, similarly, is expected to display the time, date, buttons for camera and torch and some (non-animated) notifications, all at low brightness.
The theory popped up again in July 2021, championed this time by the widely trusted Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. Corroboration between two reputable sources upgrades the always-on screen from a very long shot to a distinct possibility - although we wouldn't yet describe ourselves as convinced on this one.
There are rumours - based on a patent Apple applied for back in February 2020 - that a future iPhone could have touch-sensitive sides. A kind of wraparound screen.
There's a concept video that looks into this idea. For more information, read Concept video shows iPhone 13 with touchscreen edges.
Face ID is fast and secure, but in a post-COVID world of face masks, Touch ID can sometimes be more useful. Apple is unlikely to bring back the Home button, where the fingerprint scanner used to live, but there are other ways it could equip the next iPhone with both face and finger recognition.
The most exciting option would be to embed the fingerprint scanner under the display. That's something we've seen on Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8T, and there are rumours that Apple will do likewise.
Prolific leaker Jon Prosser gave the nod to a tweet from fellow tipster @L0vetodream, who stated rather cryptically "MESA uts for iPhone". Apparently this is deciphered as MESA (Touch ID) uts (under the screen) for iPhone (well, we think you can work that one out).
In January 2021 both a Bloomberg report and the respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that the 2021 iPhone will have Touch ID below the screen (and no Lightning port), and the Wall Street Journal added its weight to the theory later that month. Apple has been granted a patent for an under-screen fingerprint scanner, so it's clearly something the company's engineers are exploring.
However, as we near the launch of the iPhone 13 this is looking less likely. Most indications are that Touch ID won't make a return until 2022, if at all.
Of course, with the iPad Air 2020 embedding Touch ID in the power button instead, Apple may decide that this solves the problem in a neater fashion. But it wouldn't have the wow factor of under-screen scanning.
A more likely solution is that Apple will focus on a way to make Face ID work better with masks.
According Jon Prosser, writing on Front Page Tech on 25 August 2021, Apple is working on a new form of Face ID, which should allow users to unlock the iPhone 13 even if they are wearing a protective mask.
According to Prosser, the updated Face ID planned for the iPhone 13 is undergoing testing via a prototype attached to the iPhone 12. "This prototype case allows the iPhone 12, to bypass the regular Face ID and use the new hardware within the case instead."
The new Face ID should also work for fogged glasses, Prosser claims. Internally, Apple employees have been asked to wear masks and glasses to test the new hardware. More here: Face ID for iPhone 13 will work with masks - Prosser.
iPhone 13 tech specs
The next generation of iPhones will feature boosted specifications across the board, from upgraded processors to improved cameras. Here's what we've seen rumoured so far.
A15 Bionic processor
The iPhone 13 handsets will be based on an A15 processor.
We know that the A15 will be faster than the A14 (that much is obvious) and based on an improved 5 nanometre (5nm) production process - rather than an entirely new 3nm process, which is expected on the A16 - from supplier TSMC. This will make it more efficient than the A14 chip you'll find in the iPhone 12 series.
In an in-depth analysis of the improvements we can expect from the A15, Macworld US's Jason Cross estimates that it could be as much as 15-20% bigger than the A14, with the transistors to match.
"That puts the hypothetical transistor budget of the A15 in the range of around 14 billion," Cross writes. "As a very broad rule of thumb, I'm expecting that the company has around 15-20% more transistors to work with and base my performance and feature predictions on that value."
We don't yet know the capacity of the batteries in the 13-series handsets, but we're starting to get an idea of the comparative performance we can expect.
Apple won't yet have access to the potentially game-changing battery improvements that will be made possible by the 4nm A16 processor in 2022 (as outlined in the future of the iPhone section), but two other changes should see solid improvements. The 5G modem in this year's iPhone will support better battery life; as will the expected use of energy-efficient LTPO displays (discussed elsewhere in this article).
As ever, the question is how much Apple cares about battery performance. For every improvement in efficiency gained via tech upgrades, the company may choose to reduce the size of the battery to create a slimmer phone, or increase energy demands by adding power-draining new features.
Based on the frequency of customer complaints about iPhone battery life, however, we're optimistic that Apple will make this aspect of the phone's performance a priority.
While we're on the subject of battery power, let's mention some potential changes to the iPhone's charging setup.
Sources claim the iPhone 13 will have larger charging coils than previous models, which could have two potential knock-on effects: the necessity for stronger magnets, and the possibility of reverse charging. The latter is the feature, popular among Android users, whereby a smartphone can itself charge smaller devices such as wireless earbuds.
It's understood, too, that the iPhone 13 will support faster charging than previously: 25W, up from 20W on the iPhone 12 handsets. But note that this applies to wired charging, not MagSafe, which is currently capped at 15W.
Sources say the iPhone 13 will have much better cameras than the iPhone 12. But let's get specific.
There will be a raft of new photographic features. One of the latest to be revealed is currently known as Cinematic Video, and appears to be essentially Portrait Mode for video: it bokeh-blurs out the background (in a way that is adjustable, both before and after you shoot) and draws attention to the subject.
There are differences of opinion on the subject of LiDAR - the technology that enables users to measure and map a 3D space, handy for AR applications and low-light photography improvements; this is currently only offered by the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models. Back in January news of a three-year supplier agreement with Sony suggested that all iPhone 13 models would feature LiDAR, but in July 2021 the prolific technology leaker DylanDKT contradicted this with a prediction that, once again, LiDAR would be for Pro handsets only.
The Taiwanese outlet DigiTimes, meanwhile, expects Apple to add sensor-shift optical image stabilisation across all models of iPhone 13. Again, this is something currently offered on the top-end model only.
In terms of glassware, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has floated the idea that the ultra-wide-angle lens (which we expect to appear in the two Pro models only) might have its aperture changed from f2.4 to f1.8. This will double the amount of light that can be admitted and improve low-light performance. The ultra-wide lens will also get autofocus, which should improve close-up work.
(Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Thomas O'Malley, meanwhile, argue that all four iPhone 13 models will be equipped with an upgraded ultra-wide-angle camera.)
However, in later guidance in January 2021 Kuo suggested we will not see new camera lenses in this autumn's iPhone update. For more detail on this, read iPhone 13 camera lenses will be same as 12. In April, he further predicted that there will be relatively few camera changes in the 2021 generation.
A January 2021 report suggested the cameras of the iPhone 13 could be about 0.9mm larger and be entirely covered with sapphire glass. Read more about that story here: iPhone 13 will have smaller notch and bigger camera.
We round up all the rumours about the cameras in the new handsets here: iPhone 13 camera features coming in 2021.
iPhone 12 models sold in the US offer mmWave (or millimetre wave), but elsewhere this form of 5G isn't offered - here in the UK, for instance, we rely on the slower sub-6GHz version of 5G, which US users get in addition to mmWave.
That may change with the iPhone 13. Apple is said to have made a large order for mmWave antenna, which should mean that the UK and other countries will get faster 5G with the iPhone 13.
(Sounds good, right? For the contrary point of view, however, it's worth reading What's the point of adding mmWave 5G to the iPhone 13? Among other things the article asks: "Given that around the world support for this standard is sparse, does it really matter if the new iPhone supports it or not?")
In April the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo supported this theory, predicting that support for mmWave would be rolled out in far more countries as part of the launch of this autumn's iPhone 13 models. He mentioned Canada, Australia, Japan and "major European mobile operators", which we hope includes the UK.
The theoretical maximum speed for mmWave is 1-2 gigabits per second, compared to the 100-400 megabits offered by Sub-6 GHz. However, Sub-6GHz offers a longer range, which is to the benefit of users outside the big cities. We have a separate article where you can read about the 5G coverage problems faced by the iPhone 12 in the UK.
We have a good idea, by the way, of the exact components Apple will use to provide 5G connectivity in its next two generations of iPhone. Following the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 in the iPhone 12, we will probably see the X60 in the iPhone 13 and the newly updated X65 in the iPhone 14.
The latter is interesting because it allows the use of mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G at the same time, and offers unprecedented speeds of up to 10Gb/s and even improved power efficiency.
It's a bit disappointing, then, that the X65 is unlikely to make it into this year's new iPhone handsets. But there's always the iPhone 14 to look forward to.
According to a July 2021 report from the Taiwanese site DigiTimes, the late-2021 iPhones will feature support for the new Wi-Fi 6E wireless standard.
Wi-Fi 6E is similar to Wi-Fi 6, which the last two generations of iPhone already support. But it adds compatibility with the 6Hz band, increasing bandwidth, improving speeds and reducing interference.
DigiTimes isn't the first site to make this prediction; Barclays analysts forecast the same upgrade back in January 2021.
Will the iPhone finally break the terabyte barrier this year? After a knock to the theory in June, analysts are once again backing Apple to offer a 1TB version of the iPhone 13.
For background, flagship iPhones have topped at out 512GB since the iPhone XS in 2018, yet iPads brought in a terabyte tier in the same year and started offering 2TB this year. While few iPhone users truly need that much storage space, those who film in high resolution would see some benefits.
Back in October 2020, leaker Jon Prosser that the iPhone 13 could come with twice as much storage as current models. Prosser repeated the 1TB theory in a video in January 2021, suggesting no new evidence had appeared to make him doubt the idea.
At the end of February, analysts from Wedbush fell in with the theory, predicting, based on supply-chain information, that the iPhones for late 2021 would for the first time offer the option of a whopping 1TB of storage.
A lone voice of dissent emerged in late June 2021, when a report from the Taiwanese research firm TrendForce firmly predicted that the flagship model of the iPhone 13 series - or 12s series, as the company refers to it - would be capped at 512GB. But Wedbush sent out another note to clients in July 2021 to reiterate that, on the contrary, there will be a 1TB iPhone 13.
No more Lightning port
One of the stranger rumours that seems to be picking up traction is that Apple will ditch the Lightning port on the iPhone 13 and feature no ports at all.
Rather than rely on cables for charging, all power will be delivered wirelessly. This would instantly render many accessories and power banks redundant, but Apple has never been shy about making unpopular decisions in the past.
There's also an interesting sidebar to this issue, which is that the EU has been on the warpath for a while about proprietary charging standards, and it looks like a draft law forcibly standardising smartphone ports will happen in 2021.
In theory this could oblige Apple to produce a USB-C iPhone for sale in Europe - and even more theoretically, could encourage it to base all its new iPhones on USB-C so as to avoid the production inefficiency of making more than one design. But it's hard to see a company as large and powerful as Apple bowing to mid-level political pressure in this way.
Our suspicion is that the portless iPhone, discussed by fans for so long, will not become a reality for some time yet. (One Apple site has claimed that there is a portless 'variant' of the iPhone 13, but our impression is that this is more of a testing prototype for long-term development than a serious contender for commercial release.) One day it will happen, but we doubt that day will be in 2021.
And finally, there's just time for a quick mention of MagSafe. Not the MagSafe standard (discussed elsewhere) used by the iPhone 12 and family to attach wireless chargers to their rear, but a new magnetic cable standard that's far closer to the old MagSafe used by MacBooks.
Apple has patented "a plurality of magnets aligned with a linear configuration of the plurality of spring-biased pin assemblies..."
Actually, it's probably easier if you look at this illustration:
At WWDC 2021 we got our first look at iOS 15, the operating system that will be running on iPhone 13 out of the box. You can get a sneak preview before the iPhone 13 arrives, as iOS 15 is available in both developer and public beta right now. Here's how to get the iOS 15 beta.
It includes significant updates to FaceTime, Messages and content sharing, controls to help you better balance life, work and downtime, support for Live Text and enhanced Memories, plus updates to Wallet, Weather and Maps.
New in FaceTime is spatial audio for a more lifelike experience, voice isolation, Grid View and Portrait Mode. Links finally let you schedule FaceTime calls and share links to those chats via Messages, Mail or more - excitingly, this can now also include Android and Windows users via a web browser. And then there's SharePlay, which lets you listen to music, watch movies or share your screen, while picture-in-picture even lets you multitask on the call.
Focus is an important update in iOS 13, giving notifications a fresh new look that include contact photos and notification summaries, making it easier to quickly catch up when you have a load come in at once. These are ordered by priority, but you can also use Focus settings for Personal, Work and Sleep - even custom settings that trigger when you reach a certain destination, such as the gym - to get more control over which notifications should be considered a priority at a particular time. These Focus modes sync across all your Apple devices.
Live Text is another of the more exciting additions to iOS 15, allowing you to select text in any image - even those already in your library - then copy and paste that text into another app such as Mail. It supports seven languages.
There are some new features coming to Maps to make exploring cities easier too, with added details showing landmarks, commercial districts, marinas and notable buildings, lane information for buses, taxis and bikes, 3D mapping of overlaying intersections, and more. In London, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington you'll also be able to use iPhone 13's camera with augmented reality to work out exactly where you are when you exit a station and which way to turn next.
Apple also confirmed at WWDC that the Wallet app would soon be upgraded to support compatible car keys and door keys for home, work and hotels, plus US ID cards, which it says you'll be able to use at airports. The Weather app is getting a significant design update, too.
For the full rundown of new software features coming to iPhone 13, visit our separate article on iOS 15.
iPhone 13 wish list
The leaks and rumours discussed above are the things that are likely to happen. But while there's some degree of overlap (particularly among optimists!), that's not quite the same as talking about the things we want to happen.
Here are the five changes we most want to see in the iPhone 13. They may not be practical for this generation, but it's what we'd ask for if a genie turned up.
- Removal of the notch: Let's not beat about the bush here. It needs to go.
- Removal of the camera bump: Yes, everyone these days uses a case. But with the much-touted improvements in drop protection and water resistance of recent generations, it should be possible to put a naked iPhone on a table without scratching the camera module. (Sadly it looks like Apple is going the other way on this one.)
- 120Hz screen refresh rate: It's past time.
- Touch ID in the power button: So we can have Face ID and Touch ID at the same time, without the cost implications of an under-screen fingerprint scanner.
- Longer battery life: It's too easy to simply ask for something to be better, so we're going to try to be specific. Battery life needs to be prioritised over looks. We don't mind if the next iPhones are a little thicker (which they may be anyway, so as to accommodate the larger camera unit) if that means a higher-capacity battery cell and a longer life away from the charger. The use of LTPO screen tech should help here, too.
iPhone development won't stop in September 2021, and neither will the rumours. Plenty of leakers and analysts have theories about the direction of Apple's smartphone department in 2022 and beyond; quite a few have suggested that this year's will be a dull update by comparison with the ones to follow.
The portless iPhone concept, for example, is a radical reimagining of how the device can be constructed and used, but is unlikely to make this year's launches. And the removal of the notch is likely to wait until 2022: the iPhone 14 Pro will, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, have a punch-hole display design.
The big jump in terms of processors is also likely to come in 2022. The A16 in the iPhone 14 will be 4nm and we can therefore expect major gains in energy efficiency: this could mean a jump in battery life, a lighter device with a smaller battery unit, superior performance, or a combination of all three.
Many of the most intriguing updates on their way in the medium to long term are camera-focused. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that by 2022, for example, the iPhone will feature a 10x optical zoom, while its big-zoom 'periscope' lens isn't expected to arrive until 2023.
In terms of design, the evidence is piling up that Apple is working on something very radical: more radical indeed than the iPhone X. An embryonic clamshell design currently known as the iPhone Flip is in development at Apple HQ.
Prolific leaker Jon Prosser says it's reminiscent of the Galaxy Z Flip, and will come in "fun colours". But he also warns that it won't launch in 2021 or even 2022.
One source of info for long-term Apple planning is the company's patent activity. In April, for example, news emerged of a patent describing methods of warning iPhone (and Apple Watch) users to charge up before the battery runs out. But always bear in mind that patents don't always lead to actual products: a huge proportion of patent activity is exploratory, and some is disinformation intended to mislead rivals.
For a deeper dive into the future, read Samuel Nyberg's analysis piece: The next 20 years of the iPhone.
We'll keep updating this article as more news and rumours arise, so be sure to keep coming back to see what we uncover.
In the meantime, if you don't want to wait until autumn to update your device, check out our iPhone buying guide and our roundup of the best iPhone deals so you can find the one that's best for your needs.
For more information about what Apple will launch over the course of the year, read our guide to the New Apple products coming out in 2021.