06/07 Update below. This post was originally published on June 4
Recent iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro leaks have revealed two very different iPhones, with Apple determined to widen the gap between Pro and non-Pro models. The news has split opinions and now differing information surrounding their release has done the same thing.
In recent weeks, contradictory reports have claimed that there will/won’t be a delay to the release of some iPhone 14 models. And now one of the most respected industry insiders has twisted the picture one more.
06/06 Update: Ahead of Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has used his Power On newsletter confirm that next-generation releases of all the company’s major platforms will be announced:
“What certainly will be at the conference are significant updates to the company’s core operating systems: iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS and macOS. This year’s event is likely to usher in a wider-than-usual breadth of new features,” he explains.
Gurman states that new hardware will follow and “the new [MacBook] Air will be the biggest revamp to the device in over a decade”. The potential launch of ‘realityOS’, a platform for Apple’s upcoming VR headset, is also mooted but far less certain.
Central to Apple’s iPhone plans, however, is iOS 16 and Gurman claims that a core element of the release will be an Always-on display. The interesting aspect around this, however, is Gurman claims it will be exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models “if the feature ends up making the cut.”
Always-on displays have been a staple of even mid-range Android phones for years, so seeing Apple limit this to its latest flagship models would be another example of how the company is determined to widen the gap between Pro and non-Pro models. Whether this strategy will prove successful or incite fan backlash remains to be seen.
06/07 Update: As expected, Apple officially unveiled iOS 16 yesterday at WWDC and it has set tongues wagging about the iPhone 14. While Apple announced a long list of new features coming to the next-generation release — including a revamped lockscreen with widgets and multiple pages, an upgraded notification system and overhauls of iMessage (edit/recall messages), Apple Pay, voice dictation and a new Safety Check security feature designed to protect people in abusive relationships — the much leaked Always-on display was missing.
This has two clear implications. First, as Gurman warned, the feature may not have made the cut into the final release of iOS 16. Second, the feature is being hidden until the iPhone 14 lineup launches in September. The problem with the latter is it would mean the feature is exclusive, with the company’s current iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max models excluded.
And this makes little sense. For starters, leaks report the A16 chip is a relatively minor upgrade from the A15, while the primary requirement for always-on displays are panels which can handle variable refresh rates to conserve battery life. The iPhone 13 lineup already has this technology and couples it with the most power-efficient smartphone chipset available.
As such, my feeling is this should serve as a red flag for aspiring iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max upgraders. Always-on displays have been a staple of Android for years without any of the top-end hardware of the current flagship iPhones, but it looks like Apple is already starting to reserve significant features (justifiably or not) for its next-gen models. I will revisit this should Always-on in iOS 16 get an official announcement as beta testing progresses, but I believe we just received our first big clue as Apple ramps up an aggressive strategy to ensure its iPhone 14 Pro models stand out from the pack.
In a series of tweets, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo disputed a recent report from ET News that supply problems have forced Apple to prematurely install a front-facing camera module intended for the iPhone 15 a year early at great cost.
“This report is not entirely consistent with my understanding,” explains Kuo. “1. If LG Innotek became iPhone 14 front camera supplier in 2Q22, it would be almost impossible to catch up with the development schedule for 2H22 iPhone 14. 2. I believe Apple had already chosen LG Innotek and Cowell as the iPhone 14 front camera suppliers in 4Q21 at the latest.”
This aligns with Kuo’s earlier claims that iPhone 14 production overall is “under control currently.” That said, both Nikkei Asia and Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu believe that supplies of the iPhone 14 Max are delayed by almost a month.
Similarly, Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) and one of the most accurate industry insiders, has countered that “iPhone 14 Max panel shipments have always been behind.” Consequently, Apple may be heading for its second iPhone split release in the last five years (iPhone 12/iPhone 12 Mini), which in turn was only the second in iPhone history (iPhone 8/iPhone X).
It is a surprise to see insiders split like this, because historically leaks around iPhone releases are fairly consistent. This tends to be due to the global way iPhones are mass-produced, with even Apple’s secretive expertise unable to stem the flow of leaks as production is cranked up.
Split release or not, the most divisive aspect of the iPhone 14 launch is likely to be the phones themselves. While the standard iPhone 14 models will inherit the same design, chipset and rear cameras as the iPhone 13 lineup, iPhone 14 Pro models will leap ahead with upgrades in all three departments and increased prices to match.
How iPhone fans respond to Apple’s aggressive attempt to upsell buyers to these more expensive models, remains to be seen.
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