What to expect at Apple's iPhone 13 event
Published Monday, September 13, 2021 12:02PM EDT
In this Tuesday, June 16, 2020 file photo, the sun is reflected on Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
A bigger iPhone battery that lasts longer. A diagonally-shaped camera system. And one terabyte of storage.
These are some of the latest rumors about what Apple may announce during a closely watched media event on Tuesday, where it's expected to reveal the latest iPhone lineup.
At a virtual event held from its Cupertino, California, headquarters, the company is likely to unveil four new iPhones: the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The company may also introduce new AirPods, a new Apple Watch and something related to augmented reality.
The iPhone 13 devices likely won't have any groundbreaking design changes. In fact, they'll probably look very similar to last year's models, with some exceptions. But there's a long list of potential feature changes under the hood, including perennial updates such as a faster processor, improved camera capabilities and better battery life.
The stakes are high for Apple. The iPhone continues to be a major revenue driver and central to its ecosystem of products. In April, Apple reported quarterly iPhone sales of nearly $48 billion, a massive 65% increase from the year prior, fueled by demand for its 5G-capable iPhone 12. (Apple no longer discloses the number of iPhone units sold.) Now it must entice customers to spend more than $1,000 for some models of the next generation.
"Apple clearly doesn't have to do much," said David McQueen, a director at market research firm ABI Research. "Despite the relatively high price points, consumers will still buy and upgrade to Apple products, partly because of brand strength and the quality of the products, and partly because they have already invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem."
Here's what to expect from Apple's big event, which kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on its website.
NO MORE 'NOTCH'
There may be at least one notable tweak to the phone's design: Apple could finally do away with the "notch" at the top of its display, which holds its TrueDepth camera, speakers, microphone and other sensors, to give a less obstructed view of the touchscreen.
When Apple debuted the iPhone X in 2017, it made headlines for removing the Home button and including smaller bezels around the frame to free up screen space. But there was that unattractive notch near the top. Now Apple may remove it all together, possibly repositioning the components to the bezels.
The device could also get an always-on display and an under-display Touch ID.
DIAGONAL CAMERAS, MORE STORAGE AND BIGGER, BETTER BATTERIES
The iPhone 13 and more budget-friendly iPhone 13 mini are rumored to have two rear-camera lenses placed diagonally for the first time, potentially to make room for a larger sensor.
Meanwhile, the three rear-camera lenses on iPhone 13 Pro models could come in different sizes and sit inside a thicker bump, reportedly for advancements with stabilization. New camera features could include portrait mode for videos and astrophotography support to take pictures of the night sky.
Other updates might include satellite technology support for sending messages in emergency situations, a faster refresh rate for better gaming, an improved 5G chip and a bigger battery that promises to last all day. (Bigger and better batteries may also be coming to the 5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini, helping to address one of the common complaints of Apple's smallest, thinnest and lightest 5G phone and potentially boost its lackluster sales.)
In a recent investor note, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said the iPhone 13 could come with an option for 1 terabyte storage option, double the Pro's maximum current storage capacity of 512 GB.
Beyond that, there's potential for augmented reality to be a focus, too. The picture included in this year's press invite featured an Apple logo over a lake. When users tapped the same picture on the Apple website, it opened an augmented reality tool.
NEW AIRPODS AND APPLE WATCHES
The company could introduce the new Apple Watch Series 7 model with updated health features and better battery life. Although some of the bigger rumored features, such as glucose monitoring and body temperature readings, aren't expected to hit until next year, Apple may announce a slightly larger screen, slimmer borders and a faster processor.
Apple may also show off its next-generation AirPods, featuring a design more in line with its higher-end AirPods Pro with spatial audio support and touch controls. The earbuds are rumored to come with a redesigned charging case that includes a 20% bigger battery so people can get more usage out of one charge.
MOVING CLOSER TO A WIRELESS FUTURE
For months, there have been rumors that Apple is about to drop the Lightning port from its iPhones. The move in that direction started years ago with the removal of the cord and plug from the box and continued on with the introduction of MagSafe, a magnetically attached wireless charger that snaps on and off to the back of an iPhone case.
Axing the port won't likely happen yet -- to start, its MagSafe partners need to be ready with more wireless chargers -- but the company is said to be working on expanding and improving compatible accessories to get its iPhones more primed for a wireless future.
A PRICE JUMP?
There could also be at least one unwelcome update this year: higher prices.
Apple tends to keep the cost of its new iPhones relatively close to its most recent prior models, but iPhone 13 prices could be slightly higher this year due to current issues with chip supply that are expected to hike prices.
"Despite the high profit margins on its iPhones, it would be of no surprise if Apple passed this rise onto the consumer, potentially pushing prices of its iPhones to their highest ever level," McQueen said.
A slight price change may not dissuade people from upgrading to an iPhone 13. But considering the iPhone 12 Pro models start in the four figures range, it's unclear how much more people will be willing to pay for a few incremental improvements.