05/28 Update below. This post was originally published on May 25
Apple’s iPhone 14 range looks set to increase prices significantly. And now we have a better idea why…
Popular Korean tech site ET News reports that, for the first time in iPhone history, Apple will install a South Korean front camera in its smartphone. The camera will bring major upgrades in image quality (broken down here), but comes with an eye-watering cost increase.
05/27 Update: further details of Apple’s iPhone 14 production plans have now leaked and they come from two of the industry’s most credible sources. First acclaimed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has revealed that production of the new iPhone 14 Max “is running behind”. Kuo cites the Shanghai lockdown as a factor but says he is hopeful that “suppliers can work overtime to catch up with the schedule.”
Adding further context is Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) and one of the most accurate industry insiders. Replying to Kuo, Young claims that “iPhone 14 Max panel shipments have always been behind” adding “Not sure why.” Interestingly. he speculates “Perhaps they have modest volume targets for this one.” This is possible, but I suspect the iPhone 14 Max is going to be the most popular model in the iPhone 14 range.
Either way, Apple is potentially heading for its first split release since the iPhone 12 launch in 2020 — which in turn was only the second in iPhone history (following the iPhone 8 / iPhone X). So if you want an iPhone 14 Max at launch, you will need to act fast.
05/28 Update: iPhone 14 components continue to leak at a pace. Mysterious industry insider ShrimpApplePro, who first revealed the iPhone 14 Pro’s i-cutout display in September followed by detailed dimensions, has now leaked the first details of their new A16 chip.
The tipster says his source understands the A16 Bionic will continue to use the same 5nm (nanometer) fabrication process as both the A15 (2021) and A14 (2020) and will again be manufactured by TSMC. ShrimpApplePro also downplays rumors of major performance gains, saying “Upgrades are slightly better CPU, LPDDR5 RAM and better GPU.”
The big boost here is the move to LPDDR5 memory, which is 1.5x faster and 30% more power-efficient than the LPDDR4X memory used in the iPhone 13. That said, memory alone won’t deliver the big performance jumps we have seen from some new iPhone chip generations.
Interestingly, with Apple’s recent admission that supply lines are restricted, it sounds like Apple’s M2 chip is where the next innovation leap with occur. ShrimpApplePro reports it is the chip which will transition to 3nm — something previously tipped for the A16 — and that is understandable given its use across iPad, Mac and MacBook lines. 3nm is expected to reduce power consumption by 25-30% compared to 5nm chips, enabling higher clock rates and boosted performance.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 chipset mystery continues. We may have our first details on the A16 chip, but multiple leaks have claimed the chip will only come to iPhone 16 Pro models — potentially as the ‘A16 Pro’ — with iPhone 13’s A15 chip used in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max and renamed ‘A16’. How Apple fans would react to this strategy remains to be seen…
Citing industry sources, ET News claims that Apple was forced to quickly change its plans for the iPhone 14’s front camera following “quality problems from Chinese manufacturers” during testing. Consequently, Apple will install an LG Innotek camera module this year which was originally intended for the iPhone 15.
The good news is ET News reports the module brings advanced functionality to the iPhone’s front camera for the first time, including autofocus. This is something respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo first revealed back in April with autofocus joining an improved aperture for better depth-of-field in Portrait mode and video calls.
The downside is cost. According to ET News’ source, “the unit price of the iPhone 14 front camera has risen nearly three times compared to previous models.” This is the biggest component price increase I can remember. Historically, Apple’s moves to dual then triple rear cameras and the addition of a high refresh rate display have all added cost, but not a 3x multiple.
All of which adds to the narrative that Apple will increase iPhone prices by $100 for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, while the new iPhone 14 Max will be at least $200 more than the iPhone 13 Mini that it replaces.
On the flip side, following multiple reports that the standard iPhone 14 will be little more than a (potentially controversial) rehash of the iPhone 13, the leap in front camera quality could be one of the phone’s biggest selling points. Especially with the take-off in video calling in recent years.
Revelations that Apple surprisingly plans to switch the iPhone lineup to USB-C in 2023 and redesign base models mean I still think this is a bad year to upgrade. But for determined upgraders, things have just got a little better.
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