No more notch, foldable? Top analyst forecasts what's next for iPhone
Betting on what comes next from Apple has always been something of a parlor sport, at least among the most diehard of iPhone users. They wonder, for example, when Apple might ditch the Lightning connector or “notch?” Or bring out a “foldable” phone similar to the models Samsung and other rivals have had on the market for a while now?
With such queries top of mind, I bring you highlights from a 2021-2023 iPhone forecast just released by Asia-Pacific tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TFI Asset Management. He has the cred to have been called “The Most Accurate Apple Analyst in the World.”
2021: Kuo expects all new second-half ’21 iPhones to pretty much mirror the iPhone 12 series lineup. That means four new models with the same screen sizes as the current crop (5.4- and 6.1-inches on the 12s; 6.1- and 6.7-inches on the 12 Pro models). The phones will continue to support Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, Kuo predicts.
What you may see are smaller “notch” designs, the area on the front of the phone that covers up the camera and various sensors. Otherwise the phones will house newer Qualcomm 5G chips, improved cameras, and feature a larger battery, thanks to design modifications that reduce the size of many internal components. Only the top two models will be equipped with LiDAR.
Meantime, Apple will not release a new iPhone SE model in the second half of the year.
“We think that iPhone shipment growth in 2021 will be driven by 5G replacement demand, high-end market share gain due to the US’s ban on Huawei, and the more affordable iPhone 11,” Kuo writes. Overall, he forecasts iPhone shipments to reach around 230 million units, reflecting year over year growth between 15% and 20%.
2022: Kuo does expect Apple to release a new SE model during the first half of next year, with designs and specs that are similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone SE. The processor will get a bump and there’ll be 5G support.
The bigger news, potentially, is that Apple will finally abandon the notch, at least on the higher end models likely to be introduced in the second half of the year. Instead, these phones will have the kind of “punch-hole” designs seen on rival handsets.
Kuo also predicts that the new phones will feature autofocus front cameras.
2023: Reading the tea leaves, 2023 appears to something of a wildcard, and given we are still a couple of years away that isn't terribly surprising. If the iPhone 11 is phased out, look for Apple to launch a new model with about a 6-inch LCD, Face ID support, and a sub-$600 price tag.
Meanwhile, assuming no hiccups, Kuo expects a fresh high-end model will an under-display fingerprint sensor—we’ve seen that feature on rival phones too---as well as a periscope-type telephoto camera, and full-screen rear design with no holes or notch. It isn't clear what happens to Face ID if that embedded fingerprint sensor indeed comes to pass.
Kuo seems unsure about the likelihood of a flexible-OLED based foldable iPhone, though it could happen. “We predict that if Apple can solve the foldable mobile device’s key technology and mass production issues in 2021, then Apple may launch the 7.5-8-inch foldable iPhone in 2023,” he writes.
For all the hoopla around foldable phones--this is me saying this, not Kuo--these high-priced handsets haven't exactly captured the mainstream, and there's hardly a guarantee that an iPhone foldable will dramatically change that equation.
Other Kuo predictions: If Apple abandons the Lightning connector in 2023 the company will bypass USB-C and instead come out with portless designs with MagSafe support.
And while Kuo believes the iPhone user experience will “significantly improve” if Apple adopts a power button with the Touch ID sensor, he adds that “currently, there is no visibility on the timing of adopting this new specification.”
We’ll have to check back in the future to see how close to the mark Kuo’s forecast will turn out to be.
What features and improvements would you like to see in the next iPhones?
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