The iPhone 14 Is Less Than Six Months Away. Here’s What to Expect

Even though it may feel like the iPhone 13 just went on sale, the iPhone 14 launch is less than six months away. Here’s what to expect, including upgrades of core features. Also: more on future Macs and iOS 15.5.

Last week on Power On: A “pro mode” is the solution to Apple’s iPad software conundrum.

The Starters
Starting with the iPhone 6 in 2014, Apple Inc. shifted to a three-year cycle for new hardware designs. In Year One of a new design, the company introduces a completely new look. In Year Two, it keeps that identical design, but upgrades the internals. In Year Three, the design gets some key changes.

This pattern has existed for the last three designs:

The iPhone 6 launched in 2014, followed by the iPhone 6s in 2015 with an identical design. The iPhone 7 then debuted in 2016 with updated antenna lines, a dual-camera on the Plus model and the removal of the headphone jack—but the same basic look.
The iPhone X launched in 2017, followed by the iPhone Xs in 2018 with the same design. When the iPhone 11 landed in 2019, it got a new camera system and matte-textured back.
Now, we’re on the iPhone 12 life cycle. That design was introduced in 2020 and kept the same in 2021 with the iPhone 13. For the iPhone 14 later this year, it will get some changes.
With the next iPhone line likely only about five months away, what should we expect with the latest installment?

First off, the overall design from the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 will stick around another year. Expect the same flat edges and rounded corners, but as I’ve reported in the past, a new notch on the Pro models. There will also be larger camera bumps to fit in new sensors.

That notch will include a pill-shaped cutout for Face ID and a circular cutout for the camera. That will be Apple’s solution until it’s able to fully embed Face ID and the front-facing camera into the display itself. That’s still at least three or four years away.

Speaking of displays, one of the biggest differences in the iPhone 14 lineup is that Apple is shaking up its screen sizes.

Here’s the iPhone 13 lineup of today:

5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini
6.1-inch iPhone 13
6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro
6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max
The relative sales performance of both the biggest and smallest sizes pushed Apple to rethink the lineup. The Max model is extremely popular, particularly in China, whereas the mini doesn’t sell well enough to even keep around. So here’s the solution Apple is planning for the iPhone 14:

6.1-inch iPhone 14
6.7-inch iPhone 14 Max
6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro
6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max
So, for the first time, the non-Pro iPhone line will get a 6.7-inch screen option. I think that version of the phone will be extremely popular given that users will now be able to get Apple’s largest iPhone size for at least $200 less than before.

That creates a conundrum, though: How does Apple differentiate its Pro and non-Pro phones? Right now, the big difference is a telephoto lens, stainless steel edges, a lidar scanner, a ProMotion screen, a few more hours of battery life, one extra graphics core and a 1-terabyte storage option.

That doesn’t seem like quite enough to justify the higher-end device’s Pro status. But Apple is doing more to distinguish the iPhone 14 Pro from the lower-end models:

From what I’m told, the new 48-megapixel sensor for the wide-angle camera (which is essentially the “main” camera on the iPhone) will be exclusive to the Pro models. The regular iPhone 14 line will stick to a 12-megapixel shooter.
As has been reported, the Pro models will get Apple’s new A16 chip, while the standard models are likely to stick to the A15 from last year or a variant of it. Beyond trying to make the Pro stand out, the chip shortage may have contributed to this decision.
For camera buffs, I think the vastly improved sensor is a nice selling point to move from the regular to the Pro, but I doubt a single-generation processor leap is enough to sway a user’s choice.

In addition to outward-facing upgrades, Apple is still working on bringing satellite connectivity to the iPhone. The company first aimed at adding the feature in last year’s model, but now the capability could be ready this time around.

To be clear: The iPhone won’t be getting the ability to make calls over satellite networks. Instead, the feature is designed to report emergencies or send short texts to emergency contacts when out of cellular service range. You can read Mark Gurman’s story from last year for more details.

Since reporting that the iPhone is gaining the feature, I’ve heard that the Apple Watch is also destined to get that functionality—either this year or in 2023. Whether it’s on the iPhone or Apple Watch, the technology would provide an alternative to the Garmin inReach Explorer and SPOT, handheld satellite communicators with similar features.

There have been signs lately that Apple and its apparent satellite partner Globalstar Inc. might be getting closer to launching such a feature. In February, Globalstar said it reached an agreement to buy 17 new satellites to help power “continuous satellite services” for a “potential”—and unnamed—customer that had paid it hundreds of millions of dollars.

Is that customer Apple? We’re probably less than six months from finding out.

The Bench
Add an M3-based iMac to your list of future models. Last week, I detailed Apple’s road map for the M2 chip and Mac. The plans include:

An M2 chip for a new MacBook Air, entry-level MacBook Pro and Mac mini
M2 Pro and M2 Max chips for a new 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro
A dual M2 Ultra chip for the Mac Pro
Since then, I’ve heard that the M2 chips aren’t the only ones in testing within Apple. And if you’re waiting for a new iMac, I’m hearing an M3 version of that desktop is already in the works—though I imagine it won’t launch until the end of next year at the earliest. Also, for those asking, I still think an iMac Pro is coming. It just won’t be anytime soon.

Apple’s next iPhone update, iOS 15.5, gets closer to release. WWDC is only weeks away, with the annual conference scheduled for early June. That’s when Apple will showcase iOS 16, watchOS 9, macOS 13 and a bunch of other major software updates for its devices. But there’s still one more update to iOS 15 on its way: 15.5.

The update went into its second beta this past week. New features are slim, with the release being more about bug fixes and compatibility with some upcoming Macs. But there are a few features to mention:

There are now buttons in the Wallet app below the Apple Cash Card for sending and receiving money. You previously needed to do this within Messages.
You can now get Wi-Fi signal strength indicators for paired HomePods within the Home app.
The iTunes Pass card, a digital card for storing iTunes and App Store funds, is now called the Apple Account Card.
Code within iOS 15.5 reveals underlying support for the upcoming classical music app, which is based on the company’s acquisition of Primephonic.
Apple also is expanding nude-image detection for child-owned iPhones within the Messages app outside of the U.S. for the first time. The feature will be arriving in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Schedule
April 28: Apple earnings. The company will give the lowdown on its fiscal second quarter, which concluded at the end of last month. During the period, Apple launched an updated iPhone SE, the Mac Studio and a new display. Analysts are looking for about $94 billion in revenue, up 5% from a year earlier, in what could be Apple’s biggest non-holiday quarter of the year.

June 6-10: WWDC 2022. Apple’s developer conference will take place across the entire week—virtually. However, the big news will be on Monday, when the company holds its annual keynote address to announce its latest software and other products. Later that day, Apple will hold a developer-focused keynote known as the State of the Union.