06/27 update below. This article was originally published on June 24
While the iPhone 15 leaks revealed most of Apple’s big upgrades, questions remain about the cost of the new lineup, with the Pro models expected to increase by up to $200. But now there is a dramatic development.
In a surprising move, Apple will allegedly reduce the manufacturing process for its new A17 chipset for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, making the chip less efficient but less expensive to produce. The news comes via a popular Weibo poster Cell phone chipset expertwhich has amassed nearly 400,000 followers due to its strong track record of chip production leaks.
“The A17 used in the stock iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max this year is the N3B process, but the A17 produced sometime next year will be converted to the lower-cost N3E process, which may be less efficient,” he explains.
TSMC makes Apple’s chips, and the N3B is the company’s latest technology in making chips measuring three nanometers (3 nanometers) across. TSMC claims it consumes up to 35% less power while delivering better performance than the 5nm A16 chipset found in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
Like the N3B, the N3E’s manufacturing process is still 3nm but has a lower zonal density, which makes it easier to manufacture, resulting in higher chip yields and lower production costs. The downside is lower logic density which means chips have higher power draw, which can affect battery life.
But the real shocker for me is the timing. The leaker indicates that the move will happen in 2024, which would be the middle of the iPhone 15 lineup cycle, given that the new range will be launched in September 2023. Although it is not unusual for Apple to switch component manufacturers in the middle of the cycle, the It would be very unusual for a Core chip to switch operations.
However, this transition has been approved by my contacts, who also say that any cost savings to Apple are unlikely to be passed on to customers, and iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max price increases are still expected.
Are you looking for a silver lining? If I had to guess, I suspect the chip key could be a preparation for the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus rather than a mid-cycle replacement for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. In recent years, Apple has established a pattern of using last year’s Pro tech in next-generation standard models, and finding a cheaper way to make the A17 chip for the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus in 2024 would make a lot of sense.
Either way, it looks like customers will pay more for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max this year, regardless of any potential mid-cycle production cost savings. In return, buyers can expect an updated ultra-thin bezel design, improved cameras, and a new customizable action button, while the entire range will move to USB-C.
Will that be enough to entice developers? Leakers and analysts disagree, with one prominent leaker calling the iPhone 15 range “too modest to upgrade,” while analysts expect record sales. It remains to be seen how Apple’s notoriously loyal fans react.
Update 06/26: Two of the biggest upgrades for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are sealed today after a new case leak from longtime industry insiders Majin Boo.
Bu has an excellent track record, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max case mold video shows off both the larger rear camera cutouts for the larger camera sensors and the smaller cutouts for the customizable action button that will replace the outgoing mute switch.
The action button will be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models, and uses a pressure-sensitive solid-state sensor to recognize input, similar to the tap technology long seen in MacBook laptops. This should increase durability and water resistance.
As for the cameras, the main news is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which will be the first iPhone to come with a periscope optical zoom lens. Yes, Apple used a different primary camera sensor on the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro, but there wasn’t a noticeable difference in image quality.
It will be different this year, as the periscope lens is likely to open a wide gap in the performance of the zoom camera in favor of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Certainly, when the technology was used by competitors, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, it advanced zoom performance on iPhones.
Thus, while the Pro Max models usually offer the same feature set in larger size and with a larger battery than their Pro counterparts, we can expect the iPhone 15 Pro Max to widen the gap in 2023.
However, this difference may only last for a year, with leaks already claiming that Apple will Increase the screen size of the iPhone 16 Pro in 2024 from 6.1 inches to 6.3 inches, which is enough to house the periscope zoom lens as well. Beware of the paparazzi.
Update 06/27: With production picking up around the iPhone 15 range, more new phone cases have leaked, teasing out some of the key features Apple will be introducing.
High-res photos from longtime Chinese leaker Uncle Pan (via MacRumors) leaked iPhone 15 Pro, showing the smaller cutouts for the new action button that will replace the mute switch, a change also reflected in the cases Majin Bu leaked yesterday.
Some long-time iPhone users will feel the loss of the mute switch, since it is very simple and can be easily operated by muscle memory. However, a customizable solid-state button unlocks quick launch options, such as camera, flashlight, and more, which should be more useful for most users. If you stick with the mute switch, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus models will keep it for another year.
The box images also show the larger bottom edge cutout for the new USB-C port. Although it looks similar to Lightning, USB-C is slightly thicker than Apple’s proprietary ports and case makers should adjust accordingly. Apple is jumping ahead to be pushed with USB-C after the European Union made it the new common charger standard for smartphones and mobile devices, a law that will take effect in late 2024.
Finally, MacRumors notes that the new cases feature slightly repositioned power and volume buttons. Compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro buttons will be placed slightly lower, making them easier to reach.
Apple has a history of tweaking the placement of its volume buttons, and it seems the company has never been entirely happy with it, even though iPhone screen sizes have remained unchanged since the iPhone XS Max, which launched in 2018. This is the first leak that’s been released. It reveals that Apple is tinkering again, but it won’t be the last as the company is already inclined to increase iPhone screen sizes in 2024, and that will lead to more modifications.
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