48MP camera. 8K video. 8GB of RAM. 2TB of SSD. 3 or 4 nanometer chipset. Satellite modem. iPhone 4-style design. With Titanium rails. And, yeah, the mother of all hole punches. It’s the iPhone 14, and by all accounts it’s going to be something. Just not everything! Not for everyone. Because there are a few really, truly, hotly rumored features that just don’t seem to have made the cut. At least not this year. So hit that subscribe button and bell and grab a beverage, because I’m going to tell you what — and why!
We’ll get to USB-C in a thunderbolt hot minute, but ever since the 2020s came crashing down on us like… the Star Wars prequels of years… pretty much everyone and their responsibly masked faces have been yearning to get Touch ID back.
Because Face ID — which Apple switched to with the iPhone X back in 2017 — Face ID needs to see the triangle between our two eyes and mouth in order to collect enough facial geometry to make a secure match. Cover the bottom of that triangle with a mask, and there’s just not enough geometry points left. It’d be like, covering half a fingerprint with a bandaid. And yeah, Apple shipped a really clever Watch-based workaround, but you need a watch for it to work… around. Hence the lust in so many hearts for Touch ID.
Now, Apple doesn’t make parts-binned phones like some other companies. They don’t just pluck stuff off the shelves, slap it together, and ship it with less than a year lead time. Everything about an iPhone is custom, so the lead time it needs it generally closer to 2 or 3 years. So, even the just-released iPhone 13 was halfway out the door by the time 2020 hit us… like the Games of Thrones finale. And, even if Apple started planning a new unlock the minute the world stopped, it’d take until about now for us to get it anyway.
But here’s the thing — Apple’s already got power button Touch ID shipping on the 2020 iPad Air and 2021 iPad mini. Granted, a lot of cases cover the power button on the iPhone, but those cases can be modified a hell of a lot faster than an iPhone roadmap.
Also, there have been reports of under-display Touch ID coming to the iPhone for years already. By which I mean, every year, for the last few years, there have been reports of it coming next year. You know, like the Avatar sequels.
Sure, many under-display fingerprint readers on other phones are… Terri-bad. On my Pixel 6 Pro, which uses an optical scanner, it’s basically the equivalent of the Apple Watch Breathe app at this point, forcing me to take an awkwardly long moment of zen each time I want to unlock. But Apple supposedly has their own, home-grown acoustical scanning tech, and since they’re playing nice with Qualcomm over modems now, it’s not unimaginable they could play nice over Qualcomm’s ultrasonic scanner tech either. Yet, the latest reports from this year say maybe we’ll see under-display Touch ID next year.
So, is Apple still not happy with how it’s working yet? Or is it really only going to arrive when the world ending finally leaves?
Real, honest to Eobard Zoom is pretty much the last major piece of the camera puzzle Apple has left to solve. I mean, over the last few years, they’ve covered the range of ultra wide to telephoto, taken a stab at depth of field with Portrait Mode, and even nailed Low Light with Night Mode. But aside from a 3x punch-in thanks to the iPhone 13 Pro’s new, effective 77mm lens, you still can’t really capture your kid playing soccer across the field, or the architectural details further down or higher up a city walk.
And that’s where periscope cameras come in. Pericope because a proper zoom requires way too much depth to fit in a super thin phone enclosure. Without jutting out entirely inappropriately, that it. So, you let it go wide instead of deep, fold it sideways to fit across the enclosure, and then use mirrors to point it back out the… back. Basically, less submarine outie and more spy craft innie.
And you can get hella zoom with these things. Like full on creepy levels of zoom. If you don’t care too much about the quality. But, you can also get really good levels of entirely useful zoom out of them as well.
And this is something Apple’s reportedly been working on as well. Because let’s be honest, they know the holes better than anyone because they actually have the next few generations of iPhone prototyped and wooden boarded and white boarded out in front of them. But just like Touch ID, Periscope has both been rumored for the last couple of years, and always said to be coming in just another year.
So, is this because there are patents Apple has work around or license out? Or, because despite the trips trillion market cap, does Apple’s insistence on keeping teams small and focused mean the more confidently rumored for this year 48 megapixel wide angle is just saturating the camera team’s time this year and so the periscope zoom has to wait for next?
Last year Apple narrowed the Notch. A bit. This year, reports suggest they’ll be swapping it for a dot dash over a hole punch, at least on the Pro models. But there have also been reports that Apple intended to delete it… just magic eraser it away completely and also make the whole entire camera and Face ID system — if not go away — at least go under the display.
The way that currently works on other phones is by stretching out the OLED pixels as much as possible so that the camera can shoot through them. Kinda. Sorta. There are two main issues. One, the stretched part of the OLED display isn’t quite invisible but it’s way less visible than a notch or hole punch. And two, the stretched out OLED still interferes with the camera capture, resulting in pretty shirty data, to put things in The Good Place parlance. To try and make up for that, they run machine learning algorithms, the end result being something that looks halfway between a decent photo and complete forking mess.
Now, if you hate the notch and hole punches, like they’re just splinters in your Retina display, and you don’t care at all about selfies, FaceTime calls, or FaceID security, that might sound like one hell of a good deal. Done and done.
But on the most popular phone and camera in the world, that’s a problem for a lot of people who care very much about their selfies and FaceTimes, and you know, keeping Instagram and TikTok in business… Wait, which side of this am I on again?
Either way, a completely clean display, bereft of any trace of notch or hole, is once again being rumored for next year. But like the future, it’s always coming and yet never quite arriving. Probably because Apple’s waiting on an implementation that really is near flawless.
Reverse inductive charging
Reverse — aka — bi-directional inductive charging is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Instead of slapping your iPhone onto a Qi or MagSafe disk to charge it, you can use iPhone AS a Qi or MagSafe disk, and just slap your AirPods on to charge them. Similar to how you can slap your Apple Pencil onto the side of your iPad to charge it.
The magnets make it easier to align, which makes it slightly less… less efficient than inductive charging would otherwise be, and also stop it from sliding off, which, whenever it happens on non-magnetic chargers, makes inductive effectively useless.
It’s still nowhere nearly as good as just plugging in, but if there’s anything humans care about more than efficiency, it’s convenience. There’s no future viability we won’t mortgage in the name of present comfort. Even if, yes, physical ports can also be less accessible to people with low or no vision or motor skills, and can become hardware failure points as well.
But anyway, other phones have been offering bi-directional inductive charging for years. The iPad has been offering reverse charging for the Apple Pencil since 2018. Even the iPhone MagSafe Battery Pack can reverse charge off the iPhone 13 — if the iPhone 13 is plugged in. So, unlike previous years when this feature has been rumored but no coils were ever found in tear downs to support it, this year we know… we know there’s at least some mechanism already existing for it. Just not for AirPods — even if the iPhone 13 is plugged in.
So, Apple may be just religiously opposed to ever giving up any of the iPhone’s precious, precious battery life to any other device peasant device, like AirPods, any device that’s not itself a battery life extender. Or, given the inefficiency of inductive charging, Apple just may not yet be happy with the battery life tradeoff they’re seeing when charging anything other than something that charges back. Like, the gain just doesn’t make up for the drain yet.
Look, ok, real talk. We could go round and round on Lightning vs. USB-C until we wind the earth back a day, but nerds won’t be happy until we can plug one cable, the same cable, into our Macs, iPads, Switches, Androids, increasingly everything else, and our iPhones. And normals won’t be happy if we come anywhere near their Lightning cables or CarPlay wires. No matter what Apple does, either the very loud or the very numerous are going to be very angry.
But here’s the the thing — we had just about 10 years of 30-pin Dock connector before Apple began switching to Lightning, and we’ve now had just about 10 years of Lightning, so it feels like it’s time to start another switch.
It’s just unclear if that should be USB-C. Let me finish! Yes, USB-C would offer multi-device compatibility, which would be a huge convenience for people living multi-device lives. And that’s a huge convenience, which I just finished saying humans are more than willing to trade almost anything for. It would be dongles for older accessories and CarPlay, but so would changing to anything else. And it would be faster than Lightning, because camera-kit for iPad aside, Apple’s kept Lightning cables locked to USB2 speeds since inception, while every iPad that’s made the switch to USB-C has seen it’s transfer rates go up 10 fold, at the very least. Which may seem unnecessary on a phone… but Apple did just drop all 6GB per minute of ProRes on the iPhone 13 Pro last year, so kinda super hella necessary now.
It’s just… USB-C is already 6 years old now. And if Apple makes the same decade-long commitment to it that they made to the 30-pin and Lightning, that would make it 16 years old by the time 2032 rolls around. And I think, Treker-check me if I’m wrong here, but it feels like even the Enterprise went from C to D faster than that? Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t even rumors of a USB-D yet, but that seems like long time to be cable stagnant. Especially when you just know that, like Enterprise, E will end up being the very best one.
But there also aren’t any credible rumors about the iPhone switching to USB-C, at least that we’ve seen so far. I mean, I’d all caps love it, because ProRes, but I’m only going to expect it when I see it.