Apple's 2021 iPhones Could Feature These Camera, Display and 5G Improvements

In addition to improved ultra-wide cameras, new displays and 5G modems are also possibilities for Apple's next-gen iPhone line.
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Less than a month after Apple  (AAPL) - Get Report officially revealed its iPhone 12 line, an analyst with a fairly good track record of predicting Apple's moves is out with a new report about what he expects the company's 2021 iPhone lineup will look like.

TF Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo says that -- as is the case for the iPhone 12 line -- Apple’s 2021 iPhone line will contain four models, with display sizes unchanged relative to comparable iPhone models. That would spell the launch of a 5.4-inch “Mini” iPhone, a 6.1-inch standard iPhone, and 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch “Pro” and “Pro Max” iPhones.

In addition, whereas the iPhone 12 line features an overhauled wide-angle (26mm) camera, Kuo says next year’s iPhones will contain an overhauled ultra-wide-angle (13mm) camera.

The ultra-wide camera will reportedly go from using a 5-element lens and having an f/2.4 aperture, to using a 6-element lens and having a larger f/1.8 aperture (better for low-light shots). Also, Kuo expects the camera to go from having a fixed focus to an autofocus system, which would allow it to focus on an object picked up by the camera's lens, either automatically or with a user's assistance.

Camera improvements have been a key selling point for Apple’s iPhone refreshes in recent years. Along with a revamped wide-angle lens, the iPhone 12 line improved upon Apple’s iPhone 11 cameras via software-based enhancements to Apple’s Smart HDR, Deep Fusion and Night Mode technologies, as well as by extending Deep Fusion/Night Mode support to more cameras, providing better optical image stabilization and adding support for Dolby Vision HDR video recording and editing.

Along with camera improvements, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple’s next-gen iPhones -- they might be known as the iPhone 13 line, but one can see Apple going with another name for marketing purposes -- featuring displays with 120Hz refresh rates, rather than the 60Hz refresh rate used by iPhone displays to date.

120Hz displays, which have been supported since 2017 on iPad Pros via Apple’s ProMotion display technology, can allow imagery to look smoother and more fluid when watching videos, playing games or drawing on a screen with a stylus. Many high-end Android phones now also pack 120Hz displays, but Apple (perhaps due to battery life concerns) opted to stick with 60Hz displays for the iPhone 12 line.

Also, given Apple’s history of eventually bringing new features first offered on flagship iPhones to cheaper models, it’s possible that next year’s standard and “Mini” iPhones will have rear-camera systems that include LiDAR scanners. LiDAR scanners, which are found on 2020 iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro models, help improve a camera’s autofocus and low-light shots, while also enabling augmented reality experiences on apps that use Apple’s ARKit software developer kit (SDK).

In addition, whereas the iPhone 12 line uses Qualcomm’s  (QCOM) - Get Report Snapdragon X55 5G modem, there’s a good chance next year’s iPhones will use the X55’s successor, the Snapdragon X60. Qualcomm asserts that the X60 is more power-efficient than the X55, thanks partly to its use of a 5-nanometer (5nm) manufacturing process, and the modem’s support for a technique known as carrier aggregation should yield faster upload and download speeds in many environments.

Like the Nasdaq, Apple’s stock is nearly unchanged in Friday trading as of the time of this article. Shares are up 62% year-to-date.

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