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From better cameras to a ProMotion display, here’s our wish-list for Apple’s next smartphone

Many superstitious folks believe the number 13 signifies bad luck. But we doubt the iPhone will be unlucky for Apple. Short of the company going strange and fashioning its new smartphone entirely from bees, it will sell like hotcakes.

Those out of luck might instead be punters with specific hopes for what’s baked into Apple’s upcoming smartphone. So let’s dig into what we want from the iPhone 13, what the rumor mill’s heard, and how likely each feature is to appear.

1. Better cameras

Photography is vital for Apple to remain competitive with Android. The company is so-so regarding optical zoom but industry-leading in image quality. Expect the latter to remain Apple’s priority, with large iPhone 13 lenses that let in more light.

An unknown is the FaceTime camera, which on iPad Pro follows you around in video chats by way of Center Stage. That feature would be great on iPhone too, but we won’t hold our breath – even the new iMac didn’t get it.

2. No notch

The 2018 iPad Pro made good on Apple’s promise of an all-display device. But its bezels hide the Face ID camera and are chunkier than what’s viable on a smartphone. Hence: the notch.

The iPhone 13 will retain a notch – although its eradication must surely be a long-term goal. Reports do suggest, though, it will shrink – good for you, although a headache for app/game developers, who’ll have yet another distinct device set-up to support.

3. Touch ID

With COVID stubbornly refusing to go away, Apple’s switch from touch-oriented to face-based biometrics backfired. A workaround where your iPhone unlocks if you’re masked and wearing an Apple Watch only helps if you already own Apple’s pricey wearable.

The most recent iPad Air provides an alternative, baking Touch ID into the power button, in a manner that’s reliable and sleek. But sources claim it’s unlikely the iPhone will regain Touch ID during its next iteration, which feels like a misstep.

4. An iPhone mini

Apple doesn’t break down sales for individual iPhone models, but estimates have long suggested the iPhone mini is under-performing. This is a pity, because Apple’s smallest iPhone is a powerhouse with a form factor that’s truly pocketable.

Word is the device will have a stay of execution, remaining part of the iPhone 13 line-up – but is likely to subsequently be axed. Perhaps it will be resurrected with cheaper components as the next iPhone SE.

5. Apple Pencil support

Pudgy digits aren’t great for precision, hence the existence of Apple’s scribbling stick, the Apple Pencil. On iPad, it’s great, whether drawing or marking up PDFs.

The iPhone’s smaller screen arguably makes a stylus just as useful for fiddly tasks. Third-party options are rarely optimal, but Apple appears keen to keep its platforms distinct in terms of use cases and features. We therefore, sadly, suspect Apple Pencil support even on the iPhone 13 Pro Max isn’t going to happen.

6. A ProMotion display

It’s not like the iPhone display judders when you scroll, but ProMotion on the iPad Pro takes things to the next level. It’s like when you first set eyes on a Retina display – ProMotion ruins you for everything else.

Flagship Android devices increasingly offer 120Hz refresh rates, so it seems unlikely Apple will stick to 60Hz – at least on Pro models. Rumors persist of an Apple Watch-style always-on display too, showing basic info (clock; date; notifications). Here’s hoping!

7. A more powerful chip

The new iPad Pro has an M1 chip – the same one that powers Apple’s latest Macs. That’s amazing for a mobile device – and overkill for an iPhone. But we nonetheless expect an upgrade to the iPhone’s ‘brain.’

Assuming Apple remains true to form, every iPhone 13 will be powered by Apple-designed A15 silicon, to support increasing demands from computational photography, machine learning, and cutting-edge apps. But even if your needs are basic, a more powerful chip boosts device responsiveness and longevity alike.

8. Multitasking

iPad-style multitasking on an iPhone might seem odd, but there are times when you’d benefit from using multiple apps simultaneously. iPhone screens are large enough to make this viable – and it’s a feature several Android phones already have.

Apple, though, is wedded to the notion of specific devices for specific features and tasks, and so it’s unlikely we’ll see Split View on the iPhone 13. However, as of iOS 15, you will at least be able to drag and drop text and other content between apps.

9. A USB-C connector

We’d like to see iPhone 13 switch its connector from Lightning to USB-C to simplify charging and connectivity, cutting down on the need for dongles. But Apple makes cash from Lightning (through the Made for iPhone program) and it’s reportedly superior to USB-C for waterproofing.

Sources claim next year’s iPhone won’t go USB-C either and will instead have no ports at all – something we dread. Wireless charging is inefficient, and a no-port iPhone would make a mockery of the ‘Pro’ name by eradicating pro-oriented accessories like audio kit and super-fast wired external storage.

10. More storage

We already mentioned larger cameras, and with those come bigger photos. Rumors also suggest ProRes video and Portrait mode video are coming to iPhone 13, ramping up footage quality – and the size of video files.

With apps and games also growing in size, more storage space seems like a must. But we doubt we’ll see changes to existing storage tiers – merely a new (and wallet-thumping) 1TB option being added to the iPhone 13 Pro models.

11. LiDAR by default

Augmented reality features at most major Apple events, with the company convinced it’s a big part of computing’s future. And it can be great to combine the real and the virtual, whether when navigating outside or playing games.

If you’ve used a LiDAR-equipped device, you’ll know how transformative that hardware is to AR regarding speed and reliable positioning. We therefore hope every iPhone 13 comes with a LiDAR, rather than just Pro models.

12. A bigger battery

Several of the features we’ve talked about have one thing in common: they will challenge the battery; and it’s no good making an iPhone more powerful or giving it a better camera if battery life cannot keep up.

It’s too much to expect a battery revolution – your iPhone 13 won’t last for days on a single charge. Still, reports suggest the new batteries will be about ten per cent larger than their equivalent predecessors; this probably won’t extend your device’s uptime per charge, but should at least stop it from going backward.

13. External display support

In an era when buying multiple devices feels wasteful, Apple’s business model feels out of step. Yet the company focuses on reducing the friction of moving between Apple devices, rather than you using one Apple device for everything.

We hope for a future where you can carry your iPhone everywhere, but can plug it into a display and use an external keyboard to work. This one’s very much a wish list item, though, because there’s no chance you’ll see it in September!