09/18 Update below. This post was originally published on September 15.
Apple’s iPhone 14 range offers a controversial first: it’s the first iPhone range to launch with different generations of chipsets. Many believed this was a one-off consequence of the global chip shortage, but the first iPhone 15 leak has reserved impact.
Yes, the iPhone 14 is only a week old, but Apple is working years ahead of time, and a new report from Nikkei Asia claims that the company has already decided to limit its next-generation A17 chip to the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. . And this is more important than for the iPhone 14 line.
While the performance differences between the A15 and A16 are minor, both chips are head and shoulders above the competition, making the differences less important. The real downside is that there’s no noticeable improvement in battery life from the A16, but it looks like this will change with the A17.
According to Nikkei, the A17 will be Apple’s first 3nm manufactured chip after 5nm variants were used for the A14, A15 and A16. This is cutting-edge technology and compared to its predecessors, 3nm allows the A17 to run faster, cooler and with reduced power consumption. Yes, this is shaping up to be the first chip in four years to offer significant year-over-year performance and battery life gains, but only for Pro buyers.
“Apple is likely to use the different levels of production technology to introduce bigger differences between its premium and non-premium models,” Dylan Patel, chief analyst at Semianalysis, explains, speaking to Nikkei.
09/17 Update: Despite only being shipped to customers yesterday, the first teardowns of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max have been completed, inadvertently revealing a key iPhone 15 detail.
Made by YouTuber WekiHome, teardowns reveal that both iPhone 14 Pro models feature Qualcomm’s X65 modem. Compared to the X60 in iPhone 13, it supports wider bands in the high-speed 5G ‘mmWave’ spectrum and improves efficiency thanks to Qualcomm’s ‘PowerSave 2.0’ technology. It was also announced a long time ago May 2021.
Given the delay, there was speculation that the iPhone 14 lineup could come with Qualcomm’s new ‘X70’, which was announced in May 2022. Qualcomm claims the X70 can hit mind-boggling download and upload speeds of 10Gbps and 3.5Gbps respectively, but the real headline is the company’s claim that it’s 60% more power efficient.
With the X60 and X65 providing a clear pattern, the X70 is now a lock for the iPhone 15 range. Additionally, the combination of the X70 and a 3nm A17 chip suggests this line has the potential to deliver game-changing battery life. . throw what is expected move to USB-C for Pro models, and 2023 already looks set to provide some of the fireworks missing from the 2022 models.
9/18 Update: Speaking to me, display specialist Ross Young has revealed that Apple will bring the pill-shaped cutout and ‘Dynamic Island’ functionality to all iPhone 15 models. The big caveat is that Young isn’t expecting just yet. 120Hz/LTPO ‘ProMotion’ Coming to Standard iPhone 15 Models as “Supply Chain Can’t Support It”
First, the good news. dynamic island stole the show at Apple’s iPhone 15 launch this week. In classic Apple fashion, the company turned the physical handicap of a big cutout through clever software into arguably the most compelling reason to buy an iPhone 14 Pro model. It’s slick, intuitive, and the best notification and status system you’ll find. I have never owned an iPhone.
Bringing it to all iPhone 15 models is a no-brainer, and anyone put off by the prices of the iPhone 14 Pro (which, excluding the US and China, increased in most countries of the world) now has a good reason to skip a generation.
Second, the bad news. High-refresh-rate displays have been standard on flagship and even mid-range Android phones for years. For Apple to release an $800 iPhone 15 in 2023 without that seems extraordinary.
Young went on to explain that he believes 2024 is more likely as Apple’s supply chain partner BOE gradually ramps up production of the LTPO displays Apple uses for ProMotion. Given his remarkable track record, Young is probably right, but I have no doubt that Apple could reconfigure the demands of its supply chain if it really wanted to bring the feature to all users.
Either way, the continued exclusion of ProMotion makes a lot of sense strategically for Apple as it looks to drive a widening gap between its Pro and non-Pro iPhones. After all, the iPhone 14 has already shown that Apple is happy to let its virtually unchanged standard models if you meet this goal.
There is also a justification for this strategy: cost. Patel estimates a cost increase of “at least 40% for the same area of silicon when moving to 3nm chips from the 5nm family.” All of which sounds like classic Apple: if you want the best, we’ll do it, but you’ll have to pay the premium.
And this is Apple’s new ‘Pro’ strategy in a nutshell: continue to widen the gap between Pro and non-Pro devices across all categories (iPhone, iPad, Mac and MacBook) to create a clear divide and encourage additional sales. It’s a tactic that already seems to be working. Influential analyst Ming Chi-Kuo reports that pre-orders for iPhone 14 Pro models far exceed their non-Pro equivalents.
Nikkei says that TSMC, Intel, and Apple (unsurprisingly) declined to comment on its information, but cites three different sources for the information. Which suggests we should take it seriously.
With USB-C also recommended for iPhone 15 Pro models, Apple’s next-generation iPhones are already shaping up to be game-changing devices. But don’t be surprised if your prices reflect this.
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