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iPhone 17 Pro Max may get a triple-lens 48MP camera, but what about the iPhone 17 Slim?

Published Jul 11th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro Max In Hand
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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The iPhone 16 isn’t even here, and we have several rumors claiming Apple will introduce an iPhone 17 Slim next year. Smaller than the iPhone 14 Pro and thinner than all its peers, this device might be the 2025 flagship. Some reports call it the iPhone 17 Ultra.

But it’s still unclear whether the iPhone 17 Slim would feature the best possible technology Apple can deploy to the iPhone.

A new report from Ming-Chi Kuo on tetraprism zoom camera development says the iPhone 17 Pro Max might be Apple’s first phone to feature three 48-megapixel sensors on the back after the addition of an upgraded tetraprism zoom camera to the rear-facing camera module. He says nothing of the Slim/Ultra, but Kuo notes that the iPhone 17 Pro might not get the same upgrade.

The Pro Max size has usually been the iPhone model that delivers Apple’s biggest innovations each generation, much like the iPad Pro when it comes to tablets. The largest iPhone usually gets the best cameras. The following year, more iPhones (or all of them) will get the same camera.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the latest example of that approach. Its tetraprism camera will be used in the iPhone 16 Pro and 16 Pro Max this year. The iPhone Pro Max is also Apple’s most expensive phone, so it makes sense to give it extra features. The larger footprint gives Apple more freedom to try new things without impacting battery life.

I’d expect the iPhone 17 Slim to take that place if it becomes Apple’s most expensive iPhone next year. The Slim could be the iPhone Apple uses to introduce new tech. But Kuo didn’t name the iPhone 17 Slim in his report.

Kuo predicts that zoom camera penetration will increase from 35-40% in the iPhone 15 series to 60-65% in the iPhone 16 series. That prediction also suggests that the iPhone 16 Pro and 16 Pro Max might account for up to 65% of all iPhone 16 sales next year.

Kuo then details Apple’s tetraprism zoom upgrade plans for the coming years, with 2025 to bring a big change. Apple wants to upgrade from the current 12-megapixel zoom sensor to a 48-megapixel tetraprism lens next year. But the analyst says it’s still unclear whether Apple will use the new zoom camera in all Pro models:

(1) The high-end iPhone 17 model is expected to feature an upgraded tetraprism camera, with key specification changes from a 1/3.1″ 12MP CIS in the iPhone 16 Pro series to a 1/2.6″ 48MP CIS. This upgrade will enhance photo quality and zoom functionality.
(2) It is currently uncertain whether only the iPhone 17 Pro Max will feature the upgraded tetraprism camera. If so, the 2H26 iPhone 18 Pro will also feature the upgraded tetraprism camera.

If the iPhone 17 Slim exists, I’d expect it to feature a triple-lens camera, regardless of where Apple positions it. Therefore, I’d expect it to pack a tetraprism zoom. But would one fit inside a thinner body without creating a much bigger camera bump? Well, it looks like Apple is working on it.

Again, Kuo doesn’t mention the iPhone 17 Slim by name. But he says that Apple needs new prism designs for next year’s zoom camera:

The upgraded tetraprism camera requires all-new designed prisms. The prism must have a shorter form factor to reduce the camera’s height.

iPhone 17 Slim speculation aside, it looks like Apple wants to improve the zoom capabilities of the iPhone significantly over the coming years. Kuo says the 20217 iPhone 19 should introduce a “more substantial improvement” than the iPhone 17 and iPhone 18. Apple supposedly wants to increase the number of prisms to lengthen the light path. The tetraprism name would no longer apply in such a case.

Kuo also says that Apple may need to reduce the size of the prism as the number of units increases. In turn, this could lead to more complex designs. This is where I speculate that reducing the size of prisms might benefit an iPhone 19 Slim device, assuming we’re getting there.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.