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Kuo: Only iPhone 15 Pro Max to get a periscope zoom lens next year

Updated Sep 26th, 2022 5:12PM EDT
iPhone 13 Pro Camera
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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We’re some two months away from Apple’s expected iPhone 14 launch event, but we already think we know everything there is to know about the upcoming four handsets. Apple’s 2022 iPhone lineup will deliver the biggest differentiation between the non-Pro devices and the iPhone 14 Pro models. But the most expensive handsets will not get the telephoto lens upgrade some people expected. The first periscope zoom camera should hit the iPhone 15 series next year, but only the Pro Max model will get it.

Why does the iPhone need a periscope telephoto lens?

Every new iPhone camera generation brings over upgrades over the predecessor. It’s not just the hardware that Apple keeps improving but also the software experience. The same will happen with the iPhone 14 series this year, where the Pro models will get the iPhone’s first 48-megapixel wide camera lens. And iOS 16 will likely bring over new software features for the iPhone 14 cameras.

But Apple can’t improve the optical zoom experience on the iPhone without adding a periscope lens to the handset. That’s a camera bent at 90 degrees inside the phone, using a prism and a longer lens to move the light to the sensor.

2017 periscope zoom camera prototype technology from Oppo
2017 periscope zoom camera prototype technology from Oppo. Image source: Oppo

Android flagships have been using periscope lenses for years. But not all of them. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is one such example, where digital zoom can go up to 100x, delivering a massive improvement over the previous Ultra models. But the regular S22 models do not feature periscope lenses.

With that in mind, the simplest answer is that the iPhone doesn’t need a periscope camera to deliver an amazing camera experience. But the zoom lens is the kind of feature that Pro users might need. That’s why it makes sense to see the periscope camera hit the iPhone 15 Pro Max first.

This isn’t the first time the Pro Max version would get a major camera update before everyone else. The iPhone 12 Pro Max introduced the iPhone’s first sensor shift wide camera. Apple then used the same tech for all the iPhone 13 models.

iPhone 15 Pro Max will have a zoom advantage over the Pro

With periscope zoom lenses, it’s not as simple. These cameras occupy additional space inside the smartphone. That means battery capacity might have to be sacrificed for the telephoto camera lens components. Therefore, the Pro Max size makes the most sense to get the improved zoom lens.

If Ming-Chi Kuo’s latest assessment is accurate, the iPhone 15 Pro Max will deliver a better zoom experience than the regular Pro, thanks to the periscope zoom lens. But Apple will bring the periscope camera to both iPhone 16 Pro models in 2024.

The analyst penned a longer report on Medium addressing the big winners of Apple’s switch to periscope cameras. Unsurprisingly, Jahwa is on the list of suppliers, a company that appeared a few times in iPhone 15 Pro periscope zoom camera rumors.

iPhone 14 Pro rear camera module to be larger than iPhone 13 Pro.
iPhone 14 Pro rear camera module to be larger than iPhone 13 Pro. Image source: Front Page Tech

The report also provides the specs for the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s periscope camera. We’re looking at a 12-megapixel 1/3” sensor, f/2.8 aperture, sensor-shift optical image stabilization, and 5-6x optical zoom. The iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max should inherit the same zoom camera a year later.

Kuo further notes that Apple’s adoption of periscope cameras should significantly boost camera components’ sales for various iPhone suppliers. But some of the parts Apple will need for periscope cameras might be quite expensive.

Furthermore, Kuo says that the iPhone adoption of periscopes might convince Chinese Android brands to follow. Chinese smartphone vendors first introduced periscope cameras, with Oppo and Huawei being among the companies that already use the tech. However, the iPhone might significantly boost the volume of zoom lens parts, as Apple’s flagship smartphone sales outperform rivals.

More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

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.

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