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The ultra-thin iPhone 17 Slim may turn out to be a bigger deal than we all think

Published May 21st, 2024 10:46AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro Display
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple will launch the iPhone 16 in a few months, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see iPhone 17 rumors popping up already. Apple is, after all, working on several generations of iPhones at the same time. That’s always been the case.

The more often info about an unreleased iPhone appears in leaks, the likelier it is that it’s accurate. One such rumor started getting more traction in recent weeks. The ultra-thin “iPhone 17 Slim” will reportedly debut next year and be slotted in between the iPhone 17 Pro and iPhone 17 Pro Max.

I liked this idea from the get-go. Back in mid-April, we were calling it a smaller iPhone 17 Plus. A few weeks later, the iPhone 17 Slim moniker popped up. Fast-forward another couple of weeks, and the phone is starting to sound like a high-end device rather than a mid-range iPhone. That’s why the “iPhone 17 Ultra” moniker might make sense. Not only that, but other pieces of the puzzle might be falling into place nicely.

I was excited about an iPhone 17 Plus size decrease since Ross Young tweeted that he’d heard this model would feature a smaller screen than the iPhone 17 Pro Max. I want a larger display, but I’m not ready for the Plus/Pro Max options.

Why the size change? At the time, I speculated that Apple might want to reduce the size of the future Plus models, so the iPhone Pro Max is the absolute best handset for battery life. In hindsight, I was probably wrong. If the iPhone 17 Slim turns out to be the mythical Ultra, it’ll surely feature amazing battery life.

In early May, an analyst claimed the iPhone 17 Slim would feature a 6.6-inch display. Jeff Pu said at the time that the iPhone 17, 17 Pro, and 17 Slim would feature a more complex aluminum design without elaborating. This indicated the Slim device might be thinner and lighter than the current iPhone Plus models.

A few days ago, The Information seemed to corroborate all these details. The blog also provided more tidbits about the major redesign the iPhone 17 series will reportedly introduce.

The Slim version should be smaller than the iPhone 17 Pro Max and feature a smaller Dynamic Island. Furthermore, the iPhone 17 Slim will supposedly have an improved selfie camera and a rear-facing camera placed centrally rather than on the side. The report also said the “Plus” model will no longer be in Apple’s lineup next year.

Put together, all of that made the iPhone 17 Slim sound like another iPhone X moment for Apple. In other words, we might see another huge design change for the iPhone lineup next year.

iPhone 15 Pro on a shelf.
iPhone 15 Pro on a shelf. Image source: Jonathan Geller, BGR

Since The Information’s report came out, more people started speculating that the iPhone 17 Slim could be the Ultra device that keeps popping up in reports. The device might be positioned between the 6.2-inch and 6.9-inch display sizes of the regular/Pro and Pro Max variants. But it could turn out to be the most expensive model.

After the introduction of the M4 iPad Pro — which is slimmer than any iPad without compromising battery life, durability, and performance — the iPhone 17 Slim makes even more sense. Apple might want to pull off a similar trick with the iPhone. After years of continuously increasing the thickness, Apple might finally come out with a very slim iPhone.

Chip innovations, like the M4, are coming to the iPhone this year in the form of the A18/A18 Pro. Next year’s M5 and A19 chipsets have to be even better when it comes to performance and efficiency. There’s mounting pressure in the industry for that to happen; just look at what Microsoft is doing with the Surface Pro 11.

I’ll also point out the M4 iPad Pro’s tandem OLED panel as another potential upgrade that might hit the iPhone 17 Slim. It’s actually a key tech that helps Apple reduce the thickness of the tablet. But that’s only assuming that Samsung and LG can make enough smartphone-sized Tandem OLED panels to meet Apple’s needs.

Then there’s all the talk about Apple working on new battery tech for iPhones. Rumors have said Apple is investigating stacked battery designs, which could become smaller without compromising battery life.

One downside is that a very slim iPhone 17 Ultra model might have to ditch the rear-facing glass panel in favor of aluminum. This could impact wireless charging. But what if Apple finds a different way to add MagSafe charging to an iPhone?

A major redesign paired with a few big tech innovations could make the iPhone 17 Slim cost more than an iPhone 17 Pro Max. That strategy could help Apple increase the average selling price of the iPhone and reduce the impact of diminishing sales.

All I’m saying is that the iPhone 17 Slim is increasingly looking like an expensive flagship rather than a redesigned non-Pro. This is speculation, of course. But there’s no smoke without a fire. If the iPhone 17 Slim is indeed the Ultra that some leakers have been talking about in previous years, we’ll hear more about it in the coming months.

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.