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Why I’m certain this iPhone 15 Pro Max camera design change is real

Published May 18th, 2023 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 14 Pro Max in Deep Purple is the most popular color.
Image: José Adorno for BGR

With about four months left to go until Apple unveils the iPhone 15 series, we think we know almost everything there is to know about the upcoming iPhone refresh. Most new rumors keep confirming previous leaks, although we do get some new claims occasionally. Like a leaker saying the iPhone 15 Pro Max will deliver a big design change to the rear-facing camera module thanks to the new periscope zoom camera.

The telephoto lens will reportedly swap places with the ultra-wide camera come the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s all because of the new periscope camera that Apple is about to deploy. I’m certain this camera design leak is real. As long as a periscope camera is in the works for the next Pro Max model. And it’s a change that we should have seen all along.

The triple-lens camera on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max has the following arrangement:

  • top: 12-megapixel telephoto camera
  • bottom: 48-megapixel primary camera
  • side: 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the only new iPhone that should get a periscope camera. That’s not just to differentiate the Pro from the Pro Max and potentially justify a price hike for the latter. Space is at a premium inside the iPhone, and periscope cameras take up more space inside compared to regular telephoto cameras.

iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera
X-ray image shows the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s three rear cameras: telephoto (top left), ultra-wide angle (right), and wide-angle (bottom left). The wide lens features sensor-shift OIS tech. Image source: iFixit

The fact they’re called periscope cameras should be a dead giveaway that they need plenty of internal space. As a result, the telephoto lens can’t stay in the same position on iPhone 15 Pro Max as the 14 Pro Max.

Also, I don’t think it can move to the bottom, either. Thanks to its sensor-shift optical image stabilization mechanism Apple introduced with the iPhone 12 Pro Max (above), that primary 48-megapixel lens is larger than the other cameras. As a result, the only logical place to accommodate the periscope camera is the side position.

Then again, I haven’t even considered the iPhone 15 Pro’s periscope camera placement until seeing Unknownz21’s tweet.

A few days ago, this person said they received independent confirmation that the periscope camera is real and happening on iPhone 15 Pro Max. They posted the tweet above as a follow-up, claiming that the Ultra Wide and Telephoto camera have swapped positions.

That made me realize that if the periscope camera is coming to iPhone 15 Pro Max, the camera arrangement has to change to make room for that bent camera.

iFixit's iPhone 14 Pro Max teardown.
iFixit’s iPhone 14 Pro Max teardown. Image source: iFixit

The only question remains whether the periscope will sit vertically or horizontally. The image above from iFixit shows the internal design of the iPhone 14 Pro Max. A periscope lens would impact the battery size/design. It would either push down towards the battery or to the side toward the mainboard. Either design choice would force Apple to move things around.

It so happens that LG has designed a slimmer periscope camera just in time for the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s arrival. It’s supposed to be more compact, but we have no confirmation that Apple will use it.

LG Innotek's new optical telephoto zoom camera module unveiled ahead of CES 2023.
LG Innotek’s new optical telephoto zoom camera module unveiled ahead of CES 2023. Image source: LG
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.