Oh, snap! 2021 iPhone could include some handy camera upgrades

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iPhone 12 Pro back
Top analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is expecting big things from next year's iPhone.
Photo: Apple

Photography remains a big focus for iPhone upgrades, and next year’s lineup isn’t likely to deviate from this trajectory.

In a report published Friday, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo writes that Apple is planning several big improvements for next year’s iPhone Pro models. Here’s what they are.

For starters, Kuo says Apple will widen the sensor’s aperture from f/2.4 to f/1.8. In essence, that should mean letting in twice the light, thereby improving low-light performance. While Apple touted the iPhone’s impressive night photography abilities over the past few years, next year’s update could offer significantly cleaner, sharper night photography.

Secondly, the number of elements in the lens could be increased from five to six. This could help to reduce distortion, especially for the wide-angle lens shots. (Since the current iPhone 12 Pro has a seven-element wide lens, this seemingly refers to the ultra-wide angle lens, which currently has five elements.)

Thirdly, Kuo thinks the ultra-wide lens will gain auto-focus capabilities for the first time. For the most part, the fixed focus of the current ultra-wide lens works just fine. But adding the ability to auto-focus could open up some fun abilities, particularly when you’re shooting objects up close.

No other details about the 2021 iPhone refresh have been revealed yet. Based on previous years, I’d expect that Apple will retain the same form factor as the redesigned iPhone 12. There will undoubtedly be a new A-series processor, although this likely will be made using the same 5nm process as the A14 chip. (A 3nm chips won’t be available until 2022.) Beyond that, I’d expect some minor tweaks like additional color options. There may also be the first 1TB storage option in iPhone history.

2021 iPhone could be a big upgrade for Apple

Even if next year’s upgrade is comparatively minor, however, Kuo thinks it’s got a good chance of outdoing the iPhone 12 in terms of sales. One reason for this will be the most obvious one: fewer production challenges. This year’s iPhones were delayed as a result of COVID-19’s impact on manufacturing.

Due to ongoing issues, Apple increased its focus on selling older iPhones this holiday season because it doesn’t have enough iPhone 12 models. Next year, these problems will — Jobs willing — be gone. That should mean more units to sell, which should translate into higher sales.

The other reason is improved 5G infrastructure. This year’s iPhones were Apple’s first 5G iPhones in. However, 5G coverage remains limited. That means that, as a selling point, a 5G iPhone this year might not mean as much as a 5G iPhone in late 2021.

What are your hopes for next year’s iPhones? (And, while we’re at it, what names are you predicting?) Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.