It’s understandable if you’re feeling slightly underwhelmed by the upcoming iPhone 14. Leaks, combined with artist renders, give us an early glimpse of the iOS handset coming this autumn. And if they’re accurate, this year’s iPhone lineup will look nearly identical to its predecessors going back years.
That’s because Apple uses a three-year cycle in iPhone designs these days. That’s not laziness – there’s a solid reason for the choice.
iPhone and the 3-year cycle
Understanding where we are in Apple’s design cycle is useful when shopping for an iPhone. Whether you really like or completely despise the current design, you can make a solid guess on when a new one is coming along.
Apple used to switch up the iPhone design every other year. More recently, however, it went to a three-year cycle. Take a look at the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone 11 as the most recent examples – they use the same bulgy, rounded edges and corners.
We’re now in the middle of the next cycle, which started with the iPhone 12 and brought in flat edges. iPhone 13 uses the same general design. And multiple leaks show that the iPhone 14 will strongly resemble the iPhone 13.
But it turns out most people won’t care – and might not even notice – because they’re only shopping for a new phone every three years. The global smartphone replacement cycle is actually about 40 months.
You might buy a new iPhone more often than that, but that makes you a standout, not a typical customer. There’s no reason for Apple to waste money on more frequent redesigns that don’t accomplish anything.
And on the opposite side of the coin, you get extra benefits if you upgrade your iPhone more quickly than the three-year cycle. If you have the 2020 or 2021 model, there’s a good chance many of your current accessories will work with the upcoming version, because it will have a lot in common with its predecessors.
A guideline not a straightjacket
I hope you noticed that, in the image of the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone 11 posted above, the third model doesn’t look exactly like the other two. Apple put a 6.1-inch screen in the iPhone 11, while the other two had 5.9-inch screens. Apple uses the three-year cycle as a guideline, not a reason to lock out improvements.
That’s why it isn’t surprising that Apple is supposed to replace the screen notch with a double hole-punch design in the iPhone 14 Pro models. The Pro models allegedly will come with a 48MP camera, too. Changes to the basic design are par for the course, especially in the third year of the iPhone three-year cycle.
But we won’t get a complete redesign until 2023, when the iPhone 15 likely will start a new cycle. And we may already know one of the biggest design changes coming: Apple reportedly plans to nix the Lightning port in favor of USB-C in 2023.