Kuo says don’t expect significant upgrades for the iPhone lens systems until 2023

According to the reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is not expected to introduce any significant iPhone camera upgrades beyond maybe lens improvements until 2023.

7P lens coming to all rear cameras?

As per Kuo’s new research note, send by MacRumors, AppleInsider and 9to5Mac, slight updates to the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses may still be in the works for the 2021 and 2022 iPhone models, but there will be no improvements for the main lens through at least 2022.

Assuming what Ming-Chi Kuo is saying is correct, the Cupertino technology group should rely on the iPhone 12’s seven-element plastic lens (7P) through 2022. Designed by Apple itself, the 7P lens was first introduced with the iPhone 12 last year.

iPhone 12 introduces 7P lens

Sitting atop the wide-angle rear camera of the iPhone 12, the 7P lens helps maintain sharp details from edge to edge. It has a wider f/1.6 aperture—Apple’s fastest yet—versus the previous f/1.8 aperture and the six-element (6P) lens in the iPhone 11. The iPhone 12’s new 7P lens helps deliver significantly better low-light performance and less noise while reducing chromatic aberrations. In the past, the analyst predicted Apple would bring the 7P system from the iPhone 12’s wide lens to the telephoto lens on 2021’s iPhone 13.

Of course, Kuo is commenting on the iPhone lenses here not sensors—Apple will probably introduce other camera upgrades in 2021 and 2022 just like it has done in years past. For instance, faster chips and enhanced machine learning will boost Apple’s computational photography prowess in 2021 and 2022 even without updating camera sensor hardware.

iPhone to get a periscope camera?

By the time 2023 rolls, it will have been three years of this iPhone 12 design with its iPhone 4-like flat edges. The Cupertino company is now updating the iPhone’s industrial design less frequently than before because the smartphone market has matured—instead of changing the exterior every other year, the iPhone’s design is now on a three-year cycle.

A scheme of Oppo's periscope-style camera lens
Oppo’s periscope-style camera lens system with 5x lossless zoom

In other words, you’ll be stuck with the current iPhone design until 2023. And when an overhauled iPhone comes along, you can bet that it will include significant upgrades to both the lenses and the underlying camera sensor hardware. For example, one of Kuo’s earlier predictions calls for a periscope camera for the so-called iPhone 14 in 2022. A periscope camera would use prisms and mirrors to redirect light and achieve a longer focal length along the long dimension of the iPhone rather than being limited to just front-to-back.