Apple: What to expect from the iPhone 13

Apple CEO Tim Cook pictured in front of a large iPhone display.
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the new iPhone 11 Pro as he delivers the keynote address during a special event on September 10, 2019 in the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple's Cupertino, California campus. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple (AAPL) is expected to launch its new iPhone, likely called the iPhone 13, later this month. Like football, the autumnal equinox, and pumpkin spice lattes, it’s all but a guarantee this fall.

So what can you expect from Apple’s next-generation flagship? Rumors abound that Apple CEO Tim Cook & Co. will equip the iPhone 13 with everything from satellite communication functionality to screens with improved refresh rates for better scrolling to slick new cameras.

Of course, there’s also speculation about new under-display technologies for unlocking your iPhone, and more. Here’s what the rumor mill is churning out about Apple’s upcoming iPhone.

Satellite communications

Let’s start off with the sci-fi-sounding feature that Apple is reportedly bringing to the iPhone 13. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the next iPhone will come with a custom Qualcomm X60 chip that will allow the phone to connect to low Earth orbit satellites.

The technology could allow for a more global solution to 5G connectivity. But according to Apple soothsayer Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, the satellite feature will, at first, be used as a means for iPhone owners to get in touch with emergency services and contacts via text when there’s no viable cell signal available.

Gurman further states that the satellite capabilities could eventually be used to make phone calls, but the full feature set may not be available until next year.

Satellite company Globalstar (GSAT) soared as much as 40% following the news that Apple might add satellite communications to its iPhones, though it came back down afterwards.

Improved cameras

Outside of satellite connectivity, the iPhone 13 lineup could get major upgrades to its cameras. The ultra-wide angle cameras are now expected to offer improved low-light capabilities and autofocus, according to MacRumors. Still, there’s confusion as to whether the upgrades will be available on all iPhone 13 models or just the Pro and Pro Max versions.

Gurman, meanwhile, says the iPhone 13 will feature a new video version of its Portrait mode, which traditionally captures photos and allows you to add a bokeh effect that blurs the areas around your subject.

Additionally, the iPhone 13 is said to get new camera filters that apply changes to color balance and lighting using artificial intelligence rather than the blanket filters the company has used for years.

No notch? Ask Ted Lasso

The notch, or black area at the top of the iPhone’s screen that holds its FaceTime camera, is either not an issue for you, or an abomination.

Either way, Apple is reportedly changing the cutout for the iPhone 13. Depending on the rumors you choose to believe, the notch could shrink significantly, making more room for on-screen content, or disappear entirely.

A shot of a notchless iPhone during and episode of 'Ted Lasso' may have been Apple's way of showing off its iPhone 13. (Image: Apple)
A shot of a notchless iPhone during an episode of "Ted Lasso" may have been Apple's way of showing off its iPhone 13. (Image: Apple)

Mock-ups of an iPhone 13 with a smaller notch have been floating around the web for some time. But the notchless version of the phone has only just come to light thanks to an episode of “Ted Lasso,” an Apple TV series that prominently features iPhones.

In the episode, one of the show’s characters can be seen holding what is clearly an iPhone without a notch.

It would be quite an interesting move for Apple to debut the new look of one of its important products via its own series, but it could also be an editing trick.

Faster displays, more powerful processors

The design of this year’s iPhones are likely to remain largely the same as last year‘s. There will be a 5.4-inch iPhone mini, 6.1-inch iPhone, 6.1-inch iPhone Pro, and 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max.

But the high-end Pro models could get faster displays this time around. According to seemingly the entirety of the internet, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max should get screens with variable refresh rates up to 120hz.

A 120hz refresh rate means smoother scrolling and gaming, while a variable refresh rate means the phone could kick down the refresh speed when it doesn’t need to be so fast.

Faster refresh rates mean the phone has to work harder, so a variable rate can save on battery life.

The phones are also rumored to get always-on displays that could show the time and message notifications without having to activate the screen. Android phones have done this for years and display the text in white on a black panel to save on battery life.

That’s all we’ve got so far in terms of iPhone rumors. But there’s sure to be more that crop up as we get closer to the phone’s big debut this month.

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