Hint: it’s not about the size of the screen.
The 2024 iPhones, by all accounts, will feature their largest ever screens… although the amount they’re going to expand by remains a point of dispute. After four generations in a row with the Pro and Pro Max at 6.1 inches and 6.7 inches respectively, Apple is finally going to bump them to 6.3 and 6.9 inches (according to Ross Young) or “slightly larger” than the existing models (according to Ming-Chi Kuo).
The odd thing, however, is that the larger screens appear to be merely a side effect of the company’s real aim. If a new report is correct, Apple is only making the screen (and therefore the chassis) bigger so that it can fit in better cameras.
Initially the claim was made by an anonymous source on the Chinese social media site Weibo (as reported by MacRumors), citing industry insider information. But the idea was then corroborated by the far more reassuring presence of Mark Gurman, the Bloomberg leaker-reporter who is one of the most respected voices in the Apple pundit sector.
According to the sources, there are two aspects to this design decision. The first is the famous periscope camera lens, which will reportedly bring 6x optical zoom (compared to a maximum of 3x on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max) and up to 30x digital zoom (up from 15x). This feature is strongly expected to arrive this year on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but not the 15 Pro, for reasons of space. Apple will be happy to keep it exclusive to the most expensive model in the range for one year, upsell being the name of the game at Cupertino these days, but it wants to expand it to the iPhone 16 Pro model in 2024. And that means a bigger chassis is necessary.
The second relates to sensor size. The current Pro iPhones feature a 1/1.28 inch sensor, and the 15-series models will keep this the same. But the chassis size increase expected on the iPhone 16 Pro Max will enable it to include a larger and more capable 1/1.14 inch sensor.
In other words, the 16 Pro will be bigger so it can include a camera feature that was exclusive to the 15 Pro Max, and the 16 Pro Max will be bigger so it can include a new exclusive camera feature that won’t be available to the Pro. All rather confusing; perhaps Apple will bump the size again in 2025 so the iPhone 17 Pro can include the 16 Pro Max’s larger sensor? But the upshot is that while the larger screens of the 16 Pro handsets will be most obvious to customers, the real rationale behind the change is the fact that this will enable Apple to include superior cameras. (It might also be to do with battery capacity, according to Gurman.)
Long before we get to the iPhone 16 models, of course, we need to greet the 15-series.