We’ve been hoping that the iPhone 15 Pro may also be equipped with the folded optics camera, but Mr. Kuo shot those rumors down saying that only the most expensive of Apple’s 2023 phones will have the ability to shoot for the skies with a periscope zoom lens.
A few years after Android flagships mastered what Samsung refers to as the Space Zoom technology, Apple is getting ready to release the first iPhone with periscope camera zoom. Famous analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple’s camera suppliers are gearing up for a windfall as a result of the costly periscope zoom set being introduced for the first time on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
That’s precisely the strategy Apple will follow for its first iPhone with periscope zoom, it seems. Back in 2019, flagship phones from Chinese makers entered a zoom race with the introduction of the Huawei P30 Pro and Oppo Reno 10x zoom. Today’s thin phones don’t allow space for more than 2x-3x telephoto zoom lenses inside them, what Apple is using now on iPhones, so a module with folded optics was used to let the light travel along the height of the phone rather than its more limited thickness.
That’s perfectly in line with Apple’s so-called “salami” strategy, where it goes for new technology in careful increments in order to keep its profit margins as high as possible. It first waits for Android makers to introduce something groundbreaking and initially very expensive like an OLED display or punch-hole front cameras, checks the market reaction, waits for the components to be perfected and fall in price, and then starts introducing it as a novelty on its most expensive iPhones first a few years down the road.
Don’t expect 10x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max as on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though, as Apple’s baby steps periscoping will feature a 5x-6x magnification with folded optics over a 12MP 1/3″ sensor with Apple’s Sensor Shift stabilization technology and f/2.8 aperture. Samsung is running its extended trade-in program, meaning you can get up to $1,000 off when you bring in your old device, even one with a cracked screen. Then, there’s a $350 discount going on at the Samsung Store as well in the form of a free Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic.
Periscope zoom really kicked off when Samsung started equipping its S-line handsets with true 10x zoom lenses, and now its high-end phones come with both telephoto cameras for nearer objects and portraits, as well as Space Zoom lenses capable of quality 10x magnification. When Apple introduces the technology on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, though, it will enter the collective mainstream, as so often happens, and there might barely be a flagship phone without a 5x-10x zoom camera then.
The reason behind the relatively slow adoption of periscope zoom lens on flagship phones is that the kit itself is very expensive. Back when Huawei introduced the 5x periscope zoom tech, we sat for an interview with its CEO, and he confirmed at the time that it’s very hard to turn a profit from such a phone as the high-precision optical zoom set suppliers are charging an arm and a leg for them.
The situation hasn’t changed much, it seems, as the current multi-layer 7P lenses that Apple uses for its iPhone cameras are $2 apiece at the most, whereas the optical zoom kit that the iPhone 15 Pro Max will use can reach $15. If the expected initial suppliers can’t turn enough yield, the cost of the 5x zoom camera on the 15 Pro Max can hit up to $70, warns Kuo.
This will inevitably eat into Apple’s margins and we may expect a higher iPhone 15 Pro Max price on the basis of its zoom camera exclusivity. For the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max which will both have periscope cameras, according to the analysis, that might not be the case as more companies are expected to enter Apple’s folded optics supply chain by then.