New Apple Leak Reveals iPhone 15 Design Shock

11/01 Update below. This post was originally published on October 29th

Apple’s iPhone 15 series is tipped to make major changes externally and internalbut now a really dazzling design change has leaked out.

According to respected analyst Ming Chi Kuo’, Apple will replace the physical volume and power buttons on premium iPhone 15 models with solid-state (immovable) buttons that provide feedback via haptic motors. And we already know the code name.

Last month, anonymous leaker ShrimpApplePro tweeted that Apple is working on an “iPhone without a physical button.” Project code name ‘Bongo’.” The lack of context around the time frame meant it was widely overlooked and written off by many as being years away. But Kuo changed all that.

“My latest research indicates that the volume rocker and power button of two high-end iPhone 15/2H23 new iPhone models can adopt a solid-state button design (similar to the home button design of iPhone 7/8/SE2 & 3) to replace the physical/mechanical button design,” explains Kuo.

Kuo says Apple will put Taptic Engines (the company’s branding for haptic engines) on the internal left and right sides of the new iPhones, which will provide force feedback “to make users feel like they’re pressing physical buttons.” Interestingly, Kuo states that he also expects premium Android smartphones to adopt this design soon.

10/31/update: Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has thrown its weight behind the arrival of USB-C to the iPhone 15 series and has described how Apple will present the switch to customers.

“While Apple seems bitter that a government is interfering with its product roadmap, the move from Lightning to USB-C is actually a good thing for consumers,” said Gurman.

While Apple hasn’t specifically confirmed it would fix a USB-C port for new iPhones, Gurman says they will indeed be coming to iPhone 15 models, implying it’ll be for the full range rather than a Pro/Exclusive. Ultra, as some leaks claim.

“You can rest assured that when Apple announces the iPhone 15, the change won’t be described as government intervention,” Gurman said. “It will be presented as a way to simplify charging iPhones, iPads and Macs.” This is undoubtedly true, if somewhat unfairly, given that Apple could have switched iPhones to USB-C years ago – after all, Apple was involved in developing the standard itself.

When Lighting was first introduced in September 2012, its compact reversible nature justified its existence over the irregular micro USB. But that argument lost weight when USB-C arrived and became ubiquitous on iPads and Macs, creating a self-imposed rift in the company’s charging solutions.

11/01 Update: Apple’s iPhone design decisions continue to leak or, in this case, the lack of a decision.

in a new one super tweet to his premium followers, display specialist Ross Young revealed that “Apple has not yet finalized its display choice on the SE4. It is believed to be considering 6.1″ OLEDs from 2 vendors, as well as 5.7″-6.1″ LCDs from 2 suppliers.”

This is genuinely surprising. Apple has been known to work several generations ahead, so it’s highly unusual for the company to still deliberate on something as basic as the size of its next iPhone SE. That said, I suspect I know why.

Huge sales of huge 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max models, combined with poor sales of the 5.4-inch iPhone Mini range (which resulted in its cancellation), had convinced the company Big Was In. But then, disappointing sales of the iPhone 14 Plus have messed things up, with customers eschewing Apple’s cheapest ever large-screen iPhone.

This was not the intention. The combination of real estate with a large screen and long battery life at a (relatively) affordable price has led many, myself included, to predict that the iPhone 14 Plus would be the best-selling iPhone 14 model. Instead, Apple is torn between smaller budget-saving LCD options and a 6.1-inch OLED. The latter could further cannibalize sales of iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus at the low end after already being pinned at the high end by customers opting for Pro models, where the cost differentials narrow when spread over a 2-month period. 3-year carrier contract.

As such, Apple has something to think about. In addition, with Young saying in a follow up super tweet Since the company won’t release the iPhone SE4 until 2024, it still has time to evaluate the longer-term sales of all iPhones before making a decision.

It’s a decision with significant implications, as Apple has arguably misdirected its product segmentation strategy for the first time in years. It’s a strategy that has also raised doubts about the positioning of other lines, including entry-level and Pro-level iPads and the entry-level M1 MacBook Air versus its M2 successor.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if the reported delay in shipping the M2 MacBook Pro isn’t related to rethinking how it will position M1 models in general: keep selling them at a discounted price like the M1 MacBook Air and risk further cannibalization or completely replace the models. Across multiple product lines, it’s a growing problem that Apple needs to solve.

While the concept sounds strange, it makes sense. Apple has a lot of experience with haptic motors and has successfully performed this sensory deception trick since 2015 with MacBook touchpads. The company also downsized its haptic engines to introduce “3D Touch” on the iPhone 6S, but failed to make its functionality intuitive, eventually killing the feature with the iPhone 11.

This was a rare example of Apple making great hardware but failing to find a software application, so the return feels fitting. Moving parts also have a higher risk of failure, so the transition should increase reliability and reduce repair costs. It can also increase water resistance. The technology could even be expanded to provide DualSense-like feedback in games as there will be motors on both sides of the phones.

Some questions remain, such as how things will work (cut-outs can feel strange), but overall it sounds like a very positive move. Combine this with leaks claiming that Apple will introduce an iPhone 15 Ultra with a super strong titanium chassis, dual front camerasa Thunderbolt 4-powered USB-C portnext to an new design for standard iPhone 15 models — and it looks like the excitement is returning to iPhones in 2023.

Check out this space.

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