Last week Apple previewed iOS 16, its next major iPhone software release. The new operating system will work on iPhone 8 and newer and will likely launch this fall alongside the iPhone 14 widespread. iOS 16 is packed with much-requested new features and tools, such as the ability to customize your lock screen Where edit sent messages. It could also reveal clues to the iPhone 14 – if you look closely enough.
While Apple told us a lot about new features coming to current iPhones, there was no specific mention of what to expect from the iPhone 14. That’s no surprise; Apple never talks about new products before announcing them. Sometimes the company reserves certain software announcements for its annual iPhone event so that it can launch these features exclusively for the latest iPhone.
For instance, Cinematic mode was absent from Apple iOS 15 announcement and instead launched as an iPhone 13 feature in the fall. Although if you look closely, there were some subtle hints sprinkled throughout iOS 15. Since Apple’s launch Portrait mode for FaceTime calls in iOS 15it’s easy to imagine Apple creating a Portrait mode for video recording – which is essentially what Cinematic mode is.
iOS 16 looks no different. Several features seem to have the potential to offer clues as to what we might expect for the iPhone 14 series. One of those clues is actually buried in the code of iOS 16.
iPhone 14 could have always-on display
I was disappointed to see this Apple didn’t add always-on display to iOS 16. It’s a handy feature found on many Android phones, and even the Apple Watch. An always-on screen shows basic information like the time or weather while your phone is asleep. Instead of illuminating your entire screen like your lock screen does, an always-on display only activates part of the screen to save power. It is very convenient and would make the iPhone more user-friendly.
The publication 9to5Mac claims to have discovered several references in iOS 16 that suggest always-on display support may be in the future of the iPhone. The blog found references to backlight management tools as well as hidden flags for engineers that might allow them to test the feature on an iPhone 13 Pro.
But always-on display support might be limited as the screen refresh rate would have to go down to 10Hz or even lower to use less power; well below the typical 60Hz refresh rate of the regular iPhone. The Apple Watch’s always-on display runs at 1Hz, which isn’t supported on any current iPhone (the 13 Pro can go as low as 10Hz) and that could mean it’s making its Apple Watch debut. iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max since it would probably require new hardware.
Even without those clues in the code, the revamped and customizable lock screen also hints at an always-on display. Specifically, the way iOS 16 notifications are grouped together at the bottom of the screen makes me wonder if Apple is experimenting with ways to conserve screen real estate. This is important for an always-on display, as this feature only uses specific parts of the screen to save power.
Another potential clue is the new lock screen widgets in iOS 16, as they look more like Apple Watch complications and are therefore more noticeable. Some Android phones have similar widgets on their own always-on screens.
Visual Lookup could mean a more powerful cinematic mode
One of the more subtle features of iOS 16 is revamped Visual Search which can identify objects, people, pets and landmarks in photos and provide additional information or context. A nifty addition this year is the ability to tap on any photo to remove the background. You can literally tap and lift a foreground subject like a person or a dog away from the background and add the “cutout” to other apps to share or create a collage.
I could see Cinematic mode getting a boost from the machine learning that powers the new Visual Lookup tap-and-lift tool. This machine learning acceleration combined with a new A16 Bionic chip could make videos look better in cinematic mode. Subjects could be “cut out” more reliably and backgrounds looked more consistent out of focus. Apple could also use separation technology to make Cinematic mode do more things similar to Portrait mode, like replacing the background with a black color or placing your subject on a white background.
Cinematic mode debuted on the iPhone 13 series and is basically Apple’s take on a Portrait mode for video. Although cinematic mode is incredibly fun to use, the results can be hit or miss. It’s reminiscent of when Apple introduced Portrait mode with the iPhone 7 Plus: initially it worked but wasn’t great. Over several years, Apple has improved Portrait mode to the point where it’s actually quite wonderful.
A Pro mode for the Camera app
Without even reading a single rumor, you might guess that the iPhone 14 series cameras will be better than the iPhone 13 line. Many of these improvements will likely come from Features based on computational photography such as SmartHDR and Deep Fusion, which are directly linked to the chip powering the phone. So an iPhone 14 running on an A16 chip would theoretically have new camera features or improved photo processing techniques that the iPhone 13 lacks.
Apple’s addition of a customizable lock screen in iOS 16 gives me hope for a redesign of the Camera app on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. New pro features like ProRaw and ProRes video recording can make the Camera app interface a little cramped. Perhaps there could be a Pro mode that can be toggled on and off and provide shortcuts to change camera settings on the fly. Or maybe Apple is cleaning up the Camera app interface to make it more visually appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone still has one of the best camera apps on any phone sold today. But just as a family can outgrow a house, the number of features and modes begins to exceed the app’s original intent.
Of course, this is all speculation, and we won’t know anything about the next iPhone until Apple announces it. But if there is one certainty, it is that it will run on iOS 16.
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