Apple’s 2022 was a little slow on the Mac side, but there are brighter days ahead in 2023 if you ask me. But what about the iPhone, Apple’s most important product? And what about the rest of Apple’s product line-up–including product lines not yet introduced? 2023 promises to be a big one. Here are my predictions for the iPhone, AirPods, HomePod, and Apple foray into an AR/VR headset.
An all-new iPhone–sort of
By all rights, 2023 should be the year when Apple performs a makeover to the iPhone’s overall design language since the current design has been around for three model years since the iPhone 12 line was introduced in late 2020.
But the iPhone line isn’t what it once was. Now there are two distinct iPhone model tiers–the iPhone and iPhone Pro–and two sizes in each. The Pro models have been gradually differentiating themselves from the non-Pro line, and it’s worth pondering if Apple is really planning on giving four phone models a complete redesign in a single cycle.
My guess is that it won’t. There might be some minor changes to the design of the iPhone 15 (all new iPhones will sport USB-C ports instead of Lightning, for example), but I suspect it will soldier on for another year looking a lot like the current iPhone 14 model. However, there’s one iPhone 14 Pro feature that I do think will make its way to the iPhone 15: the Dynamic Island.
The Dynamic Island is one of Apple’s most clever iPhone interface changes in years, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that it should be reserved as a way to motivate people to buy the more-expensive iPhone Pro models. But consistency across a product line has value, and Apple can add the Dynamic Island to the iPhone 15 without removing most of the differentiation between the lines.
I’m also wondering if maybe the iPhone 15 Pro might not look any different than the iPhone 14 Pro. You’d think this would be the year for Apple to goose iPhone sales with a new design–and you’d be right. But I think Apple’s going to take the approach it did with the Apple Watch Ultra and introduce a new high-end model that shows off design flourishes that will make it into the rest of the line eventually.
Out with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, in with the iPhone 15 Ultra–a new model that’s big, boldly designed, and equipped with a new camera subsystem, unlike anything we’ve seen on an iPhone before. (Rumors about Apple toying with a periscope-based system to increase focal length have been out there for some time.) People who want the most cutting-edge iPhones will need to pungle up for the privilege. And guess what? A whole lot of people will.
Wearables, Home, and Accessories
It’s hard to predict what changes Apple will make in its line of accessories. The AirPods line seems pretty solid, with the exception of the aging and quirky first-generation AirPods Max headphones. So I’ll go out on a limb and predict that we’ll see a better-designed, more sensible set of AirPods Max headphones in 2023.
When I consult my Magic 8-Ball about the Apple Watch, all it says is “Reply hazy, try again later.” I kind of expect the main-line Apple Watch to get a little redesign to pick up some of the features of the Apple Watch Ultra, especially the Action button. It feels like the Apple Watch design is in due of a refresh in general, but I’m not confident that 2023 will be when it happens.
And in terms of home tech, while I’ve been repeatedly burned in predicting Apple’s introduction of new home-based products, I choose to believe that Apple was simply biding its time, waiting for the Matter specification to be finalized so that it could spring into action. (Give me this, okay?) So I’m doing it again: I predict Apple will actually do something new in the home!
The question is, what? Maybe it’ll be a new take on the original, larger HomePod. Maybe it’ll be a home-theater device that combines tvOS with speakers to create an awesome soundbar experience. Maybe it’ll be a HomePod with a screen for the kitchen. I don’t know which one is most likely, but it feels like Apple has to do something, right?
A big dose of reality
Finally, the big one. After years of rumors and what seems to be numerous delays in 2022, it feels like 2023 is when Apple finally, finally takes the wraps off its new augmented-reality headset.
My best guess: Apple will unveil the product in a spring event and then ship it later in the summer after developers have had some time to dig into the details about how they can build apps for a brand-new Apple platform.
I’m also going to swim against the tide regarding reports that the product will be wildly expensive and sell in only very small amounts. That just doesn’t sound like an Apple product roll-out to me. Don’t get me wrong–I’m sure it’ll be pricey. But I suspect it will cost less than the $2,000-plus price tag being bandied about in some reports, even if Apple has to swallow its usual wide margins in order to get it out there.
Apple is going to want to motivate people, at least adventurous ones, to give this product a try. And for developers to get excited and put in the effort to build apps, the product needs a market and an audience! Apple will be highly motivated to get this first headset out there and start building momentum, and an ultra-expensive developer kit isn’t how you do that.
Some of these predictions will, of course, be wrong. But I’m confident that many of them will be correct, or close to it–and if that’s the case, 2023 may be the most exciting year for Apple watchers in a decade. I can’t wait to see what’s coming–and for all my predictions to be utterly vindicated, of course.