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Top Apple analyst gives rundown of what to expect from this year's new iPhones

CNBC logo CNBC 3/1/2021 Kif Leswing
  • The 2021 iPhones could include a smaller notch, increasing the phone's usable screen space, according to a new note from a reliable Apple analyst.
  • They will also have larger batteries thanks to a new internal space-saving design, improved 5G modems and better cameras, TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said.
  • The research suggests that after a year when Apple changed up its iPhone lineup with new designs, new screen sizes and 5G connectivity, leading to a major boom in sales, this year's models will end up being closer to what used to be called "S" models.
graphical user interface, application: iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max © Provided by CNBC iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple is preparing four new iPhones for release in the second half of this year that resemble the current lineup of iPhone 12 models, TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted in a note to investors on Monday.

The 2021 iPhones could include a smaller notch, the area that houses the Face ID camera system, increasing the phone's usable screen space. They will also have larger batteries thanks to a new internal space-saving design, improved 5G modems and better cameras, according to the note.

Still, Kuo predicted that the 2021 iPhones will be the same size as the current phones: a "Mini" device with a 5.4-inch screen, two models with 6.1-inch screens and a "Max" model with a 6.7-inch screen. They will continue to have a proprietary Lightning connection for data and power, Kuo predicted.

Kuo's latest research suggests that after a year when Apple changed up its iPhone lineup with new designs, new screen sizes and 5G connectivity, leading to a major boom in sales, this year's models will end up being closer to what used to be called "S" models, in which Apple makes largely internal changes to its existing lineup.

The 2021 iPhones will be a little heavier than the iPhone 12 devices, Kuo said. Higher-end 2021 iPhones — the equivalent of Apple's current "Pro" models — will continue to include advanced lidar sensors inside the camera and will feature a display that can refresh twice as fast, at 120Hz, which creates a smoother experience.

Kuo is a reliable analyst who often accurately describes unreleased products, focusing on the Asia-based supply chain that makes electronic parts for Apple.

After 2021, Kuo predicted, Apple could move away from a notch on the front screen in favor of a "hole-punch" that includes its camera, like current devices from Samsung and other companies have. Kuo said that Apple could release a redesigned iPhone with a full-front display and no notch, under-display fingerprint sensor and advanced telephoto camera in 2023 at the earliest.

Kuo also suggested that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone, similar to products from companies such as Samsung and Huawei. He said that it could launch as soon as 2023, but Apple still has technology and mass production issues to work out. Apple could also release low-end iPhones based on existing technology in the spring of 2022 and 2023, the analyst suggested.

Kuo said he does not expect that Apple will ditch its current Lightning sensor in favor of a USB-C connector and that he is not sure if or when Apple might start including a fingerprint sensor inside the power button on its phones.

Apple moved away from fingerprint sensing in favor of its facial recognition system, FaceID, in 2017, although a fingerprint sensor works better when the user is wearing a mask.

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