Apple had a lot of new features to announce with its iPhone 13 lineup this week. The iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max have better battery life, faster A15 Bionic processors, smaller display notches, upgraded cameras, and, when it comes to the Pro models, high refresh rate 120Hz ProMotion displays.
It’s a nice collection of updates, but take a step back and the range starts to look an awful lot like an iterative update over last year’s iPhone 12. They have an almost identical look to the squared-off design introduced with last year’s models, and Apple was careful to not directly compare the performance of its new A15 Bionic chip to last year’s A14 Bionic, only to its competitors. There’s also no major new initiative like the MagSafe ecosystem that Apple kicked off last year, and on the bottom of the phones you’ll see the same old Lightning port rather than USB-C. It all feels very familiar.
So it’s no wonder that much of tech Twitter immediately responded to the phones’ announcement by referring to them as the “iPhone 12S,” aka a minor update to last year’s iPhone 12. That’s how Apple used to name its phones. There’d be a major update one year, usually with a big design change, followed up with a more minor revision that changed some internal components and features but kept the overall look and feel the same. The iPhone 3GS, 4S, 5S, 6S, and XS all used this approach. So what changed?