Apple May Rearrange the Camera Layout on the iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 14 Pro Max camera array Credit: Lucas Hoang / Unsplash
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Apple’s camera lens placement for its iPhone Pro models has been consistent since the three-lens camera system came to the iPhone 11 Pro Max in 2019. However, that may be set to change as the company prepares to add a new periscope lens system to its larger iPhone 15 Pro Max model this year.

Although it’s not apparent unless you start covering the individual lenses, the iPhone 14 Pro puts its 3X telephoto lens in the top corner, with the primary camera lens below it and the ultra-wide lens off to one side. While the iPhone 13 changed up the design of the two-lens system for the non-pro models, the triple-lens layout has remained unchanged for nearly four years other than adding the LiDAR Scanner with the iPhone 12 lineup.

However, according to a tweet from a leaker who goes by the handle of Unknownz21, Apple is planning to flip the positions of two of the lenses in this year’s iPhone 15 Pro Max, placing the telephoto lens off to the side, in the position currently occupied by the ultra-wide lens.

Such a change may be necessary due to the move to a periscope camera system in this year’s iPhone 15 Pro Max. Since this employs multiple lenses and mirrors along a longer imaging chamber that’s positioned perpendicular to the visible, outward-facing lens, it’s not hard to see how the current camera placement wouldn’t offer much room for this new component if it had to be placed behind the primary camera sensor or LED flash.

Moving the telephoto lens to a new position would allow Apple to either extend the periscope system sideways, toward the location of the mute/silent switch, or even possibly downwards beneath the LiDAR sensor, which takes up considerably less internal space than the primary camera lens and sensor system.

What’s less clear is whether Apple will make this change solely on the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max — the only model expected to get the periscope lens system this year — or bring the new layout to both of its Pro models for consistency. Recent reports have suggested that Apple plans to expand the periscope system to include the iPhone 16 Pro next year; that model is also expected to increase to a 6.3-inch screen, which may be needed to accommodate the new camera system.

Even if this report turns out to be accurate, it’s unlikely the iPhone 15 Pro camera array will look any different on the surface. While the telephoto lens requires a longer focal length for its increased zoom factor, Apple has always designed the iPhone to that each lens protrudes the same distance. Most iPhone users aren’t even consciously aware of which lens is which, so swapping two of them should go unnoticed unless Apple deliberately chooses to change things up to highlight the camera capabilities with a new design.

It’s also not clear yet exactly how much a periscope lens will increase the optical zoom capabilities of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. While Apple managed to push the telephoto lens to 3X with the 2021 iPhone 13 Pro models, it’s hit the limit of how much farther it can go without either adopting a periscope system or an even longer lens at the back. Other smartphone makers, many of which have been using periscope lenses for years, offer 5X, 6X, or 10X optical zoom levels. However, since higher zoom levels require more internal space, 5X is the most common, and most reports suggest that Apple will stick with something in the 5X-6X range.

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