iPhone 13 AND 14 said to miss zoom lens, and Apple needs to do better

Periscopes aren’t just for submarines. We want one in our iPhones too

iPhone camera
(Image credit: Future)

It's been clear for a while that the iPhone 13 isn't going to get a periscope zoom lens to match the Samsung S21 Ultra (and, we're sure, the Samsung Galaxy S22), but a new report suggests that it might not make it into the iPhone 14 either: according to Korean website The Elec, via MacRumors, Apple’s plans for a folded phone lens aren’t going to make it into production before 2023.

Folded or “periscope” lenses solve one of the biggest problems with smartphones: if you want big zooms you need a lot of room, and that’s something today’s super-slim phones simply don’t have. Since no one wants to go retro and stick an enormous telescopic lens on the back, periscope lenses offer a much more elegant solution: they use mirrors to fold the optics so instead of sticking out from the back of the phone, they run along the back of it. The result: massively improved optical zoom without a massively thicker phone case or camera bump.

Why I'm pro-periscope

I’m currently using an iPhone 12 Pro which only goes up to 2x zoom (or 2.5x on the iPhone 12 Pro Max) before the digital zoom kicks in. It’s a really nice camera setup but it isn’t great in the one environment where I take the most photos: live gigs. Now live music is back I’m back to snapping the shows I go to, and that means I’m back to missing the days when I used to take a superzoom camera: my phone takes wonderful photos in most environments but its optical zoom isn’t very big and the digital zoom isn’t great. Here’s a recent example.

Concert photo of Kathryn Joseph taken on an iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

See what I mean? I wasn’t shooting from very far away but this is as good quality as I can expect to get at shows: zoom in more and it gets very jaggy very quickly. With a periscope lens, I’d be able to get much sharper shots that would get me closer to the performer: with a similar periscope lens to the one in the Huawei P40 Pro+ I’d be able to get a 10x optical zoom, just like I had in my superzoom camera. But sadly it looks like I’ve a couple more years of disappointing concert pics before I can get that tech in my iPhone 15.

Not everyone will use these superzoom lenses all the time, but the point is to make it actually possible, and to capture things you couldn't before. And isn't each iPhone always supposed to help you do more?

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).