Apple CEO Tim Cook may have spilled the beans about ‘iPhone Ultra’

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, speaking on the company’s Q123 earnings call, made an off-the-cuff remark that could be a hint about the future of high-end iPhones.

The pro camera system on iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max takes computational photography even further with the introduction of Photonic Engine, improving mid- to low-light performance across all cameras through a deep integration of hardware and software.
The pro camera system on iPhone 14 Pro Max


Cook was fielding a question about whether the iPhone’s rising average sales price was sustainable. After all, a top-of-the-line model that cost $1,150 in 2017 (the iPhone X with 256 gigabytes of storage) now fetches $1,600 (the iPhone 14 Pro Max with 1 terabyte).

His response: The price increase is no problem. In fact, consumers could probably be persuaded to spend more. “I think people are willing to really stretch to get the best they can afford in that category,” Cook said on the call, noting that the iPhone has become “integral” to people’s lives.

While Cook wouldn’t say if he anticipates further price increases, he made a good argument for why even more upscale iPhones could make sense… When the iPhone 15 arrives later this year, Apple will further differentiate the product’s tiers with a range of materials, processors and cameras. That includes giving the Pro Max model a periscope lens, which will offer improved optical zoom.

Apple’s plan to draw a greater distinction between the Pro and Pro Max has spurred speculation that the company will opt for a new top-end brand: the Ultra.

MacDailyNews Take: Over the last three cycles, Apple’s differently sized base iPhone has been a relative flop (iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13 Plus). “Relative” because these models still sell in the millions of units; sales numbers for which any Android peddler would be envious.

Still, it makes sense for Apple to change, and clean, things up and instead offer three new models annually:

• “Normal” sized base iPhone (iPhone 15)
• “Normal” sized Pro iPhone (iPhone 15 Pro)
• “Flagship” sized ultra iPhone (iPhone 15 Ultra)

Even better would be to drop the numbers and name them like MacBooks:

• iPhone (2023) – starting at $799
• iPhone Pro (2023) – starting at $999
• iPhone Ultra (2023) – starting at $1,199

Each model would be clearly differentiated in features, performance, camera systems, and price making them easy for customers to choose with no dud “mini” or “Plus” models in the bunch.

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  1. I mean seriously, who cares anymore? The ever increasing cost of the iPhone for what amounts to nothing more than a slightly better camera and other stuff you can’t remember is not sustainable. My iPhone 12 is going to have to fall apart before I consider another one, and even then I’ll be looking for a used 13 or something.

    Poor Apple. In the age of rapidly evolving generative A.I., Apple is still relying on the iPhone as the foundation of its business. It’s not 2007 anymore.

    They’ve gotten boring. Yes, faster Macs are nice, but where’s the new innovation.

    Remember the old Apple Knowledge Navigator concept video from the 80s?

    It would seem to me they’ve got almost everything they need to create it now…

    iPad + chatGPT + Internet + Siri = Knowledge Navigator.

    What does Apple come up with? Yet another iPhone.

    1. ” …faster Macs are nice, but where’s the new innovation.”

      Apple’s innovation is in mobile chip design like the M1 and M2 which can operate both in a laptop and tablet. Apple has no answer for desktop/workstation level “faster” performance; The current fastest Mac is 3-5 years behind AMD, Nividia, and Intel in terms of raw speed. At the alter of energy and thermal management, Apple put scaleability and profit over performance. Apple chooses not to make a workstation class CPU/GPU.

      faster Macs may be nice but Mac are far from faster

    2. I would argue that:
      1. The Apple Watch—while not category exploding like the iPhone—is still an amazingly innovative product. If any other company were producing the Apple Watch, they would be hailed as the 2nd coming of Steve Jobs.
      2. It might be 30 years before we have the next iPhone-type revolutionary product. It was 17 years between the Mac and the iPod (which allowed the iPhone to happen) and then another 6 years to the iPhone, i.e. 23 years between the groundbreaking Mac and the universe-creating iPhone. As long as Apple continues to carefully and strategically curate and advance their ecosystem, they have a good chance to create the next “iPhone.”
      3. In some ways, the current iPhone is the “next iPhone.” The advancements between the iPhone 14 and original iPhone are astonishing. Is the iPhone 14 a revolutionary product? No, but nobody on this blog would go back to an iPhone 5 or 6, just because Apple hasn’t been creative since the original iPhone. I’m like you, I won’t buy the latest and greatest iPhone, but I certainly won’t be buying the iPhone 9 either.
      4. Iterative creativity is just as important as iconoclastic creativity, and is often a prerequisite to iconoclastic creativity. Think of all the “non-flashy” transitions, processes, and developments Apple had to work on for decades to make their destroyer-of-worlds product we know as the iPhone. (1) Tim Cook was hired to completely overhaul their inventory management so that Apple could actually become profitable. Before Cook, Apple regularly had gobs of inventory in warehouses which no one wanted to buy, and lack of inventory which people were willing to pay premium prices for but couldn’t find. Cook’s transitioning of Apple to a “just-in-time” inventory management system allowed Apple to become profitable long-term. No Cook, no iPhone. (2) Transition from OS9 to NEXT OS—no OS X, no iPhone. (3) Creation of a network of Apple stores which ALL the pundits said was a stupid idea—now most profitable retail spaces per square foot in the whole world. Provided an instant high-dollar retail network to sell the iPhone. (4) Transition from Motorola chips to Intel (HUGE) (5) transition from Intel to Apple silicon (HUGER)-no Apple silicon, no iPhone. (6) Development of the iPod which gave Apple incredible chops in miniaturization and mass production of a consumer product. (No iPod, NO iPhone) (7) Development of the iTunes music store (no iTMS, no iOS App Store).

      All this is to say that just because Apple doesn’t have a paradigm-shattering product next year, doesn’t mean they have ceased being creative. Are there warning signs? Sure. (Siri, lack of quality control, Apple remotes, absurd SSD prices, Apple retail decline, developer relations, over-dependence on China, etc.) Are there also some encouraging signs? Absolutely. But who else has the combination of creativity, ecosystem, and resources to make earth-shattering products in the next two decades like Apple? Google? MS? Tesla? Intel? Samsung? Apple at least controls its own destiny more than any other company I can think of.

      In some ways, Apple’s ecosystem is their “next big thing.” No other company has the all-encompassing ecosystem that Apple has—products, production, retail, software, hardware, developer tools, OS, chip development, etc. etc. etc. This ecosystem allows Apple to introduce a “good” product (Apple Watch Series 1) and then very rapidly turn it into an outstanding product (Apple Watch 8/Ultra). I don’t see any other company with that kind of patient creativity. Other companies seem to be too impatient, too unfocused (Google), to stodgy (MS), or too reliant on third parties for critical hardware and/or software (Samsung).

      1. ‘It might be 30 years before we have the next iPhone-type revolutionary product.’

        And you can bet that the next revolutionary product won’t come from Apple.

        It seems no one in Apple leadership has the power, courage, or vision needed to truly innovate and take risk. Everything from Apple is a sequel to an existing or obvious product. The best we can hope for is the incremental improvement.

  2. IPhone updates were very minor the last years. This year I bought an iphone 14 pro max replacing my iphone 11 pro max. There is not a lot difference in photo quality, which was the reason to upgrade. Everything is more or less the same: speed, screen, design, weight, battery capacity.

    1. Let’s compare the iPhone 11PM to the 14PM, shall we?

      screen size increased from 6.5″ to 6.7″, with slightly improved resolution, smaller pixel size, increased brightness; added ProMotion to reduce blurring and an always-on option
      Emergency SOS system added satellite capability and crash detection
      Camera system went from 12 MP to 48 MP; max optical zoom increased from 2x to 3x
      Battery life improved from ~20 hours to ~29 hours video playback
      chipset went from A13 to A16, adding speed, 1 GPU core, and 8 neural cores
      cellular connectivity increased from 4G LTE to superfast 5G
      screen glass added a ceramic shield, now toughest glass in industry
      waterproofness improved from 4 to 6 m
      MagSafe capability added
      maximum storage capacity increased from 512 GB to 1 TB.

      If you don’t want/need all those improvements, don’t buy the latest iPhone. But don’t falsely claim that Apple isn’t doing anything. That’s total BS.

      1. Yes, the differences from the 2019 to the 2022 phone are notable (not game-changing) but who cares? In day to day use most users will hardly tell the difference between last year’s model, 2021 or 2020, a huge proportion of models sold aren’t the Pro Maxes either, where most of the innovation happens. Apple has been playing the incremental upgrade game for nearly a decade now with iPhone. As a shareholder I expect to see more innovation from the wealthiest, supposedly most creative company on the planet, on top of the natural progression you listed.

        Apple under Jobs was able to move the needle far further with way less resources. The difference is management and leadership. Where’s the Apple Car? Tesla is light years ahead of Apple right now, you need gigantic modern factories that you control to be within spitting distance of Tesla, where are they? What about the VR glasses or VR headset or whatever it’s supposed to be? They got rid of their own monitors for years! We’ve had Face ID on iPhone and iPad for 5+ years, WTF isn’t it on the Mac already?! Tim Beancounter Cook: “Oh, lets save it for next year so our baby step upgrades look like a total joke again.”

    2. My 12 Pro Max still feels state of the art, except for the battery, but my X and 6 Plus, as well as older iPads and even my beloved 2017 27 inch iMac could surely be upgraded. The older phones are practically useless now- battery life is practically non-existent, they’re slow, sluggish, and overheat. I’m looking forward to the 15 Ultra, an iPad mini with better software, brightness, and screen, would have bought a 2022 27 inch iMac with non-Intel processor if it had been offered. As usual, Android and Windows make our most persistent complaints seem like childish whining. They are not options, to put it mildly.

  3. Apple won’t name iPhones like MacBooks as long as the previous models stay in the lineup. SE can be just SE because the old model is dropped when a new one is released.

  4. I see Apple evolving products on par with TV manufacturers, car makers and other luxury goods. Nothing earth-shattering but still improving every year.

    As of now I can’t think of any market that is really looking to be re-made. In 2006 I started looking at smart phones and couldn’t stand any of them and wondered when something would come along that actually did what I needed. I’d only been an Apple users for less than a year but hearing rumors they would make a phone made me wait and I was not disappointed.

    Right now I am at a loss to think of what is needed to me like that was. The watch is way better than I imagined (put one off for years, now I have an Ultra). All new laptops, phones, watches and an M1 Mini plus two TVs from last year, so for once I feel up to date. Still can’t see what market is dying for innovation.

    Yes, Tesla has the electric car. Not the first but the best.
    NAD has the M10. Not the first but with BluOS easily the best.
    ROON has audio streaming (almost) perfected. Not the first but…..

    Anyhow, maybe trusted elections? Honest reporting??
    Software to check political bullshit levels for our God-awful budget process?
    Better medical system?

    What exactly Apple can do at this point I don’t know. Keep making mostly good and reliable products until another need arises, then hope they will studying solutions.

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