Updated December 10: article originally posted December 9.
Apple’s iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max will offer a similar design to the previous models, but new leaks reveal how Apple is working hard to stay in control of production as it upgrades the technology.
Apple continues to work on diversifying its supply chain. Given the volume of sales of the iOS-powered smartphone, this is not an easy task, but it is essential for Tim Cook and his team not to become reliant on a single supplier for iPhone components. Part of that is to ensure no supplier has significant leverage over Apple during negotiations; another part is to build resilience into the manufacturing process.
Update: Sunday December 10. Writing for the Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes that Tang Tan, Apple’s head of product design for the iPhone and Apple Watch, is leaving the company. Tan has been involved in the design process of every iPhone. His departure may not impact the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro design; much of the design process has been completed—while there are decisions that need to be made, the designs—and potentially the prototypes—will already be available.
What it means looking further out is more important. Product design plays a huge part in the engineering decisions on what will feature in new hardware, the components used, and the look and overall feel of the iPhone.
Tan will take with him significant historical knowledge and expertise. Notably, Apple has not selected a one-to-one replacement for Tan; instead it is sharing out duties across several deputies in each hardware department.
New reports from the supply chain have highlighted Apple’s recent moves to diversify the supply of batteries for the upcoming premium iPhones, not just between manufacturers but between countries. Apple has signalled to suppliers its preference for batteries manufactured in India.
Writing for the FT, Qianer Liu and John Reed note two key suppliers—China’s Desay and Taiwan’s Simlo Technology—have “been asked to scale up production in India for future orders, said three people familiar with the situation.”
This decision is be one of many that reflect the growing trade tensions between America and China. Moving some of the supply of a business-critical piece of technology is an obvious move, even more so when considering Apple’s work to improve the iPhone’s battery.
Recent reports point to Apple bringing the design of its batteries in-house, in much the same way as it brought its silicon design in-house—which led to the more efficient pairing of hardware and software with Apple Silicon. Details on the iPhone 16 Pro reveal a new battery design using a frosted metal shell rather than the foil casings used previously. This should help the thermal management of the iPhone, with the battery one of the largest sources of heat when the iPhone is in use.
With the presumptively named A18 Pro chipset set to offer more performance for the iPhone 16 Pro and 16 Pro Max, Apple will need to balance the chipset’s performance against the endurance expected by the user, two areas where Apple’s new materials and designs can come to the fore.