October 23, 2021


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iPhone 13’s camera sensors and A15 Bionic were ‘frozen’ 3 years ago

What you need to know

  • Apple says that its iPhone 13 camera sensors and the A15 Bionic chip were “frozen” three years ago.
  • Graham Townsend (VP of camera hardware engineering) says that hardware was planned out before deciding on the experience users would be able to enjoy.
  • Two Apple camera VPs were talking to GQ about iPhone 13 and more.

That seems like a long time ago.

Apple had the iPhone 13 camera sensors and A15 Bionic chips set out by this time three years ago, according to the company’s VP of camera hardware engineering, Graham Townsend.

Townsend was speaking with British GQ alongside Jon McCormack, VP of camera software engineering, about all things iPhone when the tidbit popped up. Townsend noted that its when the sensors and the processor have been “frozen” that attention turns to getting the experience right. And that’s when McCormack’s team comes in.

“The planning has to start about three years ahead, because that’s when we actually fix the specification of the silicon,” says Townsend. “So, for instance, the sensor gets defined at that point and the A15 Bionic processor is also frozen. That’s when we have to begin to talk with Jon and predict the experiences that we want. Obviously when we designed the new ultra-wide lens, we were going to deliver macro photos. But how is that going to work both in stills and video?”

There has never been any doubt that Apple’s devices are mapped out long ahead of time and that right here, right now, iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 are likely sat in a room beneath Apple Park. But having hardware set out three years in advance is impressive, if only because it means there’s little room for wiggle room when we get closer to launch. Or a pandemic hits.

The full GQ interview is a great read and covers how Apple created a suite of cameras that suit both TikTok users and people wanting to great movies, at least at home.