iPhone 17 Pro: Samsung and Google will hate Apple’s “triple 48MP camera” plan


iPhone 17 Pro: Samsung and Google will hate Apple’s “triple 48MP camera” plan

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We first heard rumors of Apple’s plan to add a 48MP zoom camera to the iPhone 17 Pro series back in December 2023, and although the iPhone 16 Pro is what we should be talking about right now, it doesn’t hurt to try seeing into Apple’s more distant future…

However, even without any leaks/rumors, I could tell you a triple 48MP camera system was always in the cards for the premium iPhone models, and it looks like it’s just a matter of time until the 48-48-48MP iPhone comes along.

Now, to the question of why we haven’t seen this high-res camera system from Apple yet, as it often goes, the answer is “because Apple can afford to wait”.

  • iPhone 15 Pro already has a 48MP primary camera
  • iPhone 16 Pro is reportedly getting a brand new 48MP ultra-wide-angle camera
  • So, the only logical step for the iPhone 17 Pro is to close off Apple’s new 48MP camera triangle with another 48MP periscope zoom snapper

Could Apple decide to save the ultimate high-res iPhone camera system for the iPhone 18 Pro instead? Sure! Tim Cook & Co have always been very smart when it comes to spacing out upgrades.Still, if I had to bet, I’d put my money on the iPhone 17 Pro, because competing premium flagships from Samsung, Google, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Vivo are already riding the high-res zoom camera trend.

Now, here’s why a triple 48MP iPhone camera might be a bigger deal than you expect!

Apple’s grand plan for the first triple 48MP iPhone camera is obvious but more special than you think

As I just mentioned in the intro, high-res zoom cameras aren’t anything new. Their main purpose is to allow for something called “sensor-cropping”, where the phone crops into the middle portion of the 48/50/100/200 megapixels to give you “lossless” zoom at double the native focal length/magnification.

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In practice, this means a high-res 5x zoom camera can give you 10x zoom photos with “lossless quality” (like the Galaxy S24 Ultra), as opposed to ones coming from a 12MP 5x zoom snapper, which can only get to 10x by zooming digitally (like the iPhone 15 Pro Max).

But Apple being Apple, you just know that Cupertino has something slightly different in mind when taking its time with an “obvious” upgrade…

  • For starters, Apple’s “sensor cropping”, which we know from the primary camera in the iPhone 15 Pro, is already more special/flexible compared to (say) the one in the Galaxy S24 Ultra; that’s because the 48MP 1x camera in iPhone can also take 1.3x and 1.5x zoom photos (and videos!), which (according to Apple) bring the same quality as regular 1x photos/videos

  • Speaking of videos, it gets even more interesting, because ever since the launch of the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone has been the only phone that can perform sensor-cropping with a lossless zoom effect in video mode; that’s a notable advantage Apple’s been having over Android for a couple of years now

  • It’s easy to see why and safe to assume that Apple will copy-paste the existing sensor-cropping algorithm from the iPhone 15 Pro’s primary camera on to the (alleged) 48MP ultra-wide snapper of the iPhone 16 Pro, and then on to the (alleged) 48MP zoom shooter in iPhone 17 Pro; for example, the 0.5x camera in iPhone 16 Pro could become even wider at its native magnification, and then sensor-crop to achieve 0.5x and 0.7x zoom
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  • The other thing worth noting is that Apple’s 1.3x and 1.5x sensor-cropping algorithm maintains the same 24MP resolution for photos like the iPhone 15 Pro’s 1x photos

Ultimately, and quite ironically, considering how far behind Apple used to be in the zoom and camera flexibility race, the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 17 Pro might give us one of the most comprehensive camera systems with “lossless zoom quality” before Android competitors are able to get there.For reference, Sony has been trying to achieve a “continuous zoom” effect through complicated zoom hardware in the Xperia 1 series, but we’ve seen that this approach (at least in Sony’s execution), is limited in two major ways:

  • The optical zoom range is very short, going from 3.5x to 5.2x zoom (that’s less than 2x of zoom range)

  • The quality of photos and videos can be objectively worse than zoom achieved via sensor-cropping – especially in tougher lighting situations where the optical reach of the sensor isn’t worth the size trade-off (which reduces the amount of light it can gather)

Apple has caught up to Samsung and Google in the camera department: Will Galaxy S25 Ultra and Pixel 10 Pro play catch-up to iPhone 16 Pro?

So, it seems like Apple might (once again) manage to outsmart Android by working “smarter” rather than “harder”, which is something we’ve seen before.

That is, of course, unless by the time Apple gets around to give us the triple 48MP iPhone camera, the likes of Samsung, Google, Sony, and the major Chinese flagship phone-makers manage to achieve another hardware/software breakthrough, which involves high-res sensor, zooming, and… AI?

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The greater benefit of a comprehensive high-res camera system isn’t “zoom” but flexibility…

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We recently saw a short video make buzz on social media, because it wow-ed people with the “crazy” zooming capabilities of the phone it was taken with. Ironically, one of Samsung’s Twitter/X accounts was quick to say the video was taken on Galaxy (clearly, not knowing that for a fact), only to be shut down by the author of the video, who shared a screenshot proving the video was taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Then again, if I must be totally honest, I do wish Apple is preparing something even more interesting for the iPhone 17 Pro/iPhone 18 Pro series. Like a quad-camera system, for example! A fourth camera on the back of the iPhone would most certainly be there to give us even more zoom (10x optical?), and that means even more… flexibility.

But who knows – maybe the quad-cam iPhone is going to be the iPhone 19, which (I believe) will be called the “iPhone XX” (because Apple skipped the iPhone 9 to launch iPhone X).

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