In the past, Apple used to alternate between full-number iPhone updates (such as the iPhone 4, 5 and 6) and less dramatic S updates (such as the iPhone 4s, 5s and 6s). It was understood that the biggest design and technology changes were reserved for the former class of handset, while the S updates were more cautious refinements of the previous year's model.

Apple seemed to have left that strategy behind with the 6s in 2015. In following years the company was less modest, insisting that subsequent iPhones were deserving of a full-number bump and even, in one case, pushing the number forward from 8 to 10 (or X) in a single leap.

But the S strategy made a comeback in 2018 with the launch of the iPhone XS, and looks set to feature in 2021 as well. The latest report predicts that the iPhone 12 will be followed by the 12s, instead of the iPhone 13, and that this more conservative branding will be reflected by a lack of dramatic changes: the design will be identical to the iPhone 12, and you shouldn't expect any major changes in the camera either.

This is not simply speculation by analysts; according to Bloomberg, Apple's own engineers refer to the next handset among themselves as an S version. Of course, this could be a ruse on Apple's part to postpone the suspense for as long as possible, but it seems like a strong indicator of the next phone's branding.

Why waiting for the 13 (or 12s) is still worth it

Nevertheless: there is always reason for hope. After all, Apple has to convince people to buy the iPhone 12s/13, and we still think that some new features will appear that competitors have been offering for a long time and were somewhat expected in the iPhone 12.

For example, rumours suggest that the 2021 iPhone will have a fingerprint sensor embedded in its display, as is the case with many Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S21. This would be installed as a supplement to Face ID and would be particularly useful given the mask requirements of the current pandemic. The notch should also be a little narrower. In fact, Jon Prosser has shared details of the changes to the notch for the 2021 iPhone. Read: 2021 iPhone has smaller notch & 1TB memory

We also expect the display of at least the Pro models to support a refresh rate of 120Hz this year.

For all the latest leaks and speculation, visit our regularly updated iPhone 13 news hub - which we may have to rename at some point if this rumour persists. If, on the other hand, you're more interested in the current range you should head over to our roundup of the best iPhone deals.

This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by David Price.