Rumor mill: Flagship iPhones keep getting more expensive, so what's Apple going to do? Lowering the prices would be the obvious answer, but no; Cupertino could release an even pricier handset, called the iPhone Ultra, as soon as next year.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said in September that Apple could give its regular iPhone lineup an overhaul in 2023 by replacing the top-tier Pro Max with a model called the iPhone Ultra. The claim arrived soon after Apple introduced the Ultra branding in the form of the rugged and very expensive Apple Watch Ultra. The name is also used in the top Apple M1 SoC.

Gurman has now altered his prediction. He says that instead of renaming the Pro Max "the Ultra" this year, an all-new flagship called the iPhone Ultra will arrive and sit above the Pro Max. This could happen as soon as 2024.

Being higher up the chain than the iPhone Pro Max would mean the Ultra sporting a higher price tag than a phone which costs $1,600 for the 1TB model. That's a pretty big ask, especially at a time when the industry is struggling amid an economic crisis.

However, prices of flagship iPhones have continued to rise at a rate above inflation for years---the 2009 iPhone 3GS is 66% cheaper than the top-specced iPhone 14 Pro Max after inflation. Cook believes consumers will keep paying these amounts because "people are willing to stretch to get the best they can afford in that category."

One would expect an iPhone Ultra to offer several improvements over the Pro models, such as a better camera, faster SoC, and possibly a larger screen. It could also have features that differentiate it from the other iPhones, similar to how the Pro models differ from the standard versions by offering exclusive features such as the Dynamic Island. Gurman suggests that the iPhone Ultra could lack a charging port; there's been talk of a portless, wireless charging-only iPhone for several years.

Gurman also talks about the possibility of an Apple folding phone. The form factor, which is dominated by Samsung, is becoming increasingly popular despite the high prices. While Apple has explored a foldable iPhone in the past, Gurman believes we won't see one launch in the near future. A folding iPad or similar-sized Apple device is likely to launch first.