Every September, kids go back to school, and Apple invites a bunch of journalists into a dark room, where it reveals the future of iPhones. That’s the beginning of the global mad dash to stand in line and secure a new Apple device with just a few modest upgrades. The time is now upon us. Are you intrigued? Are you scared? Are you prepared to spend more money than you’ve ever spent on a phone before?
Update 8/30 - Apple just announced that the iPhone event will take place on Wednesday September 12 at the Steve Jobs Theater on the company’s new campus.
This year’s iPhone rumors point at a new lineup that represents a full court press on your wallet. Bloomberg says that Apple appears to be less interested in getting more people to buy iPhones than it does in raising the average price of the iPhone. That means that the big price hike that we saw with the iPhone X release last year might trickle down to other new models. But it could also mean that the edge-to-edge screen design and Face ID will also come to lower end iPhone models. It’s gonna be costly, but lit.
Based on unconfirmed reports, Apple will release three new iPhones this year. One will apparently feature the 5.8-inch OLED, bezel-free screen with Face ID, stainless steel edges, and the same overall design as the iPhone X, including the vertically oriented two-lens camera on the glass back. Another will reportedly come with a 6.5-inch OLED bezel-free screen—which would be the biggest screen Apple has ever put in an iPhone—as well as Face ID, stainless steel edges, glass back, and dual cameras. Think of it as an iPhone X Plus but likely with a different name. More on that in a second.
The third phone is perhaps the most interesting one. It will evidently have a 6.1-inch LCD, bezel-free screen, Face ID, glass back, and aluminum edges. That means it will basically look and function like a slightly larger iPhone X, but cheaper materials should give it a lower price point. In keeping costs down, Apple will reportedly only include a single camera on the LCD device, making it look a lot like a premium version of an iPhone 8. In addition to a lower price, the LCD device might also mean more choice of color. According to well respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the LCD device will come in a range of colors, including grey, white, blue, red, and orange. The OLED devices, Kuo says, will come in black, silver, and gold.
What does seem imminent is the end of the bezel. The new full-screen design with Face ID has been a big hit with reviewers, notch and all. Furthermore, moving all of the iPhone models over to this new form factor stands to make app design and manufacturing easier and more efficient. Some leaks indicate that the screen on the 6.1-inch LCD device will have a slightly larger bezel than what will be on the OLED devices. But still. Big screens seem like the future of iPhones.
This one is anybody’s guess. Apple’s iPhone-naming scheme used to be pretty easy. Since the iPhone 4 release, the company would release a completely redesigned device that would get a new number, like iPhone 5. The next year, Apple would release a device with the same basic design but upgraded guts, and the company would just add an “s” to the name, like the iPhone 5s. Beginning with the iPhone 6, a larger-sized devices got a “Plus” at the end of the name. That formula got all messed up on the iPhone’s tenth anniverary last year, when Apple released the iPhone 8 alongside the very special iPhone X (“ten”).
This year, if Apple releases three phones of different sizes, that traditional scheme gets further messed up. Basically no one expects Apple to release an iPhone 9 alongside an iPhone XI (“eleven”) and iPhone XI Plus. However, many analysts have suggested that Apple will adhere to a version of its previous “s” product cycle. That could mean that the new OLED devices will be the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Plus. Perhaps, the new LCD device would be called the iPhone 9, but that seems messy.
To make matters even more confusing, a series of reports from the days leading up to the announcement suggest that Apple will throw other letters and phrases after iPhone X to differentiate between models. Bloomberg says that the larger OLED device could be called the iPhone Xs Max, while the cheaper LCD device might be called the iPhone Xr. Others have reported that the LCD model will be called the iPhone Xc, borrowing from the short-lived iPhone 5c naming convention. But who knows, at the end of the day, Apple could throw the old number system out the window and go with something like “the new iPhone.” How to differentiate between the three sizes? The new iPhone Big, Medium, and Small? Who knows.
The arms race over super impressive smartphone guts is hot right now. Samsung recently released the Galaxy Note 9 with some extra beefy numbers, and based on the rumors, the new iPhone lineup will rival specs like these. Think faster processor, more RAM, bigger batteries (for some models), and better displays.
Multiple reports from the supply chain indicate that the new iPhones will include a new A12 processor, made by long-time Apple supplier Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). These seven-nanometer chips would be significantly smaller than the 10-nanometer A11 processors currently in iPhone X and iPhone 8 lineup. They will also apparently be 10-percent faster, according to benchmark tests uploaded to Geekbench back in June. Updated chip technology could also make the new iPhone devices use battery power more efficiently.
Those benchmarks also indicated that the OLED iPhone devices will come with 4GB of RAM, up from the 3GB in the iPhone X. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has backed up this information and added that the OLED devices will also come with an L-shaped, two-cell battery similar to the one in the iPhone X, and thanks to the larger size, the larger 6.5-inch device will sport a 25-percent larger battery capacity than the iPhone X, perhaps as big as 3,400 mAh. The cheaper, LCD device will reportedly stick with 3GB of RAM and a rectangle-shaped battery similar to what’s in the iPhone 8 lineup.
What’s one of the more intriguing and convoluted rumors about the new iPhone lineup involves those big, beautiful displays. This one also comes from Kuo, who says that the cheaper, 6.1-inch LCD device will use a Cover Glass Sensor that’s located on the top of the display instead of sensors built in to the display itself. This would make the screen stronger (think: less likely to crack) as well as cheaper to produce. However, Apple might further reduce costs for these new LCD displays by not supporting 3D Touch, which would hardly be a tragedy. There’s also a chance that Apple could put the newly released, more durable Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on all three new devices, but that might also be wishful thinking.
If the above rumors are correct, all of the new iPhones will come with Face ID capabilities. This might make some enthusiasts nervous, since the TrueDepth cameras that make Face ID work caused some delays in iPhone X manufacturing last year. Apple has since invested nearly a billion dollars to expand its camera module business and shore up supply, as it prepares for new iPhones and, potentially, a new iPad with Face ID.
All that said, don’t expect any big changes to Face ID. Some analysts have predicted that Apple will feature a second-generation TrueDepth module that would make the iPhone notch smaller, but that rumor really hasn’t been corroborated. Given last year’s iPhone X delays, it makes sense that Apple will play it safe with Face ID this year.
If you hope to plug a USB-C cable into the butt of a new iPhone later this year, keep dreaming. One juicy rumor suggests that Apple will replace the proprietary Lightning port with the very fast and convenient USB-C port on the new iPhones. This is almost certainly not happening, if only because Apple is still making truckloads of money by licensing its Lightning technology to third party accessory-makers.
What does seem very possible is a separate rumor that Apple will ditch its outdated USB-A iPhone chargers and ship this year’s iPhones with a new USB-C brick capable of fast-charging. The rumor first surfaced with an image from the Chinese social network Weibo, but gained steam a few months ago when Apple started slashing the prices of USB-C to Lightning cables in the Apple Store. By making this cable standard, Apple would also solve the years-old curse that made it impossible to plug an iPhone into a new MacBook without buying that special USB-C to Lightning cable.
It looks fairly certain that Apple will announce the new iPhone at an event in Steve Jobs Theater on September 12. Sources from two German mobile carriers have also reported that pre-orders will start on September 14 and actual sales will start September 21. While none of these dates are confirmed, they would fall in line with iPhone launches of years past.
That said, there’s some reason to believe that the new iPhones won’t ship right away. The iPhone X, after all, was announced on September 12 last year but didn’t start shipping until November 3 in the United States. That might not be the case this year. Kuo and others have suggested that all three phones will start shipping in September, although others say that the 6.1-inch LCD device will be delayed by about a month due to supply chain shortages.
This part is a little tricky. Remember that report about Apple raising the average price of all iPhones? That doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple is going to make its top-of-the-line iPhone more expensive. According to Kuo, the company will instead “adopt a more aggressive” pricing policy. That means that, while the most expensive version of the device will still be in the $1,000 range, the others will be slightly pricier than the current lineup.
The dollar figures currently being floated are $900 to $1,000 for the 6.5-inch OLED device. Kuo predicts that the 5.8-inch OLED device will cost $800 to $900 and the 6.1-inch LCD device will cost $600 to $700. If you consider that the average iPhone cost $724 in the second quarter of this year, you can imagine how that number will trend upwards as more people upgrade to the 2018 iPhones. Unless you’re an Apple investor, those figure don’t mean much to you. But you should start getting used to the idea of more expensive iPhones. Somebody’s gotta pay for that extra screen space!