The dust has just settled around this year’s iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR which means the the flurry of analyst predictions, rumors, and forecasts of next year’s Apple handsets have already begun gaining steam.
We’re still many months out before all of the juiciest iPhone rumors begin to emerge, which usually happens once the devices go into production over the summer. However, it’s never too early to begin taking educated guesses at potential design choices and reading the supply chain tea leaves. And based on the most credible speculation we’ve encountered so far, it’s starting to look like the next launch will echo this year’s with some minor changes.
The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR all brought incremental changes to a smartphone, making this year’s keynote a bit of a letdown. Unfortunately, the early prognostications indicate that for the iPhones, safe-but-boring launches may be the new normal.
7. Same Three Sizes and Price Range
First and foremost, it looks like the 2018 size range is here to stay. Next year’s iPhones could once again come in two 6.5 and 5.8-inch OLED variants alongside a 6.1-inch LCD display, according to reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
This also indicates that the devices’ price strategy will remain, with the 6.5-inch model being the most expensive and the 6.1-inch LCD handset being the cheapest. Apple has made it a habit to slightly hike up prices for its high-end model every year, so don’t be surprised if it costs over $1,100.
6. All OLED Screens
Even though Kuo has a notable track record for predicting Apple products, there’s a chance that his stale prediction could be wrong. A report from South Korea’s Electronic Times (via Reuters) alleged that the company would ditch its one LCD phone for a third OLED.
The publication cited multiple anonymous industry sources that claimed the Apple would be going all-in on the brighter, more flexible, and pricer display. This would make sense as OLED screens are quickly becoming the market standard for high-end smartphones, but this could result in more expensive iPhones.
The $749 iPhone XR was marketed as a budget smartphone compared to the XS and XS Max. But that was partly because it came with a cheaper LCD display instead of an OLED screen. This report could suggest Apple might drop it’s “budget” model altogether, which wouldn’t exactly be a surprise as XR doesn’t appear to be selling that well and is already seeing markdowns.
5. A Focus on Augmented Reality
While it’s possible that Apple will go all-OLED, Japanese investment bank analyst Anne Lee says that the new lineup’s biggest overhaul won’t be a new display, but instead have something to do with augmented reality. Her predictions were first reported by Barron’s.
“We think the three new iPhones in 2H19F will likely have the same form factors (body size and displays) as the 2H18 iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max, with some added AR [augmented reality]-related features,” she wrote in a research report.
Apple was early to the AR train. This year’s iPhones A12 Bionic chipset was touted to enable more graphical capabilities than ever before and iOS 12’s ARKit 2.0 gave developers more tools to make AR apps. Kuo has also stated that the company will drop its own AR glasses, though he think that won’t happen until at least 2020.
Could a new AR feature be in preparation for Apple’s high-tech lenses?
4. Triple Rear Camera Lenses
To enable further AR functionality, another analyst believes Apple will implement a third camera lens on its smartphones back panel. This has been a feature in many 2018 smartphones, like the LG V40 ThinQ and the Samsung Galaxy A7, but it seems like Apple will set itself apart by focusing on the AR potential of a triple-lens setup instead of the photography use-cases.
A Google translated Economic Daily report stated that tech analyst Lu Jialin from Deutsche Securities predicts that AR imagery will be one of the upcoming iPhone’s biggest selling points. This will be made possible by a 3D sensor the back of the phones, that would work like a rear-facing Face ID scanner for the environment.
This could be used for an improved AR Measure app, gaming, or even full-body Animoji characters.
3. No 5G To See
Apple might risk going down the AR route, but it likely won’t risk adopting 5G in 2019. Next year’s iPhones will probably remain on the 4G-LTE network until 2020 “at least,” according to a Bloomberg report.
It’s possible that Apple wants to hold off on 5G to let its competitors deal with trouble shooting all of the issues that come with adopting a new mobile browsing standard. Early 5G customers will probably experience holes in coverage, so it makes sense that Apple will let that be Samsung’s problem.
There’s also been rumors that Apple just doesn’t have the capability to fully switch to 5G because of its recent break-up with Qualcomm. The chip manufacturer is leading the push with 5G-enabled modems and parted ways with Apple after multiple royalty and leadership disputes.
2. Improved Face ID
FaceID is Apple’s signature iPhone feature and it will almost certainly improve come 2019. Kuo predicted that this upgrade should decrease the amount of failed unlocks users experience when they try to access their phone in dark rooms. That will be made possible by bolstering a component inside iPhones’ notches called the flood illuminator, which is supposed to keep natural light from interfering with Face ID.
In short, the 2019 iPhone will be able to outline your face better ensuring you barely have to type in your passcode.
1. The Notch Will Stay
Finally, the top-notch will probably remain but the company may find a way to make it much smaller. The black bar at the top of iPhones’ display houses the front-facing camera and all of the hardware that enables FaceID. Until Apple figures out how to embed all of that straight into a display, the cut-out will most likely remain.
Smartphone leaker Ben Geskin believes the notch will be slightly reduced in width, but remain a main part of the iPhone’s aesthetic. On the other hand, an ETNews report citing unnamed industry representatives alleges 2019’s iPhone will be totally notchless, though that seems very unlikely.
While the ultimate goal is bezel-less smartphones, Apple started the notch trend that has proliferated across the smartphone industry. The company will probably stick with it until it figures out an elegant solution for where to house its Face ID hardware.