Go big or go cheap? That is the existential question Apple may tackle in 2018.
The company is said to be tinkering with its 2018 iPhone lineup in an effort to goose adoption of the three models released in 2017 and three new ones reportedly coming later this year. The ultrapricey iPhone X may have dissuaded some Apple fans from upgrading -- starting at $999, £999 or AU$1,579, it's the most expensive iPhone ever -- while the incremental refinements of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may have lacked sufficient oomph to drive the masses into upgrading.
Since the iPhone X debuted last November, there have been reports that Apple is developing at least three new models of varying sizes, including two jumbo versions based on the current flagship. In addition to new form factors and features, Apple is likely to deliver the annual enhancements we've come to expect -- new build materials and colors, a bump in processing speeds, higher screen resolution and tweaks to extend battery life.
The good news, for Apple, is that the Android world is tying itself in knots to emulate the iPhone X. Two of the Galaxy S9's marquee features -- AR emoji and Intelligent Scan -- are Samsung-ized versions of the iPhone's animojis and Face ID that just don't measure up to the originals. And Asus, LG, Huawei and others have announced or are rumored to be working on phones that ape the iPhone X's distinctive notch design. It remains to be seen whether or not they'll bring anything new to the table.
Still, with the Android world making strides in camera technology and other fronts, Apple doesn't want to be resting on its laurels. Can the company take an emerging technology -- AR, for example -- and turn it into a must-have feature for the iPhone 11?
Though we're likely still six months out from seeing the next iPhone, the rumor mill is already creating a compelling picture of what's to come. We'll continue to update this page with news and leaks as we begin our countdown to the Apple iPhone 11 (or whatever the next batch may be called).
Likely: September 2018 announcement and release date
Apple hasn't officially announced when we'll see the next phone. But the timing for this annual ritual has now hardened into a reliable tradition. After launching the first few iPhones in June, Apple shifted to the back-to-school timeframe with the iPhone 5 in 2012 and, apart from the off-cycle iPhone SE, has stuck to it since. No reason to expect this to change in 2018.
Rumor: One will be called the iPhone 11
Depending on the scale of the forthcoming upgrade, Apple could revert to its "S" series nomenclature, giving us an iPhone XS and XS Plus. And yet, we can't help but wonder whether this might invite the unwanted connotation of "excess." This, combined with the very rich design opportunities of two ones, has us putting our early money on the iPhone 11. Whether or not the confusing Roman numeral naming system goes away is anyone's guess, though.
Rumor: A bigger iPhone
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports that the company has developed two new supersize iPhones: a 6.5-inch OLED model -- which would be the biggest iPhone ever -- and a 6.1-inch LCD version. There is also talk that Apple might drop the current 5.8-inch size for the iPhone X, based on its reportedly diminishing orders for OLED components. Previously, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo speculated that the company would release three models in 2018 based on the design of the today's full-screen flagship.
Rumor: A cheaper iPhone
In order to make a 6.1-inch model that's more affordable than anything in the current lineup, Apple could omit some of the pricier components including the OLED display, 3D Touch and the second rear camera. Kuo predicts that a 6.1-inch LCD model could cost between $649 and $749 (about £495-£570 or AU$850-AU$980), putting it on par, price-wise, with today's iPhone 8. Of course, Apple has never been afraid to go high when everyone else goes low; the $350 HomePod is only the most recent example in a long line of premium products.
Rumor: Face ID everywhere
Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that Apple will bring its TrueDepth camera system to all three phones coming in 2018. (According to the Chinese language Economic Daily News via MacRumors, Face ID may also make its way into the next batch of iPads rumored for a WWDC announcement later this year.) With facial recognition technology fully deployed across the 2018 iPhone lineup, Apple could omit the fingerprint sensor from the next batch of phones, according to Kuo, which might mean the end of the line for Touch ID.
Long shot rumor: Virtual fingerprint scanner
And while Face ID has largely mitigated the need for a fingerprint scanner, the rumors of Touch ID embedded in the display persist. And now that we've seen the technology implemented -- it's called Clear ID and it's featured in the Vivo X20 Plus UD that went on sale in China in January. But since reverting to any sort of fingerprint sensor would be an "admission" that FaceID isn't the future, we think its return is a real long shot. Don't bet on it -- but we're keeping hope alive.
Rumor: iOS 12 to focus on performance over big new features
The next version of Apple's mobile operating system, likely to be called iOS 12, may emphasize code quality over new features and the release date of the next batch of iPhones. According to Mark Gurman reporting for Bloomberg, the company has given developers more discretion to hold back new features that aren't quite ready when the next iPhone is unveiled in the fall. We'll find out more about this rumored cultural shift and its implications at WWDC, which is likely to happen in June.
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