Go Big? Or Go Home? That is the existential question Apple may tackle in 2018.
The company plans to introduce three new models later this year which may include a considerably larger version of the iPhone X -- the iPhone X Plus, perhaps -- as well as a significantly less expensive version. It's worth noting that price hasn't been a major obstacle for the premium flagship so far; though it's the priciest iPhone ever at $999, £999 or AU$1,579, the iPhone X was the best-selling phone for the first three months of 2018, followed by the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Of course, a less expensive version would almost certainly broaden its addressable market. Six months after the iPhone X's release however, the phone has lost a bit of its initial sheen.
In addition to refining the designs and adding in some new 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.
Meanwhile, the Android world continues to react and respond to the iPhone X. At its I/O event this week, Google showed off the new gesture-based interface at the center of its new Android P operating system. (For what it's worth, Google says it started working on the new navigation before the debut of the iPhone X.) And then there's Samsung's AR emoji and Intelligent Scan features -- lesser versions of the iPhone's animojis and Face ID that don't quite measure up to the originals.
OnePlus, Asus, LG, Huawei and others have announced or are rumored to be working on phones that ape the distinctive notch design that Apple popularized (but with which the Essential Phone was first to market). And Huawei has already iterated on the notch concept with its P20, which gives you the option to toggle it on and off.
With the Android world making strides in camera technology and other fronts, Apple can't rest on its laurels. The trillion dollar question is whether the company can keep its amazing winning streak alive even as the overall market for handsets slows.
Though we're likely four 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 2018 Apple iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone X2, iPhone 11 or whatever the next generation may be called.
Editors' note: This post was originally published on March 13, 2018, and will continue to be updated with news and rumors on the 2018 iPhone lineup.
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 early September 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: It could be called the iPhone 11, iPhone X Plus, or the iPhone X2
According to some analysts, Apple may revert to its "S" series nomenclature, giving us an iPhone XS (perhaps a fitting homophone to "excess") and XS Plus or perhaps the numeric equivalent, with the X2.
That noted, there are some very rich design opportunities with the two ones of an iPhone 11. And then there's the possibility of Apple doing away with numbers entirely -- at least for the lower-end, non-X model -- similar to the company's approach with its entry-level tablet, which is now just the "new iPad" every year. Regardless, we do believe that Apple effectively killed the iPhone 9 when it brought out the iPhone X alongside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in September.
Rumor: The iPhone SE X (LOL)
There has been a recent proliferation of rumors about a 2018 release for the long-awaited followup to the iPhone SE. New reports suggest that Apple may be developing a hybrid of sorts, merging the iPhone SE's 4-inch-screen form-factor with the iPhone X's TrueDepth camera system.
As reported by 9to5mac.com, case maker Olixar has produced a prototype screen protector for a smaller iPhone with the slim bezels and notch found on the iPhone X. And this comes in the wake of purportedly leaked CAD drawings of a device called the iPhone SE2 published by TigerMobiles.com and Onleaks.
Rumor: Apple returns to LCD for the next iPhone X
The tech blog echo chamber (Patently Apple to BusinessKorea to Patently Apple) is suggesting that Apple may revert to LCD technology for the next iPhone X, given the high price and limited availability of the OLED displays used in the current model. Citing "the smartphone industry" as its source, the BusinessKorea report predicts that a forthcoming 6.1-inch iPhone will have a MLCD+ display, similar to the new LG G7 ThinQ.
Rumor: 3 rear cameras
One of the new 2018 iPhone models could have a rear facing camera with triple-lens array, according to the Chinese language Economic Daily News (as reported by MacRumors). The article suggests that such a camera would enhance the iPhone's rear zoom capacity and improve picture quality in dim light environments. Note tha Huawei's new P20 Pro comes equipped with a triple-lens rear-facing camera.
Rumor: A bigger iPhone
Bloomberg reports that Apple has developed two new supersize iPhones: a 6.5-inch OLED model -- a "Plus" version of the iPhone X, 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, former 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
Kuo predicts that Apple may launch a single SIM version that costs between $550 and $650 (which converts to about £390-£460 or AU$710-AU$840) and another dual-SIM model, priced between $650 to $750 (about £460-£530 or AU$840-AU$970). And sure, 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 Face ID, the OLED display, 3D Touch and the second rear camera. But when it comes to a $550 iPhone X -- we have our doubts.
Rumor: A pricier iPhone
Of course, every rumor has its equal and opposite rumor. Investment analysts at UBS have predicted that Apple's flagship iPHone for 2018 will cost $1,100 (which converts to about £770 or AU$1,415). That's about $100 over the iPhone X's starting $999 price tag, but it makes sense if that model has a larger screen than the current model.
Rumor: Face ID proliferates, goes horizontal
Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that Apple will bring its TrueDepth camera system to the three new phones coming in 2018. 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.
In addition, Face ID may also make its way into the next batch of iPads rumored for a WWDC announcement later this year. Related to this is a report from multiple sources (Mac Okatara, MacRumors and Bloomberg) that the next version of Face ID will be able to unlock phones while in landscape position -- the default orientation for most iPad users.
Rumor: iPhone support for the Apple Pencil or iPen
And OLED iPhone due out in 2018 will support "iPen device" according to investment firm Rosenblatt Securities. Of course, this rumor -- an iPhone that supports the Apple Pencil -- has been around since the stylus first debuted in 2015. And yet the new 2018 iPad's addition of Apple Pencil functionality gives this old chestnut some new life.
Long shot rumor: Virtual fingerprint scanner
While Face ID has largely mitigated the need for a fingerprint scanner, the buzz around Touch ID embedded in the display -- a trusty pillar of the rumor cycle since the run-up to the iPhone 8 -- persists. And for good reason: 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 Face ID isn't the future, we think its return is a real long shot.
Rumor: iOS 12 emphasizes 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 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 scheduled to kick off June 4.
Published by Justin Jaffe May 11, 2018 4:15 AM PDT