According to a new leak, Apple could be readying an iPhone 11 Pro as one of the three phones in its lineup for the company’s big September launch. On paper, the move makes sense, and it could help justify the premium for what could be the successor to the iPhone XS Max, which currently starts at $1,099.
Although the iPhone XS Max is Tom’s Guide’s best smartphone right now, maybe the big 6.5-inch OLED screen and larger battery simply aren’t enough incentive for shoppers to step up from the much cheaper 6.1-inch iPhone XR, which costs only $749, or from the $999 5.8-inch iPhone XS.
iPhone sales dropped 12 percent year over year during the most recent quarter, as people are holding onto their phones longer than ever before. But an iPhone 11 Pro could shake things up.
Wait, what’s the point of an iPhone 11 Pro?
Between the MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, there’s plenty of precedent for Apple carving out a Pro line for the iPhone. And there’s a clear financial incentive for doing so. The 9.7-inch iPad, for example, starts at $329, while the iPad Pro jumps all the way up $799 to start.
“The point of creating a Pro line is not to sell more phones,” said Avi Greengart, lead analyst for Techsponential, “but to raise the average selling price (ASP) by better tailoring the experience to different price points.”
So what would a 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro have that the regular iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 R wouldn’t? Well, you can scratch 5G off of the list, because that’s not expected until the iPhone 12 in 2020. But there are plenty of other features that may be exclusive to an iPhone 11 Pro. Here’s what we could get.
ProMotion Display with faster refresh rate
Here’s a feature Apple could steal from the iPad Pro. Apple’s ProMotion technology automatically adjusts the screen’s refresh rate based on what you are doing to deliver a smoother experience.
The iPad Pro has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, so it’s possible Apple may bring this tech to the iPhone 11 Pro as well. Other phones with 120Hz displays include the Asus ROG Phone 2 and Razer Phone 2. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen has a refresh rate of 90Hz, which we found also made a big difference in everyday use compared to typical 60Hz smartphone screens. The Pixel 4 is also rumored to be moving to a 90-Hz display.
Fast charging (without charging extra)
All of the rumors and leaks point to Apple keeping the Lightning connector on this year’s iPhones but including a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box for faster charging. Previously, to get fast charging on an iPhone, you needed to shell out $49 for Apple’s USB-C charger (or pay for a cheaper charger) and another $19 for a Lightning to USB-C cable.
Maybe Apple will reserve the USB-C charging for the iPhone 11 Pro. Or maybe you’ll get fast charging on the iPhone 11R and iPhone 11 and even faster charging on the iPhone 11 Pro. We’ll have to wait and see.
Apple Pencil support
One surefire way to differentiate the iPhone 11 Pro and other iPhone 11 devices is adding support for the Apple Pencil. And at least one analyst is predicting that Apple Pencil is coming to the iPhone 11. But will Apple just let people use the existing Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro?
The new Apple Pencil has some neat features, such as the ability to change tools with a double tap, and a magnetic design for attaching to the iPad Pro. It also wirelessly charges when connected to the iPad Pro. But this is also a very large writing device compared to a 6.5-inch display, so I have to wonder whether Apple would pull a Galaxy Note 10 and find a way to integrate a stylus holster into the design. Since we haven’t seen any rumors to this effect, for now I’m assuming the iPhone 11 Pro will just work with the existing Apple Pencil.
More advanced cameras
Would Apple reserve this capability for the iPhone Pro only? A report in The Wall Street Journal in January said that only the successor to the iPhone XS Max would be getting triple cameras, so it’s possible the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 would stick with two cameras.
Bottom line: If the price goes up, so does the pressure
Assuming Apple clearly differentiates the iPhone 11 and an iPhone 11 Pro, the company could decide to widen the price gap between the two phones. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the delta grows from $100 now to $150 or $200. But there’s a big risk in making such a move.
“We are currently actually predicting a year-over-year decline of iPhone sales in 2019, based on the assumption that we will see another (slight) price increase compared to last year’s flagship products,” said Annette Zimmermann, vice president and analyst at market research firm Gartner.
Apple has already lost global market share to the likes of Huawei, as it is no longer the No. 2 smartphone maker in the world. An iPhone 11 Pro wouldn’t be about regaining that share, though, but creating a new tier of smartphone experience. And this segmentation could very well pay off — if the execution is as good as the marketing hype.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.