The iPhone 12 is already rumored to consist of four different versions, but it sounds like a surprise fifth model could be on the way.
Twitter tipster Komiya revealed Apple's full smartphone lineup for the coming year, which mentions this mysterious iPhone 12s model. It's allegedly due to appear between Q1 and Q4 of 2021.
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Usually when Apple releases an 'S' model of an iPhone, it appears a year after the original launched as a modest upgrade in a near-identical shell. However, the iPhone 12s, which seems to be planned for release before next fall, doesn't fit into this pattern.
Komiya's tweet does cover the the fall of next year, which means the iPhone 12s could be the yearly main iPhone upgrade. After all, Apple used to create S variants of its iPhones every other year, though it stopped that after the iPhone Xs.
But other leaks have pointed towards next year's Apple phone being the iPhone 13. There isn't much known, or even rumored, about next year's iPhone, but one potentially enormous change could be the removal of the Lightning port to create the first fully portless and wireless iPhone.
All this means the iPhone 12s could be a form of intermediary model, to offer core iPhone 12 features but at a cheaper price, without going as low as the iPhone SE 2020. It would be an unusual move by Apple as it usually uses the previous year's iPhone models as mi-range handsets, rather than create a new mid-tier phone.
On official storeQ4 2020 ~ Q1 2021iPhone SEiPhone XRiPhone 11iPhone 12iPhone 12 ProQ2 2021 ~ Q4 2021iPhone SEiPhone 11iPhone 12siPhone 12iPhone 12 ProSeptember 3, 2020
One suggestion is that the iPhone 12s will be a 4G-only model of the basic iPhone 12. All four of the iPhone 12 models are said to have 5G. This is good for keeping the phones usable in the future, but does mean they'll cost more for some users who have no access to a 5G networks in their local area. Therefore a 4G iPhone 12 model, which has previously been rumored, would be a great way to keep the price down and attract more users.
Supporting this is that Komiya's tweet also reveals what will happen to the existing iPhone models when the iPhone 12 appears. The timeline shows that the iPhone XR, Apple's current cheapest flagship-level model, will be discontinued once the iPhone 12s launches. It suggests that the iPhone 11 will then be the new option at the bottom of the pile, with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12s sitting above.
As for the other models, the iPhone 11 will allegedly continue to be sold throughout 2021, as will the iPhone SE. However the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will no longer be available after the iPhone 12 is launched, according to Komiya.
The iPhone 12 launch will likely take place later than usual this year, as a result of coronavirus-related problems interfering in its development. More specific rumors from leakers claim we'll see the event take place in mid-October. Features to look out for will be OLED displays on all four models, a new range of sizes at 5.4, 6.1 and 6.7 inches, and a LiDAR depth sensor added to the rear camera array of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max models.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.