Apple's iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max represent important steps forward for the company's handsets and are among the best phones you can buy. They're the most powerful iPhones ever, thanks to the A12 Bionic chip, and they offer many other upgrades, including better cameras with features like Smart HDR.
But there's always room for improvement.
Apple's 2018 iPhones (Credit: Tom's Guide)iPhone 11 rumors are kicking into high gear, promising a plethora of new features and updates in this year's models. The biggest rumors so far center around triple rear cameras, bigger batteries with reverse wireless charging and fast charging in the box. Here's all the top rumors we've heard so far, as well as our wish list of what we would like to see in Apple's next devices.
Latest News (Updated May 24)
- Apple has sent out invites for the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, where the company will announce iOS 13. Here's what to expect at WWDC 2019, which kicks off on June 3 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.
- A new concept video illustrates how Apple might integrate three cameras into its iPhone 11 design.
iPhone 11 release date
iPhone 2019 concept design (Credit: Ben Geskin)Apple announced the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR on Sept. 12, 2018, but the company staggered the actual release dates for the phones. The iPhone XS and XS Max were available for preorder Sept. 14 and they went on sale Sept. 21. The iPhone XR was up for preorder Oct. 19 and hit stores Oct. 26.
If Apple follows a similar pattern for 2019, it would announce the 2019 iPhones on Sept. 10, which is a Tuesday. The handsets would likely go on preorder Sept. 13 and go on sale Sept. 20. But, it's a long time between now and September.
If you can't wait until the fall, Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference starts on June 3. Apple is expected to announce iOS 13 at that event, which can offer some clues about coming iPhone features. Don't expect too many hardware hints, though.
Cameras: An eye on three lenses
Apple's current iPhones offer solid cameras, but they're not the best camera phones out there. Flagships like the Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro are better, especially in low light. One of the most popular iPhone rumors centers on whether Apple will opt for a triple camera array in its 2019 iPhones.Early iPhone 2019 render (Credit: OnLeaks/DigitIndia)In May 2018, Deutsche Securities analyst Jialin Lu said that Apple was planning a triple-lens camera array in at least one of the iPhones it will release in 2019. According to the analyst, whose note was reported on by Economic Daily News, the cameras would offer advanced 3D sensing and use stereoscopic vision and dramatically improve the iPhone's augmented-reality capabilities. AR has been a major point of emphasis at Apple in recent years.
iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max (Credit: Tom's Guide)After initially throwing cold water on the idea of a triple lens iPhone back in September, longtime Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now says Apple is likely to introduce three cameras to some of the new iPhones. Most iPhone 2019 rumors, like a report from the Wall Street Journal report in January, point to only the iPhone XS Max's successor adding a third lens. But Kuo's latest report suggests that both the 5.8- and 6.5-inch iPhones will add a third rear lens. The iPhone XR's successor is expected to adopt two rear cameras this year. Leaked renders show a 6.1-inch iPhone XR with a dual-lens setup housed in the same strange raised square that this year's iPhone XS is rumored to have.
Bloomberg has since come out with its own report, backing the idea that the iPhone XS Max successor will have three rear cameras — a standard lens, supported by wide-angle and zoom cameras. A laser-aided 3D camera that can sense depth and support AR apps won't arrive until 2020, according to that report.
Fitting three lens onto the back of an iPhone will be a challenge, as initial renders of what such a phone would look like are not that pretty. Apple may have come up with a solution, according to Kuo, who says the company will use a special dark coating to conceal the third lens on the back of its new phones. Apple could also use the technique on its front camera, which Kuo says is being bumped to 12 megapixels.
iPhone 2019 render (Credit:@OnLeaks/CashKaro.com)A leaked image of a phone case mold, based on information from inside the supply chain, shows the array on the upper left of the phone in a triangular formation. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted a picture showing all three iPhone 11 models with a similar square for the cameras.
A subsequent render from OnLeaks and CashKaro.com shows how the camera module could be integrated into the glass back of the iPhone 11 for a more pleasing design. And designer Hasan Kaymak created an iPhone concept video that gives us a better idea of what an iPhone with three rear cameras might look like.
Another concept video, this one from Techy Paradise, also showcases how the iPhone 11 might look, particularly with its camera setup. The video doesn't quite match rumored features — the camera array doesn't blend into the back of the iPhone the way Kuo describes, and there's not likely to be an in-display fingerprint sensor like this video claims — but it's still worth a look.
Processor: Bring on the A13
Apple has been working with Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) for years to supply the processors in its iPhones. And according to industry analysts, that won't change anytime soon.
We don't know much about the chip right now, but if history is any indication, look for it to be even more powerful than the A12 Bionic chip you can get in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. That enhanced power usually translates to better processing power and better graphics performance, but we expect another leap in machine learning via Apple's neural engine, which could make AR apps that much more immersive.
A bigger change could be coming in 2020. That's when Apple could shift to a 5-nanometer design for its mobile processors, according to a Digitimes report. The A12 Bionic is a 7-nanometer chip. The switch would likely mean a faster, more efficient processor.
Don't expect 5G
While other smartphone makers are offering 5G phones this year, including Samsung, LG and OnePlus, it looks like Apple is sitting out the first wave. A report in Bloomberg says that Apple likely won't deliver a 5G iPhone until 2020. This may not be a huge deal, as the major carriers will be rolling out their networks throughout 2019.
One of the reasons Apple may have held out on adding 5G support to its phones is a years-long legal dispute with Qualcomm, which makes the 5G modems appearing in most 5G-ready phones debuting this year. Apple's current supplier, Intel, was ramping up its 5G modem production, causing some concern that a 5G iPhone may not even be ready by 2020. However, Apple and Qualcomm just resolved their dispute, so it's likely the 5G iPhone is back on track for next year. A separate report in The Information says that Apple is looking to develop its own modem, but that may not happen for a few years, especially after the settlement between Apple and Qualcomm.
Don't despair about 5G, though — connectivity could improve on the next iPhone if Apple adds support for Wi-Fi 6 to this year's models. That comes from a Barclays analyst note obtained by MacRumors, and it would mean faster connectivity for the new phones.
Design: A notch — with a twist
Most reports suggest that Apple won't change its iPhone design much in 2019. And that would suggest that the company will keep the same notch design it introduced with the iPhone X in 2017 and doubled down on with the new iPhone lineup in 2018.
The current iPhone design (Credit: Tom's Guide)But the notch might shrink.
A report from ETNews in January suggested that Apple was considering combining the front-facing camera and Face ID components wherever possible. Doing so, the report said, might allow Apple to condense the front-facing components and ultimately reduce the size of the notch.
Or perhaps no notch at all?
The iPhone's notch (Credit: Tom's Guide)It seems unlikely, but there has been some talk that Apple could ultimately ditch the notch in 2019.
Those hopes were bolstered in March 2018, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published an Apple patent that showed a mobile device design sans the notch.
Interestingly, Apple acknowledged in the patent that sometimes, front-facing sensors that need to be integrated into an iPhone can be "aesthetically unappealing."
Another patent discovered by Dutch tech blog MobileKopen details a way to drill holes in display panels to allow for Face ID cameras and infrared sensors to look through the screen, effectively changing the notch to holes on the screen. In January, AMS, which supplies the electronics used in FaceID, announced a technology that reduces the space needed for the notch, which would seemingly pave the way toward a new design for Apple.
For his part, Kuo expects the biggest change to the iPhones' look in 2019 to be a textured glass panel similar to Google's Pixel 3.
As for small phone fans still pining for an update to the compact iPhone SE, 2019 may not be your year. However, a report from the Economic Daily claims that Apple will release a 4.7-inch iPhone in March 2020, mimicking the style of the iPhone 8. This phone would have a lower price tag — $649, according to reports — but still offer the A13 processor slated for 2019's iPhone updates.
So long 3D Touch?
Since the iPhone 6s, Apple has been using 3D Touch in its iPhones as a way to give you more contextual menus in the apps you're interacting with in iOS. But a report in August from Apple analyst Kuo hinted that might end in 2019.
The iPhone XR lacks 3D touch. (Credit: Tom's Guide)At the time, Kuo, whose comments were reported on by The Verge, said that Apple would move away from 3D Touch in the handset. Kuo hinted that Apple views 3D Touch as an ancillary feature that adds cost to the smartphone without delivering much value.
By eliminating the feature, Apple could save some cash on producing each iPhone and increase profits. And chances are, Kuo said, most iPhone owners wouldn't care. We may get a sense of how important 3D Touch is to users long before the 2019 iPhones arrive. The iPhone XR doesn't have 3D Touch; it uses a feature called Haptic Touch instead. It will be interesting to see how iPhone shoppers react to that switch.
As for a foldable version of its iPhone, it's likely Apple is working on something. (The latest in a series of patents awarded to the company covers Apple working on a way to keep foldable phones from cracking in cold weather.) But while foldable phones appear to be all the rage in 2019, Apple's plans point to a 2020 release at the earliest.
Hello, Apple Pencil
There had been some hope that Apple would bring Apple Pencil support to the iPhone in 2018. But alas, it never happened. Now, all eyes are on 2019.
Apple Pencil (Credit: Tom's Guide)According to The Korea Herald's sources, Apple is considering adding Apple Pencil support to its 2019 iPhone lineup. That report said Apple might opt for a supercapacitor stylus, which is cheaper to manufacture than the electromagnetic-resonance technology Samsung uses for the S Pen that accompanies its Galaxy Note 9. However, Apple's technology would make it feel more like a pencil, according to the report.
The Apple Pencil 2 in the new iPad Pro delivers new functionality, such as gestures, and it magnetically attaches to the tablet for charging. Perhaps Apple will offer an Apple Pencil for an iPhone X Pro or whatever the largest-screen iPhone winds up being this fall.
A commitment to OLED
When Apple unveiled three new iPhones in 2018, the company's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max shipped with OLED technology. The iPhone XR, however, offers LCD.
The 2018 iPhone XS introduced OLED screens. (Credit: Tom's Guide)While some had hoped to see OLED in all three models, that might actually happen in 2019. A report from ETNews in May 2018 cited sources who said Apple would turn to an all-OLED strategy this year and offer the technology in all three of its smartphones.
Don't pop the champagne corks just yet, though. The Wall Street Journal's earlier report on three iPhone models suggests that the cheapest model will still use an LCD panel, and a subsequent Journal report reiterates that Apple's move to an all-OLED lineup won't occur until 2020. Kuo's 2019 Apple product line forecast makes the same prediction.
Battery power and fast charging
We haven't heard very much about how Apple plans to improve battery life in this year's iPhones. But one possible change would be a welcome one — Kuo says the new iPhones will offer bi-directional wireless charging that lets the phone charge other devices. It's a feature that Samsung just added to its Galaxy S10 lineup.
In a follow-up report published in April, Kuo said the batteries on the new iPhones will be larger than the 2018 models, in part to support that bi-directional charging feature. The iPhone XS successor will see the biggest jump, with a battery between 3,200 mAh and 3,500 mAh, while the increase for the successor the XS Max will be more modest at around 3,650 mAh. The new version of the iPhone XR will see little change to its battery, according to Kuo.
Apple's phones offer good battery life, but they haven't cracked the top 10 of our list of the smartphones with the longest battery life. Perhaps the iPhone 11 will change that.
Are you sick of your iPhone taking forever to charge? The Japanese site Macotakara says that the successors to the iPhone XS and XS Max will come with a USB C to Lightning cable and more powerful power brick for 18-watt fast charging.
What we want
What we want and what we'll actually get are two very different things, as Apple's history of product launches has shown. But here's a quick rundown of some features we hope that Apple works into its 2019 iPhone lineup.
USB-C fast charging: This one didn't seem like much of a stress, but a new report indicates that Apple will stick with Lightning this year, despite switching to USB-C for the 2018 iPad Pro.
Charging an iPhone XS (Credit: Tom's Guide)USB-C allows for fast charging and the ability to connect external monitors to the tablet. Apple is also investing heavily in USB-C in its MacBooks. But sources told Japanese blog Macotakara that Apple saves money by holding onto Lightning, despite its flaws.
In-screen fingerprint sensor: There have been rumors for years that Apple is working on a virtual fingerprint sensor that would sit underneath the iPhone's display. But so far, at least, it hasn't happened.
Face ID on the current iPhone (Credit: Tom's Guide)2019 is the year for it. Apple competitors OnePlus, Huawei and Samsung have phones that deliver the feature, and Samsung is rumored to be bundling it into a future device of its own. And there's something very simple about touching the display to unlock it, without having to swipe up.
That said, Apple has been touting heavily the value of its Face ID technology, saying that it's both more secure and more reliable that other solutions. So fingerprint sensors on the iPhone could be dead forever — virtual or not.
Ditch the notch: Apple's notch has become iconic and has been copied many times, but it can still be distracting when you're using apps with a white background or watching movies at full screen in landscape mode. And as noted above, even Apple has seemingly acknowledged in a patent filing that it's not an ideal solution.
Current iPhones, side by side (Credit: Tom's Guide)Let's hope Apple can find a way in 2019 to bundle the front-facing sensors another way and get rid of the notch. Or at least make it smaller.
A revamped design: Apple's 2018 iPhones were designed for an "S" year, or one in which the company makes iterative changes to its phones but holds off on any radical revamps.
But in 2019, all eyes will be on Apple's iPhone design to see if it's willing to mix things up. Here's hoping the company does that and offers a thinner design, more materials (where's the ceramic iPhone, after all?) and screen changes. There's no reason to offer a screen bigger than the 6.5-inch display in the iPhone XS Max, but there's also nothing wrong with taking some chances on design.