Apple's iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max represent important steps forward for the company's handsets. They're the most powerful iPhones ever, thanks to the A12 Bionic chip, and they offer much-improved cameras with features like Smart HDR. Apple also delivered its biggest screens ever on an iPhone with the 6.1-inch iPhone XR and 6.5-inch XS Max.
But there's always room for improvement, especially with sales of the current iPhones slower than expected.
Rumors about Apple's 2019 iPhones have started, promising a plethora of new features and updates. 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 Feb. 11)
- Apple is reportedly sticking with the Lightning connector for this year's iPhone lineup, despite rumors that the company would move to USB-C like it did with the iPad Pro.
- A report in Bloomberg details Apple's plans for the iPhone for this year and beyond. Apple's expected to add a third lens to this year's version of the iPhone XS Max — which is consistent with other rumors — and could improve the Live Photos feature. For 2020 iPhones, Apple could add a long-range 3D camera system.
iPhone 11 Release date
Credit: Ben GeskinApple 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.
Cameras: An eye on three lenses
One of the most popular iPhone rumors centers on whether Apple will opt for a triple rear-facing camera array in its 2019 iPhones.
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.
But in September 2018, longtime Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo threw cold water on the rumor after citing his own sources, who said Apple is planning to stick to a dual camera array for next year's iPhones. Kuo said that his sources believe Apple is just fine with dual-lens cameras in its iPhones.
Apple could wind up splitting the difference to further differentiate its different iPhone models. A Wall Street Journal report says that Apple will come out with three iPhone models this year, with one of them — most likely the successor to the iPhone XS Max — sporting a triple lens setup. The other phones would have dual lenses, meaning the iPhone XR's successor would add a second lens. 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 renders of what such a phone would look like are not that pretty. Fortunately, a new render, leaked by someone called OnLeaks and posted to CompareRaja feature a much better looking design. If the renders are legitimate, it could mean Apple is mulling multiple designs for its next phone.Credit: OnLeaks/CompareRaja
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.
Those analysts told EE Times last August that Apple has already inked a deal with TSMC to exclusively supply the processor for 2019 iPhones.
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.
Don't expect 5G
While other smartphone makers promise to offer 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.
A separate report in The Information says that Apple is looking to develop its own modem, which would replace Intel in its handsets. But that may not happen until 2020 at the earliest.
Don't despair, 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'd like to see from Apple's 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.
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.
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.
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.
Credit: Tom's Guide