Video: Top 5 future phone technologies
The next iPhone launch is likely mere weeks away, and the leaks and rumors are swirling, and the release of the iOS 12 beta also gives us some clues as to what Apple might have in store for us.
THE FIRST MYSTERY IS THE NAME
iPhone 11 seems the most likely pick (for now, at any rate), following in the footsteps of the iPhone X (where X is pronounced "ten," although given how many people I know call it "X," there's clearly a lot of brand confusion out there). But I've come across a number of other possible names:
- iPhone XI
- iPhone Xs
- iPhone X2
- iPhone X Plus
- iPhone 2018
Another possibility is that Apple simplifies the line-up and switches to calling the new iPhone simply iPhone.
Also possible is something like the iPhone Pro, especially if Apple unveils three separate handsets.
WHAT ABOUT THE RELEASE DATE?
The rumor mill and analyst consensus this time around is that Apple could still stagger the releases this year, but that the cheaper iPhone -- featuring an LCD display as opposed to OLED -- could be the one that lands later in the year.
Now let's move on to the interesting stuff.
HOW MANY IPHONES WILL APPLE RELEASE?
Months ago Bloomberg reported that Apple had three new iPhone handsets in the works:
- A super-sized iPhone with a display "close to 6.5 inches," codenamed D33
- An updated version of the iPhone X, codenamed D32
- A cheaper version of the iPhone X that will feature an edge-to-edge display and Face ID
Both the D33 and D32 will feature OLED displays and use a new A12 processor.
The report also claimed that Apple was considering adding a gold color option for the D33 and D32, a feature that was allegedly abandoned for the iPhone X because of production issues.
What's interesting is that over the past months, this hasn't changed much. Back in July, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple was working on a 5.8-inch OLED iPhone, a 6.5-inch OLED iPhone Plus, and a 6.1-inch affordable LCD iPhone.
Kuo also reported that the "budget" 6.1-inch iPhone with the LCD display would be offered in "grey, white, blue, red and orange."
Taking the features present in the iPhone X and rolling them up into a cheaper iPhone is certainly a no-brainer. That said, when Apple rolled out the budget iPhone 5c in 2013, the thing clearly tanked, because it never saw an update.
While it's early days, and there's no hard evidence, there are rumors that Apple is working on developing an iPhone that features a curved OLED display. But rather than curve horizontally like the display on flagship Samsung Galaxy devices does, this would curve vertically, top-to-bottom.
Why? No idea. Maybe there's some logic to it, or maybe it's just a trick Apple is working on to differentiate itself from the competition.
Back in July, The Korea Times reported that Apple "is eyeing developing foldable iPhones" that "will come several years later."
Just to be clear here, when we're talking about "folding" smartphones we are not talking about two screens held together by a hinge, but instead a device with a single foldable OLED display.
This is a small but subtle difference. And OLED displays are key to this technology.
An iPhone with a folding display would allow Apple to fit more display into a smaller space, and bring a new dimension to the iOS platform.
However, it's unclear as to the timescale that Apple is working to. I've seen guesstimates ranging from "years" to "imminently."
However, let's not forget that Samsung, Apple's closest rival in the smartphone space, has already committed to bringing to market foldable OLED smartphones this year. And these devices could redefine what is considered high-end, and come with a sobering $1,800 price tag.
But there are a lot of unknowns and risks.
The first is whether folding smartphones is something that the market wants, especially if they are going to add hundreds of dollars to the price tag. What people want and what they are willing to pay for - along with how much they are willing to pay for something - are different things.
Another issue is turning the folding display from a gimmick into something really useful. Tech is ripe with fads and attention-grabbing stunts, but few actually gain the required traction to last.
Then there are the technological hurdles. How reliable are folding displays? How good will the manufacturing yield be? How much will they cost? How reliable are the hinges? How good/bad will their lifespans be?
THREE CAMERAS ON THE REAR?
Why not? The more cameras the better, right? After all, The Huawei P20 Pro is bristling with cameras.
AS FOR OTHER SPECS
It's likely that a new chip, likely called the A12, will power the new iPhones, and if past performance is anything to go by, we can expect both processing power and graphics performance to double.
As far as who will make the chip, the smart money says that TSMC has horned Samsung aside, and will be using its 7-nanometer process, which will be a big improvement over the current 10-nanometer process used for the A11 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
The wireless modem this time around is likely to be an Intel product as opposed to Qualcomm. How do we know this? It came straight out of the mouth of Qualcomm CFO George Davis last month:
"We believe Apple intends to solely use our competitors' modems rather than our modems in its next iPhone release. We will continue to provide modems for Apple legacy devices."
Also: The 'world's smallest' 4G smartphone goes rugged TechRepublic
It's also likely that Apple will expend Face ID across the range, phasing out Touch ID (with the facial recognition technology also likely coming to the iPad).
Another possibility is that the next crop of iPhones will support the Apple Pencil, offering you the chance to buy yet another accessory to go with your smartphone!
And since someone is bound to ask, as for how much RAM, I don't know. The current crop of iPhones come with 3-gigabytes, while the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus come with 4- and 6-gigabytes, respectively. Apple generally doesn't go adding components just to put on the spec sheet - primarily to keep costs down - so I wouldn't be surprised if this year's iPhones come with 4-gigabytes.
WHAT ABOUT PRICING?
In a note to subscribers sent out in March, Apple analyst Neil Cybart of Above Avalon suggested some aggressive pricing for the new iPhone line-up:
- 6.5-inch OLED - $1,199
- 5.8-inch OLED - $999
- 6.1-inch LCD - $849
Bear in mind that these are starting prices, and higher storage capacities will bump the prices up.
Cybart justifies the pricing by saying that the "narrative of disappointing iPhone X demand due to a high price is off the mark" and that "Apple has room to go even higher in iPhone pricing as long as there is additional tech or value attached to the higher price."
Recent sales figures, along with the increasing Average Selling Price of the iPhone (driven by more expensive models), seems to back up this idea.
As for the older devices, Cybart predicted the following pricing structure:
- 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus: $699
- 4.7-inch iPhone 8: $599
- 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus: $569
- 4.7-inch iPhone 7: $449
- 4.7-inch iPhone 6 or 6s in select markets: $349
- 4-inch iPhone SE (an update is still likely at some point in 2018): $299
This pricing structure looks aggressive to me, because it bumps up the price of the cheapest new iPhone by yet another $50, following a similar bump this year.
Since then, rumors and analysts alike seem to be of the opinion that the "budget" iPhone with a 6.1-inch LCD display will come in at around $700
Either way, I think that a starting price of $1,199 for an iPhone X with an OLED display is highly likely. Apple is not going to be keen on cutting the price of the 5.8-inch iPhone X on its first upgrade, and OLED panel pricing and yields really don't offer the firm much in the way of wriggle room to do so anyway.
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