Why the iPhone 12 will sell itself

5G and LIDAR don't change things much... yet.

As the revamped WWDC 2020 keynote approaches, the media hunger for any tidbits that might be divulged about the upcoming iPhone 12 is growing. It's that time of year when smartphone case manufacturers are treated as oracles.

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The truth is we already know a lot about the iPhone 12. It's likely that what we already know is based on carefully calculated leaks by Apple to keep expectations in check. Without that, imaginations would be unchecked, and we'd be wondering how Apple could invent a camera that cured coronavirus.

We can summarize the iPhone 12 in a few bullet points:

  • Updated design (looks like an iPad Pro or iPhone 5s)
  • 5G across the range
  • A14 processor
  • Maybe OLED display across the range
  • Triple camera and LIDAR on the Pro and Pro Max
  • Stainless steel body on the Pro and Pro Max (the others will continue to use aluminum)
  • $50 off the price of the iPhone 12

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Some suggest that 5G will be the killer iPhone 12 feature, especially that it will be offered across the board, and isn't resulting in a price hike (the iPhone 12 is expected to get both 5G and a $50 price cut).

Don't get me wrong, 5G is important, but what Apple is doing by adding it across the board is forcing the hand of the cellphone companies to speed up the rollout of the next-generation network.

By the time the iPhone 13 is launched (who thinks it will be called iPhone 13?), 5G coverage will have dramatically increased.

LIDAR is also a niche. A small one. It's an iPad Pro feature, and it makes sense to add it to the Pro and Pro Max iPhones. Why not, since it's something to put on the box.

But LIDAR is not a game-changer. The 2020 iPad Pro promised to improve augmented reality (AR), but there's little sign of that. Making it mainstream on the higher-priced iPhones might give developers more of a reason to look at it again, but the overall response to AR over the years has been muted.

The truth is that neither of these changes will sell the next-generation iPhone. Not even the $50 price cut.

The iPhone 12 will sell itself.

It's all about the upgrade cycle. People buy based on that, whether it be yearly, or every two, three, or four years. Apple has years of data, and while coronavirus might have thrown a spanner or two into the works, Apple will have a very good idea of what sales it could expect this year, and how the pandemic is likely to impact this.

And Apple also knows that if the pandemic does indeed put people off upgrading, this will create additional demand down the line.

It's a win-win situation for Apple.

Are you planning to upgrade your iPhone this year? If so, what is driving that? If not, why?