The 2019 iPhone models haven’t even been officially announced yet, and we’re already starting to see reports about what will be in the 2020 iPhones. We’ve compiled the most notable ones here, but take these with a big grain of salt. Even if these reports are accurate representations of what suppliers are saying, or come from moles within Apple itself, the company’s plans can and do change. There’s still plenty of time before the design and features have to be totally set in stone.
Update 01/06/20: A new report says 5G rollout might be staggered over several months.
Different 5G iPhones might launch at different times
If there’s one thing we’re certain of with the iPhone 12, it’s that it will be packing a 5G modem. The next-gen network will be much more robust than it was at the end of 2019, and the next iPhone will be ready for it.
Just how ready is up for debate, however. While previous rumors have suggested that 5G might be limited to the “pro” models, a new report says that the 5G iPhones will launch in phases. As reported by MacRumors, Susquehanna analyst Mehdi Hosseini “expects 5G-enabled iPhones to launch in two phases, including sub-6GHz models in September 2020 and mmWave models in December 2020 or January 2021.” That means people who want the best possible iPhone 12 might have to wait months to get it.
While millimeter-wave networks are significantly faster than their sub-6GHz counterparts, mmWave is also extremely limited in scope. Verizon is leading the way with some two dozen cities, but the coverage is extremely limited, with some areas barely extending past a block or two. So launching an iPhone without support for mmWave wouldn’t be a death knell by any stretch. But a staggered release (read: delayed launch) would be.
As it stands, 5G has had a very confusing rollout, and it would be up to Apple to simplify things for consumers. Selling a 5G iPhone but promising an iPhone with better 5G a few months later won’t do that. If mmWave isn’t going to available at launch, it’s better to just cut it completely from the iPhone 12 and stick to sub-6GHz rather than give consumers a choice they don’t understand.
Thinner, more efficient OLED
A report from Korean publication The Elec states that LG is upgrading its OLED production lines at the E6 facility where the displays for the current iPhone 11 Pro are made, and from which we assume the iPhone 12’s high-end models will get their OLED displays.
The upgrades we can expect are twofold. First, the touch sensors will be integrated into the display itself, rather than requiring a separate touch layer. This makes the entire display-and-touch assembly in the phone thinner, and less expensive to manufacture.
Second, the backplane responsible for turning the individual OLED subpixels on or off is said to be switching to low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) technology. This uses a little less power (about 15 percent less) than the LPTS technology currently used on iPhones. Apple recently switched to OLED displays with LTPO technology in the Apple Watch in order to help prolong battery life.
Sensor-shift image stabilization
A new report from DigiTimes (which has a spotty record on future iPhone predictions) says that the 5G iPhones due in 2020 will implement image stabilization via sensor-shift technology.
Current optical image stabilization in iPhones uses a gyroscope to move an entire camera array—sensor and lenses—in order to reduce small shakes and vibrations. In addition iPhones employ electronics image stabilization when recording video, using the phone’s motion sensors to shift the recorded area on the sensor in order to counteract vibrations.
Some sites are reporting that sensor-shift stabilization would bring image stabilization to the ultrawide camera on the iPhone, where it does not currently exist in the iPhone 11. This is not necessarily the case; the “lenses” the back of the iPhone (Wide, Ultrawide, and Telephoto) are not merely lens arrays that point at a single sensor. They are entire camera modules, with their own independent sensors and lens arrays.
For sensor-shift technology to apply to the ultrawide camera on an iPhone, it would need to be independently applied to that camera’s sensor, just as the current optical image stabilization and could have been, if Apple chose to.
The main benefits of a sensor-shift technology for image stabilization is that a fixed nonmoving lens array is subject to fewer compromises and could be of higher quality, and that the iPhone could make deliberate sup-pixel shifts to the sensor to take multiple exposures that are combined to provide higher resolution photos.
Sensor-shift technology is fairly common in higher-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
Larger batteries due to new circuitry
After rumors of a new design, new models, and new displays, this rumor is decidedly ho-hum: The 2020 iPhones are tipped to have bigger batteries due to new battery protection circuits. According to the Korean publication The Elec, the iPhone 12 will use customized Protection Module Packages circuits instead of the Protection Circuit Modules used in the iPhone 11. That will reportedly free up more space inside the phone, which could be used to make the battery bigger. With the presumed launch of a 5G modem inside all 2020 models, the iPhone will need as much battery life as it can get, as those modems generally use more power than LTE ones.
The Elec reports that supplier ITM Semiconductor is building two new plants to handle the capacity, which is expected to reach 110 million per month. Officials say work on the plants should be completed by the end of the year. ITM also supplies battery protection circuits for the AirPods Pro.
5 new iPhone models in 2020
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a research note where he predicts that Apple will release five new iPhones in 2020: 5.4- and 6.1-inch models each with a dual-lens camera; 6.1- and 6.7-inch models with triple-lens cameras and “time of flight sensors”; and a 4.7-inch model. (Kuo also has thoughts on the 2021 iPhones.)
All of the 2020 iPhones will have OLEDs, except for the 4.7-inch model, which will have an LCD. Also, the OLED-based phones will ship in the fall, while the 4.7-inch phone could be available earlier in the year.
Kuo also said that the four fall-release phones will have 5G support, with mmWave available in the markets where it can be used.
The 4.7-inch phone (considered a follow-up to the iPhone SE) will be modeled after the iPhone 8. It will have a Home button, an A13 processor, and a single-lens camera.
This follows a J.P. Morgan analyst report that says that Apple could release four new iPhone models in the fall of 2020.
The J.P. Morgan report says that the new iPhones will support 5G, with two high-end models (one 6.1-inch and one 6.7-inch) with support for mmWave, as well as a triple-lens camera and “World facing 3D sensing.” Two low-end models (one 6.1-inch, one 5.4-inch) will not have mmWave or World facing 3D sensing, and will have a dual-lens camera.
All four iPhone models will have OLEDs. In late November, ETNews reported that Apple will be using OLED displays from Samsung that are thinner than the displays currently being used. How that will affect the overall thickness of the iPhone remains to be seen. While Apple could make the iPhone itself thinner, it’s also possible that Apple could use the newfound space to be able to implement some other new technology, or to increase the size of the battery.
The J.P. Morgan report also says that in 2021, Apple could change how it releases iPhones. The company could decide to release phones twice a year, instead of the single release in the fall.
Say goodbye to the notch
Just a day after Ming-Chi Kuo teased an iPhone 4-style look for the next handset, Twitter leakster Ben Geskin, who has a solid track record for rumors, has posted an image of what he claims is “one of the 2020 iPhone prototypes.” The post doesn’t have a ton of information, but Geskin says the image is of a phone with a “6.7-inch display with Face ID and TrueDepth camera system housed in the top bezel.”
The size of the phone matches up with a previous Kuo rumor, but that’s not what caught our eye. You don’t need to look closely to see that there’s no notch on this render, meaning Apple would need to shrink the TrueDepth camera system into the bezel at the top of the screen. That’s not implausible—especially if the bezels are slightly thicker than they are now. Plus, that would certainly qualify as a “significant” design overhaul as Kuo has said is coming. Granted, Geskin says the image is “one of the 2020 iPhone prototypes,” which means this one might never see the light of day, but color us intrigued.
iPhone 4-style redesign incoming
We’ve still got a long way to go until the iPhone 12 makes its debut, but there’s already a reason to be excited. Analyst Ming Chi-Kuo says that whole next year’s iPhone will be getting a serious design overhaul. He’s light on specifics, but he compares it to the iPhone 4, which just so happens to be one of the best iPhone designs of all time. Specifically, Kuo says “the front and rear 2/2.5D glass are still used, but the metal frame surface will be changed to a similar design to the iPhone 4, replacing the current surface design.”
That means the 2020 iPhone could look like a tiny iPad Pro, which would be quite a change from the current curved look. Kuo doesn’t say whether the notch would be going away, but we have to assume it will at least be getting smaller, especially since he notes that the “2H20 (second half of 2020) iPhone design will change significantly.” So if you were bummed that the iPhone 11 looked a bit too much like the XR, you might want to wait another… checks calendar… 11 months.
5G for all
While 5G is practically a certainty for the 2020 iPhone, the first round of rumors claimed that the next-generation modem would be limited to the flagship models, meaning the XR (or whatever it’s called by then) would still slum it with LTE. Following the acquisition of Intel’s smartphone modem team for a cool billion dollars, those expectations have changed. Now, Ming-Chi Kuo believes that all three models will have a 5G modem on board.
The reason is simple: Apple doesn’t want to miss the boat. While 5G is limited to a few models of high-end Android phones this year, Kuo sees 5G becoming much more commonplace among Apple’s peers, leading the company to ramp up development of 5G. Specifically, he sees the prices of 5G Android smartphones “will decline to $249-349 USD in 2H20,” which will put pressure on Apple to deliver support for the speedy network in all three of next year’s iPhones. Kuo also feels that the new team of some 2,000 members of Intel’s smartphone modem division will facilitate Apple’s development of 5G.
For more on 5G and what it means for you, check out our 5G FAQ.
But it won’t come cheap. While most Android phones will feature support for so “sub-6Ghz” 5G, many will lack support for the higher bandwidth mmWave, meaning you’d need to buy a new phone when your network supports it. Apple’s iPhone modem will reportedly support both frequencies, essentially future-proofing it for the 5G rollout. But that likely means the iPhone will cost even more. Whether that means it’ll have a higher starting point or the 5G option will simply be another tier, isn’t clear, but you should definitely expect to pay more for 5G inside your iPhone.
ProMotion comes to iPhone
Apple’s iPad Pro models have had ‘ProMotion’ displays for a couple years now. It’s a special LCD with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, along with adaptive refresh rate scaling. Thus far, the feature has not come to iPhone: All iPhones feature displays locked at a 60Hz refresh rate.
A well-known leaker of Samsung news on Twitter, Ice Universe, claims that Apple is in talks with Samsung and LG to provide a switchable 60Hz/120Hz display for the 2020 iPhones. One would assume that these would be OLED displays, as there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about variable refresh rate or high refresh rate LCDs.
It’s also unclear if this display would have true adaptive refresh rates as the ProMotion displays on iPad Pros do, or if it would simply switch between 60Hz and 120Hz modes.
Time-of-Flight rear camera
A recent report from Digitimes claims that “Apple has reportedly asked its supply chain partner to supply VCSEL components for use in rear ToF camera lens in its mobile devices to be released in 2020, according to supply chain sources.”
We’ve heard this rumor before, both from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, and in a research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
VCSEL stands for Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser. It’s a type of semiconductor that emits a low-power laser (usually infrared, so humans can’t see it). It’s used in a lot of consumer devices today for simple range-finding; to assist in augmented reality, Apple would use a more complex chip that fires a big grid of lasers, then measures the time-of-flight for that light to determine distance. Effectively, this would produce a low-res “image” where each pixel has depth info rather than color.