We're quite likely to see Apple's CEO Tim Cook unveil a brand new iPhone about six weeks from now. And yet, oddly, many of the rumors -- and nearly all of the most exciting rumors -- about forthcoming Apple phones do not concern the model expected to be called the iPhone 11. Rather, most of the really cool stuff is slated to debut on the following iPhone, which probably won't be introduced until September 2020.
So, then, what exactly are we getting this year?
According to a series of reports published over the past few months -- which range from authoritative sources like Bloomberg and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo to Twitter leakers and rumormongers on the fringe -- the iPhone 2019 will probably be a whole lot like the 2018 iPhone. Not exactly the same. But pretty similar.
Which means that Apple is going to try to get us excited about a lot of incremental upgrades: more advanced cameras, faster chips, the next version of the operating system (that's iOS 13) and a handful of other modest refinements. And yet the iPhone 11 will probably be just as expensive as the iPhone XS, with a starting price around $1,000. (Note that this is all conjecture; the company did not respond to our request for comment.)
Read more: iPhone 11 en español
Meanwhile, with Apple playing it safe this year, Samsung, Google and Huawei continue to deliver eye-catching phones stocked with innovative features -- phones that are often considerably less expensive than the iPhone -- blazing the trail for the next generation of mobile technology. Sure, some of those efforts have been more successful than others. But Apple executives will undoubtedly be paying attention when Samsung unveils the Galaxy Note 10 on Aug. 7.
Video: The 2019 iPhone lineup may give you deja vu
And you can never count out Apple. Despite decreasing profits, the headwinds of a US-China trade war and executive attrition, the iPhone remains a premium product sold by a premium brand. The company may yet surprise us this fall with revolutionary features or distinctive aesthetics.
As we count down the weeks until the iPhone 11 debut, we'll continue to collect the most credible and interesting rumors about the next models' specs, features and prices right here. So, check back often.
Rumor: Three new iPhones coming in September
Sticking with tradition, Apple intends to introduce three new iPhone models this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal. They are expected to include a "budget" successor to the iPhone XR, a midrange flagship like the iPhone XS and a supersize model in the vein of the iPhone XS Max.
Apple usually announces new phones in mid-September. Last year, Apple unveiled three phones on Thursday, Sept. 13 and released the first two, the iPhone XS and XS Max, on Friday, Sept. 21, with the iPhone XR shipping more than a month later, on Oct. 26. We expect the timing to be similar again this year.
Video: Three new iPhone 11 models coming in September, rumor has it
Though I've seen name variants like the iPhone 11R and 11 Max in passing, the consensus is that Apple will call its next flagship the iPhone 11. As CNET's Jessica Dolcourt has pointed out, the company may have dug itself into a hole, as there's no obvious coherent sequel to the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR.
Rumor: Three rear-facing cameras for the 2019 iPhone
The biggest change coming to this year's iPhone will likely be the camera setup. Since last year, we've been hearing that Apple would give at least one of the 2019 models three rear-facing lenses (source: Bloomberg). And, in addition to keeping Apple in the ongoing lens-and-megapixel arms race with Huawei, Samsung and Google, the new array will give the iPhone 11 a greater capacity for wide-angle shots.
Video: New iPhone 11 mock-up looks deceptively real
Bloomberg's reporting bolsters leaks from two Twitter users in the know. Back in January,Google's forthcoming Pixel 4 -- is the real deal.
Rumor: Apple may finally drop 3D Touch in 2019
Ming-Chi Kuo continues to toll the bell for 3D Touch, and the Wall Street Journal reported on the demise of Apple's pressure-sensitive interface back in January. After visiting with Apple suppliers in Asia, Barclay analysts (as cited by MacRumors) appear confident that Apple will say goodbye to the feature with the 2019 iPhone lineup. But the touch-based interface isn't going to disappear completely: Apple is said to have developed a new Taptic Engine, code-named "leap haptics," that will continue the evolution of the company's Haptic Touch technology piloted in last year's iPhone XR.
Rumor: Bilateral charging coming to the iPhone 11
Earlier this year, Apple officially killed its AirPower wireless charging mat, leaving us hanging with third-party solutions to power up our iPhones and AirPods. But the next-generation iPhone will support bilateral charging according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (as reported by 9to5Mac). That means you'll be able to use your iPhone's battery to share some juice with other iPhones or the new AirPods with the wireless charging case.
If true, Apple will again be playing catchup to Samsung, whose Galaxy S10 phones, released back in March, can charge other devices including the company's Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Watch Active via the wireless Qi standard.
Video: Apple pulls AirPower charging mat, Zuckerberg calls for new standards
Kuo has also predicted that each of the 2019 iPhones will have larger batteries than their predecessors -- presumably leading to better battery life. And that's saying something: On our video playback battery drain test, the iPhone XR lasted for more than 19 hours and the iPhone XS Max held out for over 17 hours, 23 minutes. But the iPhone XS ran for only 13 hours, 30 minutes, leaving much room for improvement on the flagship models.
Rumor: Apple will offer another LCD iPhone in 2019
Among the three phones Apple released in 2018, only the iPhone XR has an LCD display. The two higher-end models, the iPhone XS and XS Max, both have the high-resolution OLED panels that produce more vivid colors and images. Based on what we know so far, Apple is likely to follow this formula again with the next batch of iPhones.
Like so many promising next-generation features, Apple is said to be waiting for 2020 to bring the more expensive OLED panels to its entire lineup, according to the Wall Street Journal. DigiTimes has reported that the three 2020 OLED phones will be about the same size as the current generation iPhones, with 5.4-, 6.1- and 6.7-inch models.
Rumor: The A13 processor will power the iPhone 11
The A12 Bionic chip that powers the 2018 iPhones is incredibly powerful. According to analyst Ben Thompson, the processor is "so far ahead of the industry that it will still be competitive with the best Android phones in two years, and massively more powerful than lower-end phones."
Apple doesn't appear to be resting on its laurels, however -- at least in the processor department. A Bloomberg article from May reported that Apple was then on the cusp of mass producing the next-generation processors expected to power the next series of phones. This could be a variant of the A12X processor that's currently used in the newest iPad Pros -- or a new chip, ostensibly called the A13.
Almost definite: The 2019 iPhone won't support 5G
Apple's most recent phones all use modems built by Intel, which had planned to have a 5G modem ready for commercial devices in the second half of 2019. But Intel ran into problems producing the 5G chip for the iPhone -- problems so grave that it exited that business after Apple and Qualcomm reached a multiyear chip supply agreement in April. Since then, Apple has agreed to buy Intel's smartphone modem business for $1 billion.
With that situation now tidied up, it seems as though Apple is back on track for 2020. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously predicted that two of the three 2020 iPhones would be 5G-ready but has since amended that to include all three phones.
Video: 5G means more than just fast downloads to your phone
Rumor: The iPhone stays expensive in 2019
The iPhone XS and XS Max start at $999 and $1,099 respectively. CNET's analysis shows a pattern of hefty price increases in the premium smartphone market over the past two years, and we expect Apple, Samsung and others to continue pushing the boundaries of customer budgets for the foreseeable future.
And yet iPhone sales are slowing, so there's always a chance that Apple will change things up. In fact, the company slashed prices on the iPhone and a number of other products in China earlier this year. The follows an earlier move in 2018, when Apple began offering hundreds of dollars in incentives to customers around the world who traded in an old iPhone when upgrading to an iPhone XS or iPhone XR.
Other assorted rumors about the 2019 iPhone
- A different iPhone for China: Apple may sell an even cheaper version of the iPhone 11 in China -- and perhaps India, too -- substituting a cheaper in-screen fingerprint scanner for Face ID, according to a report in Chinese newspaper Global Times.
- New mute button: Apart from the redesigned rear camera, the iPhone 11 is expected to closely resemble the iPhone XS, with a virtually identical steel-and-glass design and similar notches, bezels, connectors and buttons. One of the few departures we've heard about is a tweaked mute button on the side of the phone. According to renders published by OnLeaks on CashKaro, a smaller circular button will replace the elongated pill-shaped sliding button on the current model.
- Jumping to USB-C: Apple has now replaced its proprietary Lightning connector with USB-C on the newest iPad Pros, MacBook Air and MacBook Pros, and Bloomberg reports that Apple is "testing" USB-C on some prototype iPhones.
- Pencil support: Citi Research, an affiliate of the bank, has floated the possibility that the 2019 iPhone will support the Apple Pencil, according to Business Insider.
All of the rumors about the 2020 iPhone
- Apple may introduce three OLED phones in 2020: a smaller 5.4-inch model that would replace the current 5.8-inch model, the same 6.1-inch option as the XR and a larger 6.7-inch Max version, according to MacRumors and Ming-Chi Kuo.
- Bloomberg reports that Apple's forthcoming 3D camera, due for the 2020 models, will drive an updated version of Face ID that will extend the technology's range, improve security and enable new AR capabilities.
- Apple is said to be working on a new way for users to interface with future editions of the iPhone, according to Bloomberg. The "touchless gesture control" will let users interact with the phone without touching the screen. Though it's not scheduled for 2020 or later, it sounds like it could be cool.
- Apple's 2020 iPhones may have full-screen Touch ID or an under-display fingerprint sensor.
- Starting in 2020, the company will stop using Intel chips in its Macs in favor of custom ARM-based processors. This will let developers create a single version of their apps, starting sometime in 2021, which will work across Apple's various operating systems on the iPhone, iPad and Mac, according to Bloomberg and Axios.
- TMSC, the company that designs Apple's mobile A-series chips for the iPhone, has announced the completion of its 5-nanometer chip design. According to MacRumors, this is likely to become the foundation for the A14 chip that will ostensibly power the 2020 iPhones.