Apple’s iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max represent important steps forward for the company’s handsets and are among the best phones you can buy. They’re the most powerful iPhones ever, thanks to the A12 Bionic chip, and they offer many other upgrades, including better cameras with features like Smart HDR.
But there’s always room for improvement.
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.
A bigger change could be coming in 2020. That’s when Apple could shift to a 5-nanometer design for its mobile processors, according to a Digitimes report. The A12 Bionic is a 7-nanometer chip. The switch would likely mean a faster, more efficient processor.
While other smartphone makers are offering 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.
One of the reasons Apple may have held out on adding 5G support to its phones is a years-long legal dispute with Qualcomm, which makes the 5G modems appearing in most 5G-ready phones debuting this year. Apple’s current supplier, Intel, was ramping up its 5G modem production, causing some concern that a 5G iPhone may not even be ready by 2020. However, Apple and Qualcomm just resolved their dispute, so it’s likely the 5G iPhone is back on track for next year. A separate report in The Information says that Apple is looking to develop its own modem, but that may not happen for a few years, especially after the settlement between Apple and Qualcomm.
Interestingly, Apple acknowledged in the patent that sometimes, front-facing sensors that need to be integrated into an iPhone can be “aesthetically unappealing.”
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.
The 2018 iPhone XS introduced OLED screens. (Credit: Tom Original Image
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. Kuo’s 2019 Apple product line forecast makes the same prediction.
Battery power and fast charging
We haven’t heard very much about how Apple plans to improve battery life in this year’s iPhones. But one possible change would be a welcome one — Kuo says the new iPhones will offer bi-directional wireless charging that lets the phone charge other devices. It’s a feature that Samsung just added to its Galaxy S10 lineup.
In a follow-up report published in April, Kuo said the batteries on the new iPhones will be larger than the 2018 models, in part to support that bi-directional charging feature. The iPhone XS successor will see the biggest jump, with a battery between 3,200 mAh and 3,500 mAh, while the increase for the successor the XS Max will be more modest at around 3,650 mAh. The new version of the iPhone XR will see little change to its battery, according to Kuo.
Apple’s phones offer good battery life, but they haven’t cracked the top 10 of our list of the smartphones with the longest battery life. Perhaps the iPhone 11 will change that.
Are you sick of your iPhone taking forever to charge? The Japanese site Macotakara says that the successors to the iPhone XS and XS Max will come with a USB C to Lightning cable and more powerful power brick for 18-watt fast charging.
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 hope that Apple works into its 2019 iPhone lineup.
USB-C fast charging: A report earlier this year indicated that Apple will stick with Lightning this year, despite switching to USB-C for the 2018 iPad Pro. However, new visuals in the iOS 13 developer beta show an iPhone restoring from a Mac via USB-C, which could mean Apple is going to surprise us by making the switch to the widely accepted charging port in 2019. It’s also possible that Apple will switch the charging cable included in the iPhone box from USB-A to USB-C, keeping the Lightning plug on the iPhone end.
Face ID on the current iPhone
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.
Current iPhones, side by side
Let’s hope Apple can find a way in 2019 to bundle the front-facing sensors another way and get rid of the notch. Or at least make it smaller.
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