The iPhone 11 Pro. Not an iPhone 12. | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Apple is likely taking the wraps off its 2020 iPhones at an event on October 13th, and with just days to go until the big reveal, we might now know nearly everything about them — including when you might be able to buy them for yourself.
Many rumors suggest the iPhone 12 lineup will have a brand-new design with squared edges instead of rounded ones, perhaps similar to the beloved design of the iPhone 4 and 5. And all signs are pointing toward this being the year the iPhone gets 5G, which should set you up for faster data speeds — once the networks can reliably deliver them in your area. But if you’ve been waiting for iPhones to get 120Hz refresh rate screens, you might have to wait another year.
The likeliest rumor of them all? We’re getting four new iPhones this year.
All of the most trusted sources of Apple rumors seem to agree: instead of announcing three new iPhone models, like Apple did in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the company will reveal four. And we now might know their prices, colors, and release dates as well because of a Google-translated Weibo post from a leaker named Kang (who has a reliable track record, according to AppleTrack):
Originally, the rumor about four iPhone models with those same screen sizes came from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who’s reliably predicted the sizes and features of new iPhones for several years now — but The Wall Street Journal also corroborated those screen sizes in April. And Bloomberg reported them as fact in September.
Apple has stuck with the same basic silhouette for the iPhone — a rounded rectangle with rounded sides — since the iPhone 6, a phone that came out all the way back in 2014. But this year, rumors indicate the newest iPhones could have flat edges, returning iPhone design to the glory days of the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone SE (or the recent iPad Pros, if you want a newer point of reference).
Apparent dummy models of the phones have been floating around this summer, based on the expected dimensions of the upcoming iPhones, and they give us our best idea of what that new design could look like, and how their sizes compare to other phones in Apple’s lineup.
Check out this photo of those dummy models from MacRumors. They kind of remind me of the iPhone 4:
Bloomberg is reporting that all four new iPhones will have squared-off edges and will continue to have stainless steel edges on the pricier models and aluminum on the less expensive ones.
If you want to get a sense of how these phones might size up to Apple’s 2019 iPhones, check out this MacRumors post:
iPhone 12 Sizes Compared with iPhone SE, 7, 8, SE 2, X, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max https://t.co/mtaBAeNFAS by @MacRumors pic.twitter.com/14oFHGyJrD
— MacRumors.com (@MacRumors) July 8, 2020
I find this next MacRumors photo particularly intriguing, comparing the rumored 5.4-inch model (middle) to the first-generation iPhone SE (left) and the second-generation iPhone SE (right). I’ve wanted an iPhone that’s smaller than the iPhone X / XS / 11 Pro with an edge-to-edge display so badly, and the size of this dummy model looks almost perfect to me.
Plus, if you want to see what the rumored new iPhone sizes could look like in person, check out MKBHD’s video where he goes hands-on with a set of dummy models:
2020’s iPhones are expected to be the first to support 5G cellular networks, which means the phones might be able to take advantage of faster network speeds — depending on the 5G coverage in your area, and possibly depending on which version of the next iPhone you end up buying.
In January, Kuo said that all four upcoming iPhone models will support both sub-6GHz and the faster (but far shorter-range) mmWave 5G. We’d generally weight his rumors a tad higher than the rest, but even Kuo revised his guidance in September to say that shipments of mmWave 5G iPhones would be “lower than expected,” without specifying whether any iPhones had dropped the technology. And Kang reported on Friday that all four models will have 5G but said that mmWave will only be standard in the US models.
Throughout the year, other rumors have differed about which iPhones will get 5G. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that “some” of this year’s iPhones would get 5G, while Bloomberg said that 5G will be added to “as many as four new handset models.” Fast Company has a source that claims only the top-of-the-line models will offer the fastest mmWave flavor of 5G, according to a report from September.
So it seems like a safe bet that 5G should come to new iPhones — Qualcomm and Apple fought hard to make it happen — but right now, it’s not totally clear which phones might have which forms of 5G.
Apple’s entire fall iPhone lineup is finally expected to have OLED screens this year, The Wall Street Journal reported in April, and Bloomberg agrees. Apple plans to bring its Super Retina XDR display, which was exclusive to last year’s iPhone 11 Pro lineup, to all four of this year’s iPhones, Kang reported on Friday.
Despite much of the industry moving on to OLED years ago, LCD screens have hung around in some of Apple’s recent phones, including 2018’s iPhone XR and 2019’s iPhone 11. OLED screens have some advantages over LCD. For example, because each pixel on an OLED screen is individually lit, the screen can just turn those pixels off when showing blacks. That can mean deeper blacks, truer colors, more vibrance, and sometimes better battery life.
Flagship Android phones have also moved on to high refresh rate screens for smoother scrolling, animations, and games, but it’s unclear if that technology will arrive on any iPhones this year. We’ve heard rumors both ways, and some sources say Apple has tested prototypes with and without the feature. But Kuo said in September that none of the new iPhones will have 120Hz — instead, Apple apparently plans to bring the feature to iPhone screens next year.
If the iPhone 12 does offer 120Hz, don’t be surprised if Apple calls it “ProMotion” onstage. (That’s the brand name it uses for its iPad Pros, which have had high refresh rate screens since 2017.)
Apple may also make the screens in this year’s iPhones tougher with a new ceramic substrate glass, according to Kang.
This year’s iPhones are expected to keep a dual-camera setup for the lower-end models and a triple-camera setup for the higher-end models — but the high-end phones could also get a LIDAR sensor, according to Bloomberg, which can detect objects using lasers. That LIDAR sensor, in theory, can enable better augmented reality experiences because your phone could have a better sense of your surroundings.
Kang shared more about what cameras you might expect to see on each iPhone 12 model on Friday:
Apple first added a LIDAR sensor to the iPad Pros in March, and in his review, my colleague Dieter Bohn found that it “seems quite advanced but built for a software future that hasn’t arrived yet.” We’ll have to wait and see if Apple can make a strong case for it in the iPhone.
Kang also said Apple will be improving its Deep Fusion image processing pipeline, night mode photos, and its Smart HDR system with the new iPhones.
One of the biggest changes to this year’s iPhone lineup could be in the box they come in. Apple is rumored to remove both the in-box charger and earbuds, Kuo reported in June, which Kang corroborated on Friday. Bloomberg also reported on October 6th that Apple plans to remove the charger from the box.
This would be a big shift, as iPhones have come with power adapters and EarPods since the first iPhone launched in 2007. But perhaps Apple is trying to avoid giving everyone yet another extra power adapter or set of headphones that will just get shoved in a drawer. (The decision could also significantly reduce e-waste.)
That doesn’t mean Apple won’t offer ways to charge your phone. The new iPhones will apparently still come with a Lightning to USB-C cable, according to Kuo, which would let you connect your phone to a computer or a power adapter with a USB-C port. (That rumor of a Lightning to USB-C cable suggests the phone itself likely won’t have a USB-C port this year, even though the iPad Pro switched over to USB-C in 2018.)
Kuo also said that Apple would sell a new 20-watt charger, which may have been corroborated by this picture posted to Twitter. If this charger is a real Apple product, it might charge your devices faster than the 18-watt charger included with the iPhone 11 Pro and likely much faster than the anemic 5-watt charger included with the iPhone 11.
20W USB-C PD Power Adapter pic.twitter.com/1x74UStqyu
— Mr·white (@laobaiTD) June 24, 2020
Without an included charger and headphones, the new iPhones may have a thinner box. Instagram account conceptsiphone posted a render of a tray that could be included in the new box, and it seems to only have space for a coiled-up cable and perhaps some papers and instructions.
That smaller box could help Apple claim that these iPhones are even more environmentally-friendly than in previous years.
This year’s iPhones are expected to have yet another new Apple-designed processor, as Apple has included the next numerical A-series Bionic chip with new iPhones for the past few generations. Bloomberg reported on Friday that chip will be the A14 processor, which would be the same one included in the new iPad Air. The new chip will apparently be a “significant” upgrade “with an emphasis on speeding up artificial intelligence and AR tasks,” Bloomberg said in a separate report from April.
Apple has sadly phased out the MagSafe magnetic power cable from its laptop lines, but Apple-branded magnetic charging tech might make a return with the release of the new iPhones. The company apparently plans to reveal wireless “MagSafe” chargers and a magnet-equipped iPhone case to help you align your phone more easily when you set it on a charging mat, according to Kang.
Google’s translation of Kang’s Weibo post is a bit confusing about how many chargers there might be and what they might be called:
Magsafe official magnetic casing, two Magsafe Charger wireless chargers, and Magsafe Duo Charger.
But leaker @L0vetodream said the names MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger in a tweet on Friday. That seems to point to there being just two chargers: the MagSafe Charger and the MagSafe Duo Charger.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Apple possibly adding magnets to its products to help with wireless charging. Leaker EverythingApplePro shared photos of what appear to be magnets designed to be built into the iPhone 12’s casing in August:
Magnets.. inside the iPhone 12’s chassis pic.twitter.com/0eJ7HRZjpW
— EverythingApplePro (@EveryApplePro) August 4, 2020
EverythingApplePro also shared an image of what looks like that rumored MagSafe case in August as well.
Yup. Official iPhone 12 cases will also have this magnet system built in. Likely for perfect alignment with Apple’s wireless chargers. pic.twitter.com/eDEQ474NIX
— EverythingApplePro (@EveryApplePro) August 5, 2020
The release of a new iPhone in September almost feels like something you could set your clock to, but now it seems like we’ll finally be seeing them at Apple’s October 13th event. That’s not entirely unexpected, though, as Apple has already said that this year’s iPhones will be available “a few weeks later” than their usual September launch date.
But now we might have a good idea about when you can expect to see the new iPhones in stores, thanks to rumored release information from Kang:
However, Bloomberg said in September that we’ll get the less expensive iPhones sooner than the higher-end models, and it reported on October 9th that “at least” the 6.7-inch version may not be released until sometime later. So it seems like Apple won’t release every iPhone at the same time this year, but it’s hard to know for sure which iPhone will release when.
There are a few other rumors floating around about the upcoming iPhones. Apple leaker @L0vetodream said the low-end iPhones might have 4GB of RAM and the high-end ones could have 6GB, for example.
We may also have an idea about the battery sizes for the new phones, thanks to reported certifications. The rumored 5.4-inch iPhone could have a 2,227mAh battery, the 6.1-inch iPhones may both have a 2,775mAh battery, while the 6.7-inch iPhone might get a 3,687mAh pack. By comparison, those batteries would be smaller than the reported capacities of similar-sized iPhones in the current lineup. (Apparently, the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro has a 3,045mAh battery, the 6.1-inch iPhone 11 has a 3,110mAh battery, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 3,969mAh battery.)
Update October 9th, 2:33PM ET: Added details from recent reports about the rumored colors, prices, screen sizes, cameras, 5G capabilities, processor, release plans, and more.