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The 2019 iPhone line: my official guesses

6 September 2019


Four days before the unveiling of the new iPhones, I’m making official my predictions about some of their features. This is not intended to be a comprehensive description, as we already know a lot of general bullet points; rather, this post will cover what I don’t believe has been corroborated beyond doubt. (I’m expanding from a Twitter thread I wrote yesterday so I can get more detailed than a chain of 240-character paragraphs.)


Naming

The iPhones XS, XS Max, and XR were so oddly named because they were all iterations of the same phone, the iPhone X. All of them needed some kind of differentiating modifier, but Apple insisted on keeping X as the “base” for the names. Ideally, the iPhone XR’s name would have reflected its status as the “default” iPhone for most people; but the name “iPhone X” had already been used.

The 2019 iPhone line is comparatively far easier to name because the solution to the mess is obvious. Apple should do what it should have done last year:

Kill the “S” nomenclature.

Make the low-end iPhone the unmodified “iPhone,” indicating its priority as the product for most people.

Give the other models a suffix that denotes them as higher-end. “Pro” offers consistency with Apple’s other product lines.

In 2018, those were the three most important principles for Apple to follow. Obviously, it followed none of them, so they all still apply today. The “purest” naming system, the one that captures the essence of the iPhone line, and nothing less, is

iPhone

iPhone Pro [smaller size]

iPhone Pro [bigger size]

However, I don’t think that’s what we’ll get.

Raw simplicity can admittedly create confusion (especially when it comes to year-over-year changes). I think Apple will follow its tradition in two important ways: keeping the generation number and keeping the modifier for the Pro with the larger display. This leaves us with

iPhone 11

iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro Max

“11” is far more justifiable than “Max,” but size differentiation seems to be here to stay. I’m quite convinced by this 9to5Mac report, which pictures some iPhone 11 cases in their retail packaging — including the name “iPhone 11 Pro Max.”

Afterthought: if, next March, we do see a low-end iPhone released, what will it be called? I think “iPhone” is best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were called “iPhone SE” or “iPhone 11 SE.”


Design

I’ve seen enough leaks upon leaks that I agree with the consensus on the iPhone 11 designs. There’s little room left for interpretation, but some aesthetic details seem to have been either forgotten or not thoroughly touched on.

I haven’t seen any renders of the rumored frosted glass backs. Presumably they will look different from last year’s glass, but I can’t even picture the change in my head.

The camera bump will obviously be much bigger Another detail often omitted from renders that I think we’ll see on release: the space between the lenses will be color-matched with the finish on the phone.

The Apple logo will be in the dead center, and the “iPhone” text below it will be gone.

As far as colors go, there will allegedly be a new purple and green (just on the iPhone 11, I assume). If Apple gets creative naming the colors, I’d bet on “Lilac” or “Lavender” and “Emerald” or “Leaf Green.”

I don’t anticipate any other external changes this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the antenna lines changed so the speaker grille cutouts could be symmetrical again, but I’m not betting on that.


Features

I’ve seen some whispers of Apple Pencil support, but I don’t buy it.

I very strongly believe reports that 3D Touch is getting the axe. (It’s about time.)

The Haptic Engine will get an upgrade. To my ear, this means more power and a higher frequency (I mean, what else can change? Size?)

Face ID will supposedly work at a greater angle. Total guesswork tells me the limit will be between 120 and 135 degrees. (By the way, when I say 120 degrees, I mean a 30-degree change from looking dead-on at the front of the iPhone.)

iPhone-to-other-device wireless charging will work with AirPods and Apple Watches. I’m not sure what the technical limitations will be on anything other than Apple products. I also don’t know whether all the new iPhones will get wireless-out. I expect to see new AirPods on Tuesday, and I think they’ll have a magnetic charging case that lets them snap onto the back of an iPhone (see the Apple Watch’s charging puck for reference). The Apple logo will be the placement spot for wireless-out. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll call the whole feature “AirShare” or “PowerShare” — maybe even “MagShare.”

Low-light photography will be the main focus of the camera update, especially as a response to Google’s Night Sight. I think the feature will be baked into the Camera app and automatically always active, not accessed via a different camera mode. It can be toggled the same way as the flash.


Storage and Pricing

I expect the same storage tiers and prices as we saw last year (that is, the 11 will be the same as the XR and the Pros will be the same as the XSes). There’s a small chance that both Pro models could start with 128GB of storage, but I’m definitely not banking on that.


The Keynote

The phrase “turning [something] up to 11” will be used at least once.

There will be a demo.

“Turning [something] up to 11” might be used during the demo.

Tim Cook will say “Good morning!” more than three times.


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