iPhone 12: everything we think we know about Apple’s 2020 5G iPhones
Apple is likely taking the wraps off its 2020 iPhones at an event on October 13th, and the rumor mill is in full swing, hinting at some major changes coming to Apple’s smartphones this year. And since we first published this post in September, there have been a few more rumors about the new phones.
The big one to be aware of is that the new lineup may not have high-refresh 120Hz displays, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. If you’ve been waiting for Apple to add those smooth refresh rates, you might have to wait another year. And some newer leaks also suggest the next Apple device will be called the iPhone 12 and that we could see the introduction of the first-ever iPhone with “mini” in its name.
A lot of 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.
There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the next iPhones — they haven’t leaked quite as much as, say, recent Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy handsets — but there’s enough out there to piece together a decent picture of what Apple is planning.
The likeliest rumor of them all? We’re getting four new iPhones this year.
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FOUR NEW IPHONES THIS FALL, WITH TWO NEW SCREEN SIZES
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:
- A new 5.4-inch model, which would be smaller screen than the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro (and presumably be an entirely smaller phone)
- A low-end 6.1-inch model — the same screen size as the iPhone 11 — with similar specs as its 5.4-inch sibling
- A second 6.1-inch model with high-end specs
- A new 6.7-inch model, which would be a bigger screen than the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max (and likely be larger in size as well)
Originally, the credible rumor 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.
Interestingly, the rumored 5.4-inch iPhone might be called the iPhone 12 mini — which would be new for an iPhone but has appeared on other Apple devices, such as the iPod mini, iPad mini, and Mac mini. The low-end 6.1-inch iPhone will apparently be the standard iPhone 12, the high-end 6.1-inch model could be called the iPhone 12 Pro, and the 6.7-inch version might be named the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
A NEW INDUSTRIAL DESIGN REMINISCENT OF THE IPHONE 4 AND 5
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.)
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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 size compares 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:
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:
THE FIRST IPHONES WITH 5G, BUT WHICH FLAVORS?
2020’s iPhones are expected to be the first to supports 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.
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 model will offer the fastest mmWave flavor of 5G.
All the way back in January, Ming-Chi Kuo said that all four upcoming iPhone models will support both sub-6GHz and the faster (but far shorter range) mmWave 5G, and 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.
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 just not clear which phones might have which forms of 5G.
AN OLED SCREEN IN EVERY IPHONE, BUT WHAT ABOUT REFRESH RATES?
Apple’s entire fall iPhone lineup is finally expected to have OLED screens this year, The Wall Street Journal reported in April, and Bloomberg now agrees. 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 — 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 in Ming-Chi 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” on stage — that’s the brand name it uses for its iPad Pros, which have had high refresh rate screens since 2017.
DON’T EXPECT FOUR CAMERAS, BUT HIGH-END IPHONES COULD GET LIDAR
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. Both high-end models could also be getting something new, according to Bloomberg: a LIDAR sensor, which can detect objects using lasers. That, in theory, can enable better augmented reality experiences, because your phone could have a better sense of your surroundings.
Apple first added a LIDAR sensor to the iPad Pros in March, and in his review, my colleague Dieter Bohn found that the LIDAR sensor “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.
NO CHARGER OR HEADPHONES IN THE BOX
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, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported in June. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Apple plans to remove the charger from the box.
This would be a big shift, as iPhones have come with power adapters and earphones since the first iPhone launched in 2007. But perhaps Apple is just trying to avoid giving everyone yet another extra power adapter or set of headphones that 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.
And 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.
LIKE USUAL, THE NEW IPHONES SHOULD HAVE A NEW PROCESSOR
This year’s iPhones are expected to have yet another new Apple-designed processor. Bloomberg reports that the new phones will have “a significant upgrade to the processor with an emphasis on speeding up artificial intelligence and AR tasks.” It seems likely that chip will be the A14 Bionic included in the new iPad Air, as Apple has included the next numerical A-series Bionic chip with new iPhones for the past few generations.
THIS YEAR’S IPHONES ARE LAUNCHING LATER THAN NORMAL
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. Bloomberg said in September that we’ll get the less expensive iPhones sooner than the higher-end models, too.
OTHER TIDBITS: BATTERY, STORAGE, PRICE, NAME
There are a few other rumors floating around about the upcoming iPhones. Apple leaker @L0vetodream said in May the low-end phones may start with 64GB of storage, while the high-end models may have a base of 128GB. They also said the low-end iPhone would have 4GB of RAM and the high-end one would have 6GB.
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 2227mAh battery, the 6.1-inch iPhones may both have a 2775mAh battery, while the 6.7-inch iPhone might get a 3687mAh 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).
And despite the lowest-end iPhone likely being physically smaller than the current iPhone 11, it’s unclear if Apple will change the starting price of this year’s iPhone lineup to reflect that change. The iPhone 11 starts at $699, which itself was a $50 price drop from 2018’s similarly-sized iPhone XR. Here’s hoping Apple lops off yet another $50 for a starting price of $649.
Update October 6th, 1:48PM ET: Added details from Bloomberg about which phones could get LIDAR sensors and corroborating that Apple plans to remove the wall charger from the iPhone’s box this year.
Update October 6th, 12:11PM ET: Added that Apple has officially announced an event for October 13th.
Update October 6th, 11:53AM ET: Updated the introduction and article to include rumors about the lack of 120Hz display, potential names for the new iPhones, and the processor that may be included.
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