With the iPhone X, Apple claims to have set the tone for the next decade of evolution in the smartphone industry. Given the long development timeframe of the flagship iPhones, Apple has already started working on the 2018 iPhones – likely to be called iPhone 9, iPhone XI, and iPhone X Plus. The devices are still roughly a year away. Apple could change their features anytime before they are officially unveiled. Here’s what the rumor mill has revealed about the 2018 iPhones.
Two OLED and one LCD models
The ever-reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo as well as the Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Apple would launch three premium iPhones in 2018. Two of them will sport OLED displays measuring 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch. The OLED iPhones are said to look similar to the current iPhone X with a bezel-less design and rear glass panel.
The third phone will have a 6.1-inch LCD screen, the same panels that Apple used on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. However, the LCD iPhone would borrow a few elements such as the top notch from the iPhone X. According to Nikkei, the LCD version will have a metal back panel similar to the iPhone 7, which means it would not support wireless charging. Kuo says the LCD model will be sold at a lower price point ($650-$750) while the OLED iPhones would cost you upward of $1,000.
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What will they be called?
No one really knows what they would be called. This year’s iPhone naming pattern was already weird enough. Apple released the iPhone 8 and iPhone X (ten) at the same time, without talking about where the iPhone 9 would stand in its scheme of things. Experts believe that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone would be a successor to the iPhone 8 series, which means it could be called iPhone 9.
The two OLED models will be succeeding the iPhone X. They could be called iPhone XI (11) and iPhone X Plus. The rumor mill claims Apple is planning to release an iPhone X Plus next year. Remember that this is just a wild guess. The actual names could turn out to be entirely different.
The notch is going to stick around
Many people have criticized the notch at the top of the iPhone X screen. Whether you like it or not, the notch houses many critical components that support some of the most revolutionary features on the iPhone X. It includes the TrueDepth camera system that supports Face ID and Animoji. Ming-Chi Kuo says all the three iPhones, including the LCD iPhone 9, coming next year would feature the notch. If you are an iPhone fan, you just have to make your peace with it.
2018 iPhones to feature a 7nm A12 processor
Folks at DigiTimes have learned from supply chain sources that the iPhone XI, iPhone 9, and iPhone X Plus could feature processors built using 7nm nodes. Apple and Samsung are the only two OEMs capable of moving from the 10nm manufacturing process to 7nm by next year. Apple is already working with TSMC on 7nm nodes, which indicates that the next year’s A12 processors could be produced using the 7nm process.
DigiTimes added that a chipmaker like TSMC would have to ship 120-150 million 7nm chips per year to make it viable financially. Apple, which sells more than 220 million iPhones a year, is capable of pulling it off in partnership with TSMC.
iPhone XI, iPhone X Plus to have an improved battery design
The iPhone X features a two-cell, L-shaped battery measuring 2716mAh. It doesn’t offer a great battery life. In fact, even the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have a better battery life than the iPhone X. Ming-Chi Kuo reports that Apple has joined hands with LG Chem to develop a one-cell, L-shaped battery. The new design would allow Apple to pack a 2900 to 3000mAh battery in the 5.8-inch iPhone XI, about 10% bigger than the iPhone X battery. The 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus would have enough room for a 3300 to 3400mAh battery.
Unfortunately, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone 9 is expected to keep the same older rectangular battery at 2850-2950mAh, according to Kuo. The rectangular battery would help “keep a better cost structure.” It makes sense considering the iPhone 9’s price tag would be similar to the iPhone 8.
Upcoming iPhones to use Apple’s own power management chips
Apple is increasingly bringing more core technologies in-house. The tech giant has already told Imagination Technologies that it would stop using their GPU designs in the next couple of years. The iPhone maker is also developing in-house power management chips that will be used in at least some of the 2018 iPhones, sources told Nikkei. For the current iPhones, Apple licenses the power management chips from the UK-based Dialog Semiconductor.
The power management chips control a phone’s battery charging and energy functions. The in-house chips could help Apple more tightly integrate its software and hardware to improve the battery life of the upcoming iPhones. Apple’s new power management chips will be manufactured by TSMC, which currently makes the A11 Bionic processor for the iPhone X.
Faster LTE transfer speeds
The iPhone 9, iPhone XI, and iPhone X Plus would come with upgraded liquid crystal polymer (LCP) antenna modules that would boost the LTE transfer speeds, according to Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo told investors that the upcoming iPhones would use at least two LCP LTE antenna modules, just like the iPhone X. But they will support the 4×4 MIMO standards. The current iPhones use the 2×2 MIMO technology.
The 4×4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) would increase the number of data paths between the iPhone and the cellular tower to four, boosting the LTE speeds.
The next-gen iPhones are expected to have the same 3GB RAM as the current models. The 3GB RAM inside the iPhone X is enough to beat every other smartphone in benchmark tests. However, Apple could boost the maximum storage capacity to 512GB. Apple doesn’t offer a microSD card slot in iPhones. It forces users to buy the higher storage models at a higher price tag, contributing to Apple’s profit margins.
Apple is also expected to improve the dual camera on the iPhone XI and the iPhone X Plus. Since the iPhone 9 would have a price tag between $650 and $750, it is unlikely to include a dual camera system.