What about this year, then? Well, rumours suggest that Apple will indeed make a successor to the iPhone X, which we're calling the iPhone XS, as well as a larger Plus version… but also a cheaper iPhone X-like iPhone 9, using some lower-end components. But here's the rub: it might also be larger than the iPhone X.
Confused? Yeah, we know the feeling – but the rumours and reports have been piling up for months now, and they suggest a very different kind of core, entry-level iPhone for 2018. Here's what we expect to see from the Apple iPhone 9, and don't miss our iPhone XS preview as well.
When will the Apple iPhone 9 be out?
If you've been following Apple's smartphones for a while, then you know that September has long been carved out as the month that we see new iPhones.
Unsurprisingly, that looks to hold true again for the iPhone 9. Apple just sent out media invitations for an event on 12 September in Cupertino, where we expect to see the 6.1in iPhone 9 and the 5.8in and 6.5in iPhone XS models, along with an Apple Watch Series 4 and possibly new iPads.
Macerkopf reports that German retailed expect a 14 September pre-order date for the phone, which means it would likely release one week later on Friday, 21 September.
That said, back in July, Macotakara reported (via 9to5Mac) that manufacturing hitches might push the release of the base iPhone 9 to November instead, much like the iPhone X (shown) launched later than the iPhone 8 last year – so there's a chance that it could roll out late.
A late August report from Bloomberg affirmed that manufacturing delays had hit the device, and that it had just begun manufacturing that month, whereas the OLED models were being manufactured from July. That said, the report didn't suggest that the 6.1in model would release any later than the others.
At this point, there's no consensus on just what the phone will be called. We've been calling it the iPhone 9. Meanwhile, recent reports suggest that it could be called the iPhone XC, throwing back to the cheaper iPhone 5c model some years back, while Bloomberg suggests that Apple has considered calling it the iPhone XR... because "R" is before "S," and the pricier new iPhones will reportedly be called the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.
The above series of mock-ups, compiled by leaker Ben Geskin, shows the potential different colour options of the iPhone XC/iPhone 9 compared to the XS and XS Max, based on current leaks and rumours.
We still expect a September release following the reveal on the 12th, even if initial supply is tight.
How much will the Apple iPhone 9 cost?
If the rumours and leaks hold true, then the iPhone 9 will look like an iPhone X and cost like an iPhone 8. That's a good thing!
Analyst Ming-Chu Kuo of TF International Securities has been tweaking his estimates over the past several months, and currently he believes that the iPhone 9 will fall somewhere between US$600-700.
The iPhone 8 released at US$699, while the iPhone 7 was $649. We've seen rising smartphone costs across the board over the last couple years, especially with the iPhone X – but if Kuo is correct, Apple may stem that tide by delivering an iPhone X-esque experience at the familiar, standard iPhone cost.
On the other hand, maybe those analysts are severely low-balling the target. In early September, a Goldman Sachs analyst note (via AppleInsider) suggested that Apple will price the LCD model around US$849, making it more expensive than even the current iPhone 8 Plus (US$799). They added that the speculated US$699 price point "makes little sense for Apple," as it could drive down their average selling price per device.
Of course, if the iPhone 9 starts at US$849, then the 5.8in and 6.5in iPhone XS OLED models will only be pricier.
We find it hard to believe that the entry-level 2018 iPhone will start at US$849. Sure, it could be more than US$699, but the US$849 price point seems awfully extreme.
What will the Apple iPhone 9 look like?
Reports and leaks suggest that the iPhone 9 will finally kick the old iPhone 6-8 design to the curb and look much like an iPhone X… except larger.
Curiously enough, reports point to a 6.1in display on the iPhone 9, whereas the iPhone X sits at 5.8in. That's a small difference, but one that will still make for a larger handset.
Reports suggest a change in materials, however: aluminum for the frame instead of stainless steel, which is kind of like the differentiator between the cheaper and higher-end Apple Watch models. Apple needs to show why you'd bother paying more for the iPhone XS.
Supposedly, the pricier iPhone XS will add gold to the current black and white offerings, but the iPhone 9 will go in a different direction. Kuo believes that there will be grey, white, blue, red, and orange renditions, hearkening back to the colourful pop of the iPhone 5c. Except, you know, classier.
Bloomberg affirmed that the LCD-packing iPhone will "come in many colours," but didn't specify which ones. The report also notes that the aluminium frames won't be matched to the backing colours like they are on the iPhone X.
The photo above shows dummy models of the iPhone XS Max (left) and iPhone 9 (right) based on leaked specs, showing the potential difference between the new-largest iPhone (with a 6.5in OLED display) and the middle-sized 6.1in LCD model.
The larger size detail is still an odd quirk that we haven't quite wrapped our minds around, but we certainly expect the iPhone X-like design to be Apple's approach going forward.
What about the Apple iPhone 9 screen?
Instead, it's sticking with an LCD panel, just like every other iPhone before the iPhone X, which means a bit weaker contrast and less vibrancy than OLED is capable of. Rumours suggest that the 6.1in LCD panel will also stick to the same kind of resolution as the iPhone 8, landing in the 320-330ppi range.
That seems like a major misstep to us, if true. The iPhone 8 already looks fuzzy compared to the competition, and that's on a 4.7in display. Increase that to 6.1in and it's only going to be worse. Using a 1080p panel for that size would be fine; we've seen plenty of ~6in 1080p panels and they're quite good. Apple's 5.5in iPhone 8 Plus panel is 1080p and it's great.
As for the bezel surrounding the screen, we've heard conflicting things. A purported glass panel leak for all three upcoming iPhone models suggests a thicker bezel for the 6.1in iPhone 9. However, a more recent report from Macotakara claims that the new "Full Active Display" LCD panel from Japan Pixels, which is what is purportedly being used here, allows for even slimmer bezels than OLED panels.
Which is it, then? Logically, we can't imagine that Apple will make the iPhone 9's bezels smaller than the iPhone X or XS, since that suggests a feature improvement for the cheaper, entry-level phone. In our view, they'll either be identical or the iPhone 9's bezels could be a hair thicker.
We expect an LCD screen on the iPhone 9, but we're seriously hoping that Apple bumps the resolution up to 1080p. The iPhone 8's panel is already behind the times for a flagship phone.
How much power will the Apple iPhone 9 pack?
Apple's A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X and iPhone 8 is still the fastest smartphone processor on the planet, and by a pretty good margin too – the newer Exynos and Snapdragon chips in the Android world can't compare in most benchmark tests.
And Apple will undoubtedly widen that gap with a new A12 chip on the iPhone 9. Apple put the A11 Bionic in all of its new phones last year, and we expect that they'll keep power parity between them again this year.
Trendforce believes that we'll see 3GB RAM in the iPhone 9, up from the 2GB in the iPhone 8, along with 64GB and 256GB storage options like the current iPhone X.
We don't know yet just how powerful the A12 will be, but given Apple's recent trend, it should be very impressive.
What kind of cameras will the Apple iPhone 9 have?
On the iPhone 9, the front camera might be the most compelling one: that's because it'll pack the TrueDepth camera from the iPhone X, bringing along Face ID for security and other fun bits.
We haven't heard of any particular tweaks or upgrades coming to TrueDepth or Face ID this time around, but they impressed on the iPhone X, and it'll be a nice addition to the iPhone 9.
As for the back, it sounds like Apple won't bring along the dual-camera setup of the pricier iPhones: reports suggest it'll be a single shooter. Granted, the iPhone 8 (shown) had a great main camera itself, so it's sure to be a quality option. But that's just another thing that will seemingly set this model apart from the iPhone XS versions.
Sounds right to us. Apple always has great cameras, but you won't get the dual-camera tricks on the iPhone 9. TrueDepth will be fun and useful, though!
Is there anything else I should know about the Apple iPhone 9?
In case you haven't figured it out, bringing in the iPhone X-like design and TrueDepth camera suggests that the classic fingerprint sensor will be properly banished from the iPhone line. We like Face ID, but we also like options.
Interestingly, Kuo believes that the iPhone 9 will leave behind 3D Touch technology, as well, although it'll be in the iPhone XI models. We're surprised to hear that, to be honest. 3D Touch hasn't been the most essential everyday addition, but splitting the line on a feature like pressure sensitivity will only create headaches for app and game developers.
Furthermore, Barclays believes that Apple may remove 3D Touch from all iPhones starting in 2019, including the OLED models, so this might be a stepping stone on the way to cutting out pressure sensitivity entirely.
The iPhone 9 will ship with iOS 12 installed, of course, and the new OS revision packs some neat twists. We've been playing with the public beta, and have some thoughts on what's coming, what's already great, and what could arguably use some more work.
Bloomberg reports that Apple plans to release a dual-SIM rendition of the 6.1in iPhone in some regions, but doesn't specify which ones.
Frustratingly, adapter supplier Cirrus Logic suggests that the iPhone 9 and iPhone XS will both scrap the 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter, meaning you'll have to buy it separately – or use Lightning-enabled or Bluetooth headphones instead. That's annoying, if true.
Also, TrendForce suggests that the iPhone XS models will offer Apple Pencil support, but that it's not coming to the iPhone 9. You'll have to spend big for smartphone stylus action this autumn on the Apple front... or the Samsung front, to be fair.
There's a lot of stuff to process in this category, but most notably, we'd be surprised if 3D Touch and the headphone adapter both drop out this year.