It’s officially iPhone season — I’m told other people call it “September,” which seems odd — and that means we’re just days away from Apple unveiling new iPhones at its upcoming September 12th event.
The rumor mill has been spinning up lots of leaked photos and speculated names. We’ve rounded up the biggest ones here, along with our best guesses about the likelihood that they’ll actually show up.
iPhone X gets an update
Last year’s iPhone X is rumored to get an “S” update, which would mark the first such update since the iPhone 6S in 2015. Expect the iPhone XS to be more of an enhancement of the X, not a dramatic redesign. That probably means the highlights will be things like a faster processor (rumored to be Apple’s new 7nm A12 chip), a boost to 4GB of RAM, and some camera improvements. There’s also a chance that Apple has some bigger marquee feature hidden away for the XS, similar to how the iPhone 3GS introduced voice control, Siri on the 4S, Touch ID on the 5S, and 3D Touch on the 6S.
How likely? Practically confirmed, thanks to the 9to5Mac leak.
Plus Max joins the party
In addition to the regular iPhone XS, which will reportedly be similar to the existing 5.8-inch iPhone X, Apple is also said to be working on a bigger 6.5-inch iPhone XS, which would be the biggest display on an iPhone yet. Traditionally, Apple has used “Plus” to identify the larger, more feature-rich variant. But now sources speaking to 9to5Mac say it’ll likely be called the iPhone XS Max — which is weird, but terribly unusual from the company responsible for “mini” versions of the iPad and iPod. If Apple follows its previous patterns, the XS Max will probably be about the same as the XS in terms of specs and features with the benefit of an even bigger battery (and maybe some bonus camera functionality).
How likely? Again, basically confirmed, thanks to the leak.
6.1-inch LCD iPhone
The biggest mystery surrounding Apple’s upcoming event is about what we’ll get from the company’s rumored LCD iPhone, which is supposed to come in at a lower price. The as-yet-unnamed device (iPhone 9, perhaps?) is said to feature a bezel-less 6.1-inch LCD panel that’s similar in design to the iPhone X with support for Face ID. But whereas the X (and XS) will still be Apple’s most expensive phones, the LCD iPhone is said to bring some of the X’s more popular features down to a cheaper price point by sacrificing things like the stainless steel frame and OLED panel from the X for cheaper aluminum and LCD parts.
How likely? Lots of rumors are pointing to it, and it seems reasonable, but we haven’t seen any concrete hardware leaks yet.
The long-rumored gold model for the iPhone X seems like it’ll become a reality for the iPhone XS and XS Max this year, according to the seemingly legitimate leak obtained by 9to5Mac. The new LCD model is also said to be getting some colorful new choices: gray, white, blue, red, and orange options.
How likely? Practically confirmed for the XS / XS Max. It’s a coin toss for the rumored LCD model.
3D Touch gets the axe
First introduced with the iPhone 6S, 3D Touch was heralded for offering a new depth to how we use our phones, but it never really took off. That’s why Apple may be cutting the feature — possibly in just the cheaper LCD iPhone this year to start and then maybe across the entire lineup for next year’s devices.
How likely? Apple hasn’t used 3D Touch much lately, and it could be a way to cut costs on its increasingly expensive phones.
All our USB-C dreams come true
There are two parts to this rumor. One is that Apple has finally seen the light and swapped its Lightning ports to the universal USB-C port standard that is increasingly used across the industry for everything from laptops and phones to headphones and tablets (including Apple’s own laptops). This is also exceedingly unlikely.
More possible, though, is that Apple is swapping the included charger and cable in the box with its new phones to a USB-C brick and a USB-C to Lightning cable (which are required to fast-charge new iPhones). This seems far more reasonable.
How likely? USB-C port on the phone? Not a chance. Charger in the box seems like it should happen.
In-display fingerprint sensor
Back when rumors were swirling for the iPhone X, there were two possible paths Apple was expected to take to replace the home button-based fingerprint sensor: a facial recognition system, which the company eventually used in the form of Face ID, and an in-display Touch ID replacement. Apple seems to be going all-in on Face ID this year, but it’s possible that the company could decide to bring back Touch ID with an in-display sensor for a second layer of security (requiring both a fingerprint scan and facial recognition would be dramatically more secure), although recent rumors seem to indicate that Apple will probably hold off for now.
How likely? It seems like Apple is holding off for the foreseeable future, but you never know.
Apple Pencil comes to the iPhone
Apple Pencil fans have been hoping that Apple will offer support for the smart stylus on its phones for a spiritual rebirth of the Palm Pilot for years. And with the iPhone XS Max and its 6.5-inch screen that’s approaching tablet size, it’s not unreasonable to think Apple might do it.
How likely? Probably not happening, if Kuo is to be believed.
New iPhone SE
Apple doesn’t make small phones anymore (except for the iPhone SE, which was released in 2016 with the upgraded internals of the then-flagship iPhone 6S). Featuring the same svelte form factor as the iPhone 5 and a 3.5mm headphone jack, SE fans have been hoping that Apple will offer an upgraded version again with improved specs, or maybe even a more drastically redesigned model that could add features like a bezel-free display and wireless charging in the same small size.
How likely? There haven’t been any recent leaks. If Apple is updating the SE, it’s either kept it very quiet, or it’s not happening at next week’s event.