Phone 9s — or iPhone X2, or whatever Apple ends up calling the 2018 iPhone — is widely expected to come next fall. But with iPhone 8 and iPhone X both on the market now, there are several ways Apple could go for the next generation. This article is continuously updated to include the latest news and rumors so you can be among the first to find out. Bookmark it, save it, share it, and check back often!
There’s always a next display technology. We’ve gone from CRT to LCD and Plasma to OLED. Next on the list might well be MicroLED, a technology that could offer better than OLED quality with LED-backlit longevity and consistency. And Apple’s all over it.
The technology giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.
Instead of a single backlight, like iPhones up until iPhone 8, or self-lighting, like iPhone X, MicroLED uses individual LED backlights for each pixel and sub-pixel.
It won’t be ready for years and something else could always come along in the meantime. But, if MicroLED is the next new, Apple will be well-positioned to take advantage of it — and in a way that gives it a differentiated advantage over current OLED suppliers like Samsung.
2017 changed everything. Instead of iPhone 7s, we got:
iPhone X (iPhone “Ten”)
So, what follows iPhone 8 and iPhone X? Will it be iPhone 9 and iPhone X2? Just iPhone 9 or iPhone X2? Something else entirely?
Apple can name the next iPhone anything it wants. iPhone 9. iPhone X2. iPhone Edition. iPhone Pro. iPhone Mother of Dragons. It’s purely a marketing decision.
Quite possibly. The advantage of iPhone X is that it puts a bigger-than-iPhone-Plus display into a roughly the same size casing as a regular iPhone. That leaves open two possibilities:
iPhone 9 Plus: Same size as iPhone 8 Plus but with an even bigger, 6-inch display.
iPhone 9 SE: Same size as iPhone SE but with an iPhone 8-like 4.7-inch display.
Since the iPhone 5, Apple has announced every flagship iPhone during a special event held the first or second Tuesday or Wednesday of September.
iPhone 5: September 12, 2012
iPhone 5s: September 10, 2013
iPhone 6: September 9, 2014
iPhone 6s: September 9, 2015
iPhone 7: September 7, 2016
iPhone 8: September 12, 2017
iPhone X: September 12, 2017
Likewise, since the iPhone 5, Apple has shipped every flagship iPhone the second Friday following the event, with the exception of the iPhone 6s in 2015, which shipped the third Friday following the event, and iPhone X, which shipped on November 3:
iPhone 5: September 21, 2012
iPhone 5S: September 20, 2013
iPhone 6: September 19, 2014
iPhone 6s: September 25, 2015
iPhone 7: September 16, 2016
iPhone 8: September 22, 2017
iPhone X: November 3, 2017
Past patterns are the best indicator of future events, but they aren’t perfect. Apple can and will throw curveballs whenever the company’s logistics or strategy demands. So, be aware of the dates but don’t be bound to them.
Now that Apple has debuted an all-new design language with iPhone X, it’s possible the company will stick with it for at least another generation. That was the pattern with iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s, and iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. With iPhone 6 through iPhone 8, Apple changed materials and manufacturing processes but stuck with the same design language for four years.
iPhone 3G: 2008 — Plastic shell.
iPhone 4: 2010 — Antenna band and glass back.
iPhone 5: 2012 — 16:9 aspect ratio, chamfered edges.
iPhone 6: 2014 — Bigger screens, rounded edges.
iPhone X: 2017 — Edge-to-edge display.
There’s always a possibility Apple will iterate more quickly following iPhone X, but it’s likely what we’ll see with iPhone 9 is multiple sizes of the same design.
With iPhone X, Apple deleted the Home button and Touch ID along with it. Instead, we got Face ID. It’s always possible Apple will bring Touch ID back, implementing it below the OLED display.
So far Apple has saved the new iPhone finishes for the years absent big redesigns, save for 2017’s iPhone 7 Project RED special edition.
iPhone 5s: 2013 — Gold.
iPhone 6s: 2015 — Rose gold.
iPhone 7: 2016 — Black and jet black.
iPhone 7: 2017 — (Product) RED.
iPhone 8: 2018 — “New” gold.
Here again, Apple can do anything the company wants, any time the company wants, including introducing new colors at any time.
Apple Watch Series 2 being released in white ceramics sent the internet atwitter with thoughts of iPhone 9 being made out of the same material. Tougher than stainless steel, it still remains to be seen if it would hold up in a device as big as an iPhone or iPhone Plus.
Since Apple introduced the company’s first branded system-on-a-chip (SoC) in 2010, every new iPhone has come with a new A-series chipset. If Apple sticks to that pattern, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will ship with Apple A11 processors. New SoC typically take advantage of better processes that let them be faster and more powerful but also more energy efficient.
Apple has also been adding coprocessors to handle motion voice activation, fusion cores, and neural engines. A12 will continue to push Apple silicon forward. That inclues a second generation custom GPU as well.
Apple typically introduces a technology in one device and then rolls it out across the lineup. Retina was like that with iPhone 4 and Touch ID with iPhone 5s. The Smart Connector, which debuted with the iPad Pro in the fall of 2015, attaches via a magnet and runs power, data, and ground directly from the device. It currently powers Apple’s Smart Keyboard and a similar keyboard from Logitech, with more expected to follow.
Apple could certainly engineer a Smart Connector for iPhone 9, but what it would be used for is a more interesting question. Apple made a smaller Smart Keyboard for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but would the company make an even smaller one for iPhone 8 Plus? For iPhone 8 standard?
With iPhone 8 and iPhone X, Apple brought TrueTone to iPhone. It makes sure the color temperature of the display matches the ambient color temperature. That way, whites don’t look yellow or blue — they look white. Like paper.
What iPhone 8 and iPhone X didn’t get was ProMotion.
Introduced with the 2017 iPads Pro, ProMotion allows dynamic refresh so the display can ramp up to support Apple Pencil and impossibly smooth scrolling, and ramp down to conserve power.
Like TrueTone, once you see it, you want it everywhere. Including the next-generation iPhone.