We're in the home stretch: Apple's big fall event is scheduled for Sept. 12, and rumors (and leaks) are pointing to three new iPhones: A second-gen iPhone X, again with a 5.8-inch OLED screen, and two larger models -- a 6.5-inch OLED and a 6.1-inch LCD handset. The latter might strip a few features -- such as 3D Touch and the dual rear camera -- to come in at a price point lower than the current iPhone X.
No matter how many new iPhones are unveiled on Wednesday -- and whatever they're called -- there are plenty of features we'd like to see in the new models. Here are our top priorities -- along with our guess on the likelihood of each one being implemented in the top-end model.
This story was originally published March 5, 2018, and is updated periodically.
Using the Face ID feature, the iPhone X works pretty well but it's still generally not as fast or smooth as the current iteration of Touch ID. In addition to a speed bump, it would be great if Face ID for 2018 could work at wider angles and different orientations of the device. Better performance in bright sunlight would be optimal, too.
It also appears that iOS 12 allows Face ID for "different appearances," which may or may not mean that you can have a second person -- such as a spouse or significant other -- unlock your phone, too.
Since iOS 11 added support for Apple's ARKit to the iPhone 6S and later models, we've seen plenty of augmented reality apps hit the App Store. ARKit 2 in iOS 12 is adding even more fun tricks to the iPhone's mixed reality portfolio.
Plenty of people would get upset if Apple switched from its Lightning port to a USB Type-C connection, which is gradually becoming the standard for other phones and laptops, including Apple's own line of MacBooks. But swapping out the rectangular USB-A connector on the iPhone charger that comes in the box -- while leaving Lightning on the phone -- would mean that Apple users could charge their iPhones from their new MacBooks without needing an adapter. Apple does sell one of these cables, but you have to pay extra for it. And if they had the right power adapter, they could also charge their phones more quickly (see next slide). The rumor of a USB-C charger has picked up steam in recent months.
Chances of USB-C on iPhone: Less than 0.01 percent
Fast charging gives you a quick and convenient way to recharge your iPhone X, iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus. Your iPhone fast charges up to 50 percent in 30 minutes when you use an Apple USB-C to Lightning cable and one of these adapters:
Apple 29W, 30W, 61W or 87W USB-C Power Adapter
A comparable third-party USB-C power adapter that supports USB Power Delivery (USB-PD)
It'd be nice if those accessories were included in the box -- especially if you were buying the top-end iPhone starting at $999, £999 or AU$1,579. Apple charges $25, £25 or AU$35 for the cable alone, although you can get generic versions for much less. However, those generic cables are not part of Apple's "Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad" program that certifies cables as safe to use, so go for the cheaper cables at your own risk.
Right now, there are up to four SKUs for each iPhone model, to account for differences between CDMA and GSM networks, as well as for the Japanese Suica transit card. It would be great to have one iPhone that could be a true world traveler.
Published:Caption:David CarnoyPhoto:Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
5G support for futureproofing
OK, this is a stretch, but we can dream, right?
Current iPhones work on 4G networks. Upcoming 5G cellular data networks promise blazing-fast speeds. But we probably won't see 5G networks -- and 5G phones -- until late 2019 at the earliest. Still, it would sure be nice if Apple slipped a 5G chip in its 2018 iPhones.
This doesn't really have anything to do with the hardware of the new iPhones, but I thought I'd throw it in the mix to voice a common complaint about an extra Apple tax you end up paying if you go with its backup service, iCloud.
With photo and video file sizes getting larger and larger with each new iPhone you buy, Apple needs to give you more storage for less money -- or at least for the same amount of money. And how about a free year of storage equal to the capacity of the phone? With Google now offering more cloud storage for less money with Google One, maybe Apple will follow suit.
Most iPhones now come in 64GB and 256GB capacities. With just $12 separating the price of 64GB and 128GB microSD cards, the price to double up on that low-end capacity is rapidly shrinking. Apple could throw customers a bone and double the capacity of the entry-level models. But don't count on it.
Published:Caption:David CarnoyPhoto:Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
3D Touch features that are actually useful
There's a rumor that Apple's much-hyped 3D Touch feature, first introduced with the iPhone 6S, may get nixed from at least one new, reportedly more affordable next-generation iPhone.
We have no idea whether that's true or not, but we have to admit: Right now, we wouldn't really miss if it went away, replaced instead by a long press.
If it's going to stay, Apple should ramp up implementations that are actually, you know, useful. How about 3D Touch to swap between Bluetooth and AirPlay output devices? Or to switch between Wi-Fi networks without going into a whole new menu screen?
Chances of more useful 3D Touch features: 15 percent
Apple has consistently improved the iPhone's graphics capabilities with each new iteration, and not surprisingly, we've come to expect a performance boost. We would be disappointed if we didn't get one, though we'd sacrifice some power in favor of a big battery boost.
The A11 Bionic chip you see here powers the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X. It's built on 10 nanometer process technology -- produced by Taiwanese giant TSMC.
Rumor has it TSMC will produce all the new A12 chips that will power the next-generation iPhones, and that those chips will be built on 7 nanometer process technology to further maximize speed and performance.
The iPhone 8 has 2GB of RAM, while the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X have 3GB. Hopefully, the new iPhones will get a RAM bump to at least 4GB. Samsung's new Galaxy S9 comes with 4GB of RAM while the larger Galaxy S9 Plus has 6GB.
The now widely accepted belief that we'll get three large-screen iPhones in 2018 originated with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo earlier this year, postulating a trio of phones that included two with screens larger than the existing 5.8-inch iPhone X.
According to Kuo, there's going to be a new high-end model (call it the iPhone X Plus) that would have a 6.5-inch OLED. Additionally, Apple would make a more affordable model with a 6.1-inch LCD -- albeit stripping some high-end features out of that latter model.
The theory has more recently been endorsed by a Bloomberg report and no one has really suggested a different scenario at this piont.
The iPhone X was the first iPhone to leave off a physical home button, but in the process, Apple also removed the Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
There was some hope that we'd get a virtual home button that would include a fingerprint scanner, but Apple, like Samsung, was said to be having trouble getting a fingerprint scanner to work behind the screen.
Apple focused instead on facial recognition to handle unlocking duties, but we'd still like to see Touch ID behind the screen, a la phones made by Vivo.
Back when the iPhone 6 came out, there was chatter that it would sport a shatter-resistant sapphire screen, but that never materialized.
We managed to crack the iPhone X's screen with just one drop (Apple charges $279, £286 or AU$419 to replace the iPhone X's OLED screen). Also worth noting: the back of the phone, which is also made out glass, didn't fare any better.
The iPhone's camera keeps getting slightly better with each iteration. But there's always room for improvement, and a better camera is one of the main upgrade features people are looking for when they shell out big bucks for a new iPhone.
The iPhone X got dual lenses that allow for more flexibility while shooting. It also got a better front selfie camera. Both offered improved performance in low-light conditions, but low-light and flash performance could be even better -- competition from Samsung, Huawei and others is only ramping up.
Chances of implementation: 100 percent that the camera will be "better," but 25 percent that it will be a significant upgrade from the 2017 iPhone X
Since the camera is one of the main reasons people upgrade to a new phone, we have some additional, more specific imaging upgrades we've already seen in other phones.
Competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S9 are upping the ante with variable aperture, while the impressive Huawei P20 Pro added a triple-lens camera array and 3x optical zoom. We'd like to see 2018 iPhones match those features.
Apple manages to keep each new iPhone slim while equipping it with a faster processor and graphics chip to also improve on battery life. But the truth is, we'd trade a little of that slimness and power for better battery life -- and so would a lot of other people.
With the iPhone X, you'd think that Apple might manage to squeeze out a little more battery life with the combination of a more efficient processor and an OLED screen, but the gains didn't materialize. In our video playback tests, the iPhone 8 Plus was the battery life king.
The X has done better in our subsequent tests, but those are similar to tests by Tom's Guide and the Wall Street Journal, which found the iPhone X battery landed squarely in between the 8 and and the Plus. Nevertheless, we still seem stuck on "don't go out for the night without bringing a battery pack."
Apple has positioned iOS 12 as adding speed and performance improvements to even older iPhones. It would be great if that translated into better battery life, too.
Features the iPhone will never have, but we wish it would
Alas, we know the iPhone will never have a removable back that allows you to swap in a new battery and add your own microSD memory card (yes, those 64GB cards are pretty cheap now). But hey, we couldn't resist mentioning it.
Chances of expandable storage: 0 percent
Chances of removable battery: 0 percent (though this feature has disappeared from all recent iPhone competitors, too)
This last one's for the folks who said before the launch of 2016's iPhone 7
that they'd never upgrade their iPhone if Apple removed the headphone jack. We'd be shocked if it returned in the next iPhone, but headphone jack lovers can dream.