More details have come out for Apple’s planned upgrades to the iPhone in 2019, and the unfortunate but expected news is that Apple does not appear to have anything new to offer. The feature upgrades are already widely available on Android and expected to become prolific long before Tim Cook reveals the presumptively named iPhone 11 family in September.
The latest details have been revealed by industry specialist Ming-Chi Kuo, and noted by Chance MIller:
…the 2019 iPhone models will retain the same screen sizes as the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. This means we’ll get 6.5-inch, 5.8-inch, and 6.1-inch iPhones. Kuo says that all three will retain Lightning connectivity instead of USB-C.
According to Kuo, the 2019 iPhones will feature ultra-wide band connectivity for indoor positioning and navigation, frosted glass casing, bilateral wireless charging for charging other devices, upgraded Face ID with a higher power flood illuminator, larger batteries, and a triple camera design.
If you work through the checklist of features that are going to be seen as ‘new’ to consumers, then you are going to be struggling. The closest you get to new is indoor positioning, but this was rolled into Android P and as handsets launch with the latest version of the operating system, software can take advantage of this system.
You could cite the update to FaceID, and the geekerati will happily tell you how this will be more accurate under more circumstances… but it is not a unique selling point. Android handsets with forward facing cameras are pushing facial unlocking, and while it may not be as secure as Apple’s system, in practice they offer the same benefit to someone looking for a new phone (and let’s not forget that for secure applications, Android will still insist on a more secure biometric, such as a fingerprint).
For many of Apple’s faithful the news that the battery will be larger will be welcome, but with a battery that’s already regarded as ‘small’ compared to the competition this feels little more than offering a slightly bigger number. Given Apple’s recent issues around battery capacity a better question might be if the battery will still be delivering solid performance in 18 months time.
If you are going to be using the iPhone to ‘reverse wireless charge’ your accessories the larger battery is going to be needed given, but I wonder just where the inductive charging circuitry will sit. This feature debuted last year Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, and expected to be a key point in the marketing of Samsung’s Galaxy S10.
Honestly I’d rather see Apple sort out AirPower, which was announced in 2017 but has still to make an appearance.
As for the triple camera, it’s likely to be limited to the new iPhone Max handset, and will be arriving on the scene some eighteen months after the competition served up three lenses to improve clarity and offer better pictures.
So we’re left with frosted glass – possibly with the new steel chassis as reported by Forbes’ Gordon Kelly yesterday. Apple will be left to promote the handsets not through cutting edge features, improved performance, or a process where the team has been ‘thinking different’. The new iPhones will have the same features as the competition, the same range of applications as the competition, and the same full screen and minimal bezels of the competition.
The only real advantage – the lock-in of iOS – is diminishing as more data lives int he cloud and more software and services work cross-platform. The former will give Apple a small advantage in Western markets, but that advantage is diminishing. And a look at Apple’s poor performance Chinese market, where these iPhone advantages do not exist, should be keeping Tim Cook and his team awake at night.