Tim Cook & Co. will almost certainly unveil new iPhones on Tuesday during Apple’s customary September media confab. But even as one of Apple’s most loyal fans, you’re on the fence about buying an iPhone this time around.
It’s no secret folks are holding onto smartphones longer nowadays because prices are so darn expensive and the phone you already have is probably good enough. If you bought an iPhone in the past two or three years, it probably hasn’t shown too many signs of aging, except perhaps for the battery. (It’s another story if you’ve got something older.)
If the rumors of what’s coming next prove true, you may not see the need to plunk down another small ransom for mostly iterative features that will for sure raise the state-of-the-art for iPhones, only not markedly so.
Besides, you can freshen up your current iPhone by installing the free iOS 13 software upgrade.
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The rumors suggest Apple will introduce a base model iPhone 11, or whatever the company ends up calling it, plus a pair of iPhone 11 “Pro” models of varying sizes.
What comes next?
Apple appears to be going all-in on the cameras, at least on the Pro handsets, with Bloomberg reporting that the devices will have a three-rear-lens array, laid out within a square. The third lens is supposed to be for capturing wider-angle stills and videos, a welcome feature on iPhones if not a game-changer.
Same goes for adding the ability to record slow-motion video in the selfie camera.
The Face ID facial recognition system is also likely to be improved, with the promise that you’ll be able to more easily unlock the phone with your face, even when you haven’t fixed your gaze on the screen straight-on.
Reverse wireless charging is on the rumor mill as well. The feature will let you lay an AirPods case, or even another smartphone, on the back of the iPhone to have it share juice with that other device. The feature may sound familiar; Samsung offers something similar on its latest Galaxy flagship devices.
It’s pretty much a given that new iPhones will bump up processor speeds and likely other components, at least on the high end. All of us can only hope for a longer-lasting battery.
As always, pricing is a wild card. While the premium devices will more than likely surpass four figures again, how much Apple gives buyers saddled under tighter budgets remains to be seen. But don’t count on any bargains, except perhaps for older models that may see some discounts.
Will 5G hold you back?
Apart from cost, there may be something else holding you back this time around: the strong belief that the biggest changes to iPhones will come not this year but in the next couple of years.
We hear more, for instance, about the emergence of foldable phones, in-display fingerprint technologies and fast 5G wireless networks. This latest crop of iPhones will almost certainly have none of these new designs or features.
Should you care?
Not if you’re the typical mainstream buyer – and certainly not now.
A foldable phone that morphs between a large-screen smartphone and small tablet may be interesting, but there’s no assurance there’s a market or genuine utility for such a thing, and certainly not at sticker-shock-inducing prices. Samsung introduced its near-$2000 Galaxy Fold earlier this year but postponed the launch after a series of snags with the display. Too early to tell, but foldable phones may be a solution looking for a problem.
The Galaxy Fold phones finally went on sale in South Korea last week and will be rolled out in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Don’t expect a rush of buyers, though, and don’t expect an iPhone foldable anytime soon.
Meanwhile, the fingerprint technology embedded into the screen that Bloomberg says could appear on next year’s iPhones is equally intriguing, if not exactly new. Samsung, Oppo and Xiaomi have all introduced version of the feature on their own premium devices.
For its part, Apple has never felt compelled to be first with this stuff.
Nor will Apple be first with 5G, the next generation of wireless that is starting to get a fair bit of attention even if the technology is still a ways off for most of the population. 5G not only promises blazing-fast network speeds and greater capacities, but low latency, which means the network will more quickly respond to a request.
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All four leading U.S. wireless carriers are slowly but surely building out and deploying 5G, with the same happening with overseas companies.
Even if Apple pulls a major surprise and does introduce a 5G phone – again, highly doubtful – with relatively few exceptions you wouldn’t be able to exploit the latest network anyway. Even in U.S. markets where 5G has launched, coverage is extremely limited.
Apple may be smart to wait on 5G anyway, not only because of limited coverage but because the flavors of 5G are different, and a consumer would not necessarily be future-proofing anything by buying now.
But will the eventual lure of 5G give some consumers pause?
“Not having a 5G model when there are barely any networks for them to run on is not a big impediment today,” maintains Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential. “But it also means that some consumers considering an upgrade will choose to wait another year.”
Tech consultant Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies also expects some hesitation among buyers. But, he says, “the more we study consumer behavior on things like smartphones in general, it’s ‘What are you doing for me now?’ And that seems to be driving their decision as opposed to ‘What you going to do for me later?'”
While the new iPhones will command center stage on Tuesday, Apple may give at least some love to other products and services.
“Iterative improvements often drive more sales than analysts expect, but even Apple knows it won’t get record numbers of people to buy a new iPhone every year,” Greengart says. “Therefore, Apple will also be highlighting ways to make owning an older iPhone more profitable, with Watches, AirPods, apps, credit cards, and subscription music, games, and TV.”
Are you planning to get a new iPhone this year?
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