Jason Snell, on what to expect with tomorrow’s iPhone event
It’s almost here. Apple’s annual iPhone event, this coming Wednesday (Sept. 12), is perhaps the biggest single event on the technology calendar. Apple always uses the event to launch other products — we’ll probably see a new Apple Watch and possibly even new iPads or Macs this year — but the center of attention is, quite rightly, Apple’s biggest product: the iPhone.
If the rumors are true, this year’s iPhone event will feature three new iPhones: an update to the iPhone X, a larger 6.5-inch version of the iPhone X, and a new 6.1-inch phone that looks a lot like an iPhone X, but with a lower-cost LCD screen.
If that’s all true, this will be the biggest iPhone introduction ever, with Apple introducing two never-before-seen models in addition to updating an existing phone. (Last year Apple rolled out three new models, but two of them — the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — were updated versions of Apple’s previous models.)
Such a massive launch makes sense. The iPhone is roughly two-thirds of Apple’s overall business, and unlike Android phone makers, Apple is the sole purveyor of iPhones. The more models and variations, the better. If Apple is to continue growing the iPhone market, it needs to find shapes, sizes, and price points that reach people who simply won’t consider the iPhone today.
Last year’s iPhone X was a great step forward for fans of Apple’s smaller phone designs. Though it was a tiny bit larger than the iPhone 8, it offered a much larger screen and (for the first time in a smaller model) two rear-facing cameras. I know a lot of fans of the iPhone Plus line who embraced the iPhone X.
But fans of big phones can’t have their desires quenched by a single phone model. They’re always going to long for more… and the new 6.5-inch iPhone (said to be called the iPhone XS Max) promises to provide everything the iPhone X did, but with a huge screen. Fans of big phones — and the world is full of them — will be thrilled that the new, larger iPhone exists.
But given the $999 starting price tag of the iPhone X, it’s likely that the 6.5-inch OLED phone is going to be quite expensive. What about all the people in the world who like big phones, but not big price tags? This seems to be the target for the other rumored phone, a lower-cost device that still integrates the front-facing sensor block and edge-to-edge display of the iPhone X, but does it with a much cheaper LCD-based screen (and presumably other components that aren’t quite a match for the top-of-the-line products). This handset may be called the iPhone 9.
Meanwhile, there will presumably be an iPhone X successor, reportedly dubbed the iPhone XS, with an updated processor and a few other upgraded specs. This will be the least exciting phones of the three Apple introduces, but it might be the bestseller.
Keep in mind that most people in the market for an iPhone this fall aren’t people who bought the iPhone X last fall — they’re people who are still using an iPhone 6, 6S, or 7. The update to the iPhone X will be much more similar in size to what they’re used to than the two larger models.
Those are iPhone predictions. Apple is pretty consistent when it comes to a lot of its pricing decisions, but it’s also shown the ability to make huge changes, just as it did when it introduced both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X last year, and presumably as it will do this year in introducing the 6.5- and 6.1-inch iPhone models.
Even when you think you know everything about what’s coming from an Apple event, though, the company finds some way to surprise us. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see what it is this time around.