With iPhone 11 sales in full swing, the rumor mill surrounding Apple’s undefined 2020 phone lineup is already cranking.
Analysts and close observers of Apple’s product moves anticipate that more variety in features and pricing is on the way in 2020 and beyond. Apple shares closed 0.88% higher on Wednesday to $261.74.
Apple packed more cameras than ever into its iPhone 11 lineup, and it’s likely that it will continue iterating on photo and video capabilities with the iPhone 12.
“Especially with the iPhone 11, Apple has seen what a big driver cameras and lenses are,” said Rene Ritchie, a longtime Apple analyst and lead editor of iMore.
A recent forecast from JPMorgan analyst Samik Chatterjee suggested that the iPhone 12 could come in four versions, rather than the standard three versions Apple has rolled out since 2017.
Two high-end models will come with an updated, rear-facing triple camera system, which includes so-called “world facing” sensor technology. That technology is geared at augmented reality capabilities and could lay the groundwork for long-rumored Apple AR glasses, among other potential applications. All of the iPhone 12 variants will come with a OLED screen, according to Chatterjee, as well as 5G support by way of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem.
5G support is widely expected to spur a new wave of iPhone sales, which have trended downward in recent quarters. But it won’t necessarily be because consumers are immediately wowed by faster network speeds.
Carriers are expected to heavily market 5G capabilities as the technology goes more mainstream in the U.S. and elsewhere, offering promotions or other incentives to move smartphone units, including iPhones.
Currently, 5G networks are segmented into three ranges: Low-range, mid-range and the strongest millimeter range (mmWave). The ultra-fast mmWave 5G networks are limited to a few major metro areas -- but the availability of low-range 5G in more rural areas could have an outsized influence on iPhone consumers in the near term, Ritchie said.
“I think the biggest impact is going to be the low-range 5G making LTE speed realistic for everyone,” he added.
Apart from cameras and 5G support, the iPhone 12 lineup is expected to come in a variety of sizes and price points, potentially including a lower-cost model that resembles an updated version of the iPhone 8, which came out in 2017.
Apple surprised many in its pricing strategy for the iPhone 11, with the base model retailing at $700 and up -- less than the prior year’s iPhone XR, which cost $750 and up. And early signs indicate that the lower-priced, iPhone 11 base model is outselling Max and Pro versions.
With the smartphone market maturing, and upgrade cycles growing longer, Apple will likely continue offering a broader array of price brackets targeting a wider range of consumers.
“We’re seeing that some people want a smaller phone, or a smaller phone for less money...in mature markets, you have to segment,” Ritchie added.
An October report by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities predicted that in early 2020, Apple will release an iPhone SE 2 -- a smaller, budget iPhone that resembles the 4-inch iPhone SE Apple rolled out in March of 2016. That could sell for just $400, according to Kuo.
JPMorgan’s Chatterjee also suggested that starting in 2021, Apple could switch to a twice-yearly iPhone release schedule to help smooth out seasonality issues. That would more closely match the cadence of other smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei, which typically stagger their phone releases throughout the year.
Apple shares are up 65% so far this year.