Are you thinking about upgrading your iPhone this year? Apple sure wants you to. Of course, that's no different than any other year, but Apple really wants you to upgrade this year. How do we know this? The rumors point to not three, not four, but five brand new iPhones in 2020, with two very different release schedules. All this begs the question what the hell is Apple thinking?
The Great iPhone 6S Migration
Smartphone OEMs across the market have had to reckon with the inescapable reality that people don't want a new phone every year or two anymore. As smartphones have improved in speed, display quality, camera ability, and battery performance, people have had less and less reason to ditch their perfectly-good devices for the latest minor spec bump.
But that's where I see the advantage for Apple taking shape: the 6S and 6S Plus were arguably the first iPhones that could be pleasantly used for years after launch. While previous iPhones started to feel their age after two or three iOS updates, the 6S had the tech to stay snappy. I mean, these things are running iOS 13 right now, when they initially launched with iOS 9.
That brings us to important note #1: the 6S is unlikely to see iOS 14. That would make this the first year for a number of iPhone owners that their iPhone is no longer keeping up with the pack. And that means a number of iPhone owners will see a valid reason to upgrade.
Important note #2: a lot of these users are coming from 4.7-inch iPhones. The 6S, 7, and 8 are all smaller than anything Apple released in 2019. I've heard complaints from unenthused iPhone owners who don't want to choose between a larger-than-welcomed iPhone 11, or paying $1,000 for an 11 Pro that still feels too big.
Important note #3: the iPhone SE. Take everything I said about the iPhone 6S, add users who still want a four-inch iPhone, and you have the current legion of iPhone SE fans. These users are still praying for Apple to release a brand-new SE, one that matches the form factor of the original. The SE, like the 6S, is likely to stay on iOS 13 forever, so SE users are in the same boat as their 6S counterparts, with the added stress of choosing a phone that feels truly gigantic compared to theirs.
I argue that these three points are the stars aligning for Apple, if they play their cards right. The cards? Five new iPhones, each with a very different purpose. Let's take a look:
- iPhone SE 2 — 4.7-inch budget iPhone (Spring 2020)
- iPhone 12 — 4.7-inch dual-cam iPhone (Fall 2020)
- iPhone 12 Plus — 6.1-inch dual-cam iPhone (Fall 2020)
- iPhone 12 Pro — 6.1-inch triple-cam iPhone (Fall 2020)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max — 6.7-inch triple-cam iPhone (Fall 2020)
The iPhone SE 2 (4.7-Inch)
Yes, Apple is likely releasing a sequel to the famed four-inch iPhone. Better yet, that iPhone is coming out soon. Rumors point to a spring release, ahead of the usual fall 2020 timeframe Apple typically sticks by. That's no accident — Apple released the original SE in the spring of 2016, because it wasn't meant to be a brand-new device, rather a supplement to the iPhone lineup.
That's what the SE 2 will be as well — a supplement. And it won't be four inches, either. Instead, it'll likely have the same form-factor as the iPhone 8, home button and all, with some of the tech found in the iPhone 11. Plus, it'll be cheap, at least compared to the main line of iPhones.
My guess is Apple doesn't see enough demand for a four-inch iPhone in 2020. They're betting that enough SE owners will spring for the SE 2, while iPhone 6S, 7, and 8 owners will see it as a familiar yet affordable upgrade.
iPhone 12 (5.4-Inch)
Let's just start right off the bat. We have no idea what Apple is going to call this particular iPhone. Some speculate iPhone 9, although others say the iPhone SE 2 will take that name instead. It could be the iPhone 12, messing up the naming scheme for the remaining iPhones. Personally? I hope it's called the iPhone 12 Mini for old time's sake.
Whatever it ends up being called, the iPhone 12 will serve as an option for SE, 6S, and other smaller form-factor fans who don't mind shelling out a little extra dough for more modern tech. The most visible step up from the SE 2 will undoubtedly be the addition of Face ID instead of Touch ID, placing the display style of the X on the body of an iPhone 8, but we anticipate the phone will feature improved tech overall.
If that sounds up your alley, you might want to skip the SE 2 when Apple launches it in the spring. Without a doubt, there will be buyers who regret their purchase once Apple unveils in the fall, essentially, a better iPhone at the same size.
iPhone 12 Plus (6.1-Inch)
Again, we don't know what Apple is going to call this iPhone. When we refer to the iPhone 12 Plus here, we're talking about Apple's 6.1-Inch dual-camera iPhone. This specific iPhone will likely take the iPhone 11's spot as the more-affordable larger iPhone, equipped with an OLED display for the first time.
iPhone 12 Pro & 12 Pro Max (6.1-Inch & 6.7-Inch)
If I were willing the gamble, I'd say that these particular names are going to stick. The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are likely very clean successors to the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, feature Apple's top-of-the-line specs through and through. Most noticeably, these devices will sport three cameras (possibly four), as opposed to the 12 and 12 Plus' dual cameras.
Interestingly, these devices will change in size from last year. The 11 Pro had a 5.4-inch display, while the 11 Pro Max boasted a 6.5-inch display, copying the sizes over from the XS and XS Max. This year, we expect the 12 Pro to feature the same 6.1-inch display as the 12, while the 12 Pro Max is likely to see the biggest display yet on an iPhone, coming in at 6.7 inches.
So, What iPhone Should I Get?
If you want the cheapest, smallest new iPhone you can get your hands on, go with the upcoming SE 2. It's out soon, and won't break the bank compared to the other iPhones. If you can wait, and if your wallet allows, you might enjoy the iPhone 12, as the form factor matches the SE 2 with a bigger display and boosted specs.
The iPhone 12 Plus will be perfect for anyone looking for the best balance of a larger iPhone with a reasonable price tag, while the 12 Pro gives you the same size with more cameras and specs. The 12 Pro Max is for anyone who wants the biggest iPhone money can buy, and doesn't mind selling a kidney or two to snag it.
That's all to say that Apple very likely strategized 2020 as a giant upgrade year. If there seems to be an iPhone perfectly or near-perfectly suited for your needs on this list, that's no accident. Apple wants your money. Obviously, we want their iPhones. And this year, more than ever, will be a true test of that relationship.