Apple may take its iPhones in a slightly new direction this year. Bloomberg reports that the company is working on three new iPhone X-type handsets for 2018: a cheaper entry-level model for those who found the iPhone X too expensive; an iPhone X follow-up; and Apple’s largest phone yet, a phablet.
While the $1,000 iPhone X has notched lower-than-anticipated sales numbers, “Apple is seeking to rekindle sales by offering a model for everyone,” Bloomberg writes. If it comes to fruition—and it is early enough that plans could change by the fall, when the company introduces its new model —this would be a deviation from Apple’s traditional iPhone schema. In the past, Apple has only released two versions of its flagship handset—for example, an iPhone 7 and a larger 7 Plus a couple years ago. To accommodate those with a tighter budget, Apple retains the previous year’s model, but at a lower price point. In 2017, Apple switched up this setup, debuting three new phone models for the first time: an iPhone 8, an 8 Plus, and the iPhone X.
2017 was something of a transition for the company, in which Apple offered the familiar, traditional iPhone industrial design in the iPhone 8 models and eased in the iPhone X as a premium alternative. In 2018, we’ll see a shift—all three new phones will reportedly feature the iPhone X’s edge-to-edge display and form factor. All three will also reportedly include facial recognition, while the two higher-end models will include new A12 processors and a stainless steel rim like the iPhone X. (In order to keep costs down without compromising on software features, the cheaper variant may have an aluminum edge and an LED display rather than an OLED display.) And while the iPhone X currently only comes in silver and space grey colorways, 2018 may mark the return of gold as a color option, too.
The addition of a phablet to the mix is also new, although its size will be familiar. This “larger” iPhone X will actually have roughly same outer dimensions as the iPhone 8 Plus—it’s just the screen that’s been supersized. According to Bloomberg, the 6.5-inch OLED display will be about an inch larger than the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus, giving it one of the largest smartphone displays on the market. Its resolution would be on par with the 5.8-inch iPhone X, at 1242 x 2688 pixels. Between reintroducing gold as a color variant and offering this larger-screened phablet, Apple likely hopes to nab more sales in Asia, where gold is a popular color, and among business clientele who value larger-screened devices.
This larger iPhone X could also spell the official end for the iPad mini, the iPad’s 7.9-inch cousin. Rumors in 2017 suggested that Apple was phasing out the pint-sized tablet, which hasn’t seen a significant update since the 2015 launch of the iPad mini 4. Instead, Apple’s focused its tablet efforts on the larger 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, letting its “Plus” size iPhones cannibalize the iPad mini’s territory. A larger-screened iPhone X could further eat into that space, but with significant financial benefits to Apple: This phone would cost at least $1,000. The iPad mini 4 starts at only $399. Depending on its margins, Apple stands to make a lot more off of phone sales of a jumbo iPhone X than the old iPad mini.
It seems that 2018 could be the year that Apple streamlines its mobile product offerings—a smart move considering the company’s broadening hardware ambitions with things like the HomePod, Apple Watch, and AirPods. Regarding the software, Apple will reportedly be focusing its efforts on improving and solidifying the iOS experience rather than extending it with a ton of new features. Now with hardware too, we’ll see more cohesive offerings: New coordinating iPhones spanning the gamut from “affordable” to plus-size along with, perhaps, a simplified iPad lineup.
From a consumer standpoint, this should make hardware purchasing decisions easier, and as long as Apple’s new extra-large iPhone retains the same aspect ratio as the iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus, software quality—particularly in terms of third-party apps—shouldn’t be compromised, either. With a year of iPhone X under its belt and two new versions to accommodate the wide needs of smartphone buyers, perhaps 2018 will end up being the Apple super cycle 2017 didn’t prove to be.