Apple Is Working on Three New iPhones. Here’s What We Know.

Three new, unnamed iPhone models.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Apple.

We’ve got a good idea of what to expect from Apple this fall: new Macs, new iPads, and of course, new iPhones. To date, the details on the latter have been slim, though. With Apple’s next product launch inching closer, anticipation has been rising. A report from Bloomberg on Monday offers the clearest look yet at what Apple has in store for its premier device in 2018.
The long and short of it: three new iPhones, a unified new look, and the beginning of a new era for Apple’s popular handset.

We had been expecting to see three new phones this year, and Bloomberg’s report confirmed the news. However, many presumed that only two of the models would build on the iPhone X’s design, while the third, a cheaper option, would retain the look of the iPhone 7 and 8. Instead, Bloomberg reports that all three phones will feature iPhone X styling, with a full-screen display, metal border around its edge, and a glass back. Technically, it’ll still be an “S year”—Apple typically introduces a new hardware design every other year, and then iterates on that design with an upgraded processor and camera in the following “S” model of the phone. But while we might not see a true iPhone redesign, there are still notable updates coming to Apple’s handsets.

The largest of Apple’s three new phones, for example, will feature a 6.5-inch display, making it the largest iPhone to date and one of the largest smartphones on the market. The iPhone X, which has a 5.8-inch display, has been Apple’s largest by screen size. (The iPhone 8 Plus, while slightly larger in overall size, has a smaller 5.5-inch display.) This new phone will have an OLED screen like 2017’s iPhone X. Because of its extra-large size, users will gain the ability to split screen so they can multitask between different apps. Apple first debuted this type of simultaneous multitasking for the iPad in iOS 9; it would be the first time the feature made its way onto the iPhone. It could be a boon for people who use their phone for work, or anyone who has to copy and paste content or cross-reference data from one app to another.

The new “cheaper” iPhone option will also cop the iPhone X’s looks, but with a 6.1-inch display. It’ll be ringed by aluminum rather than stainless steel, and its display will be LED rather than OLED, in order to help keep its price down. While the aluminum band may only come in one color (presumably a silvery brushed aluminum), the glass rear of the device will come in a variety of hues, much like Apple did with a previous budget iPhone option, the iPhone 5c. The smaller 5.8-inch iPhone X will also get an update—namely, faster internal processor specs and an improved camera.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is having trouble deciding on a name for the new trio of handsets, particularly since the cheapest model isn’t the smallest of the three. They all could be “iPhone Xs” variants, continuing the traditional S naming pattern Apple has used for several years now. (It’s unclear whether Apple will capitulate and start pronouncing it as the letter X, as consumers tend to do, instead of the official pronunciation of iPhone “10.”) Apple also reportedly doesn’t want to call the 6.5-inch phone “Plus,” so for now, that’s still a mystery.

Seeing as none of these phones will feature a home button on the front of the device, all will use the iPhone X’s gesture-based navigation scheme. They’ll also unlock via Face ID. This is a big move. Apple offered a forked iOS experience this past year—one navigation scheme for iPhone X owners, another for everyone else—as a transition for those in need of a new phone, but not yet ready to go all-in with a new design. iPhone-buyers won’t have a choice in 2018: The iPhone X is the present and future of the iPhone, and the model for the modern smartphone going forward. With that in mind, even if this is an “S” year, it certainly won’t be a boring one—it’ll mark the beginning of the second era of the iPhone. With a design that was beta tested last year, and an operating system that focuses on performance and functionality rather than shiny new features, it should be a strong start.