How much longer will we have to wait for the delayed new iPhone for 2020? In this article we present the latest news about the iPhone 12’s release date, design, new features, price and tech specs.
Apple has sent out invitations to a special event on 13 October, and we’re pretty sure it’s for the iPhone 12.
With just one day to go we’ve got a good idea of what to expect. The design has been leaked, and the full specs list revealed – including a processor that could offer speed gains of up to 15% thanks to its use of a 5nm manufacturing process. We have the prices of every model, too, which seem likely to go up again this year.
The latest news is that, according to the report in the Telegraph, the non-Pro models of iPhone 12 will struggle to get good 5G coverage in the UK because of their inability to support the 700MHz section of the spectrum.
What will the new iPhone(s) be called?
Most pundits agree that Apple will release four iPhone models this autumn: Pro models in 6.1in and 6.7in screen sizes, and non-Pros in 5.4in and 6.1in. But what will they be called? For most of the year the most popular theory has been this:
- iPhone 12 (5.4in)
- iPhone 12 Max (6.1in)
- iPhone 12 Pro (6.1in)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max (6.7in)
However, a last-minute challenger appeared in mid-September: a well-known and generally reliable leaker reckons Apple is going to bring across the ‘mini’ branding from the iPad range. This would have a knock-on effect on the iPhone 12 Max, too. So it would look like this:
- iPhone 12 mini (5.4in)
- iPhone 12 (6.1in)
- iPhone 12 Pro (6.1in)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max (6.7in)
Despite the leaker’s track record this seemed like a long shot at first, but we’ve now seen additional evidence: stickers from silicone cases for the new devices. These clearly show that the smaller option will be branded as mini, complete with lower-case m just as on the iPad, iPod and Mac equivalents.
Image courtesy of MacRumors
The mini theory now seems the most likely, based on the available evidence.
When will the iPhone 12 come out?
It now looks extremely likely that the iPhone 12 will be announced on Tuesday 13 October 2020. Apple has sent out invitations to a (virtual) event on that day, and although it doesn’t specifically mention phones it would be a huge surprise if it spent the evening talking about Macs instead.
The event starts at 10am PDT, or 6pm here in the UK. Here’s how to watch the event live, which will be streamed on YouTube.
The evidence has been building towards this date for some time. On 22 September EE’s boss – who should be in a position to know – said in an internal video that the iPhone 12 was “just days away”. That strongly implied an announcement in the first half of October.
Then an anonymous tip was sent in to AppleInsider making a considerably more precise prediction: the event would be held on 13 October. The site says the tipster’s IP address fits with their story – that they work for a phone carrier in the Netherlands.
What’s more, Jon Prosser responded to the news by saying it was correct, and offering further details: pre-orders will start on 16 October and phones will arrive in stores on 23 October.
Lines up with the dates I have you last month 👀
I was told:
Event October 13
Pre-orders on 16
In stores on 23 https://t.co/9umqJqSzwq pic.twitter.com/fOt5eLzcBP
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser)
September 23, 2020
He later tweeted again on the subject to reiterate his expectation that the event would happen on 13 October and to further predict that the phones would go out to distributors on 5 October.
To give him his due, Prosser has maintained for a while (amid a flurry of predictions, some of them inaccurate) that the iPhone 12 would be unveiled in the week commencing 12 October.
In terms of onsale dates, Prosser subscribes to the currently popular theory that Apple is going to deal with production bottlenecks by splitting the iPhone 12 launch in two. It will release the two 6.1in models initially, supply-chain sources claim (that’s the 12 Max and 12 Pro), followed by the 5.4in iPhone 12 and the 6.7in 12 Pro Max a few weeks later. Because the first two would be based on the same OLED screens, it would ease some of the pressure on Apple’s manufacturing partners, which at time of writing are working around the clock to fulfil the required volume and instructing employees not to take any time off in the near future.
More specifically, Prosser says we can expect preorders of the iPhone 12 and 12 Max to commence in the week commencing 12 October (the same as the announcement) and shipping to start the following week. He says the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max will be available for preorder, and start to ship, in November.
Finally, which countries will the iPhone 12 launch in right away? Apple has been making these initial rollouts bigger and bigger each year; the iPhone 6 went on sale in only 12 countries on day one, whereas the iPhone 11 launched in 30 simultaneously.
And this year could be the biggest yet, thanks partly to the later launch and smaller window before the holiday buying season. We are hearing, for example, that South Korea will get a promotion this year.
We’re starting to get a good idea of what the iPhone 12 will look like, as what started as a mass of contradictory theories coalesces into a single point of consensus. (One thing that’s agreed upon, for example, is that the foldable iPhone prototype won’t become a commercial product this year – that’s one for 2021 or beyond.)
Most recently, the leaker Max Weinbach claims to have obtained CAD schematics for the iPhone 12 Max (see image above), from which the YouTube channel EverythingApplePro 3D-printed a sample and showed it off in the following video:
Weinbach stresses that the schematics are not complete – he says “basically display and body are correct but the camera setup is wrong as a security measure” – and cynics might view this as an attempt to cover himself in case it’s wrong. But it fits with much of what we’d been hearing previously.
Watch the video for the full details, but the highlights include:
- Bezels that are 0.9mm thinner than on the 11 Pro Max
- Larger screen: 6.7in, compared to 6.5in
- Thinner chassis: 7.4mm, compared to 8.1mm
- Much smaller notch
- LiDAR sensor forms fourth element in square camera array
It’s been expected for a while that we could see the shrinking or total elimination of the notch.
The notch contains important sensors – those for Face ID, for example – and removing it would raise design problems, of course. Apple may go for a punch-hole design, which is a compromise of its own. But we feel that would be the worst of both worlds: an admission that the notch was a misstep, the loss of an iconic piece of design, and a failure, still, to actually provide a seamless all-screen design.
Based on the leaks above, it looks like the notch will remain, but take up less space. Which will please many but won’t satisfy all.
We suspect that the market as a whole will find it even more disappointing, however, if a more recent rumour is correct: that the notch won’t be any smaller. (This is based on leaked CAD images, which imply that Apple may have been seeding misinformation.)
In a video released near the end of August, Jon Prosser claimed to have evidence confirming that the notch will remain the same size, although he softened the blow by saying that it will seem smaller because the screen bezels will be thinner and there will therefore be slightly more screen either side.
PhoneArena has posted concept illustrations showing an iPhone with four camera lenses on the rear. This is madness, surely… Although it does fit the square housing rather neatly. (The flash is placed in the centre.)
But that’s not a fourth camera lens. It now appears more likely that the fourth sensor will be LiDAR, like on the new iPad Pro – a handy inclusion for depth perception and AR features.
The next new lens we get will probably be a big-zoom periscope lens, but that’s not expected to appear until 2022.
The 2020 iPhones will come in three screen sizes: 5.4in and 6.1in for the basic models, and 6.1in and 6.7in for the Pros. That comes from May’s spec dump, but these numbers have been circulating for a while.
If you’re wondering what a 5.4in notched iPhone would look like, you’re in luck: a MacRumors forum user bought a dummy of the expected design and took photos comparing it to the first-gen iPhone SE and iPhone 7.
It looks ideal for one-handed use, doesn’t it? We got the same impression last year when Max Rudberg, a Swedish graphic designer, created a concept illustration of how the new 5.4in size might look.
These rough, but gives you an idea of what Apple could be going for with a 5.4″ device – something in between an iPhone 8 and an SE, but with a much larger screen.
I would guess they would scale down the UI of the XS, even if screen would be narrower than that of an 8. pic.twitter.com/EFR88i1hEb
— Max Rudberg (@maxrudberg)
June 24, 2019
The Macotakara report linked above also supports the existence of the new sizes. The site predicted some while ago that iPhones in 5.4in, 6.1in and 6.7in sizes would be launched in late 2020.
The death of Lightning
It’s a recurrent rumour, but will 2020 be the year Apple finally gives in and replaces its proprietary Lightning port with USB-C, as it did on its iPad Pro models in 2018? At the time that felt like a special case – fast data transfers to and from cameras being a requirement of many digital creatives – but the company has since repeated the strategy on the iPad Air (2020).
At some point in the mid to long term Apple’s hand may be forced. The EU has been flexing its muscles for some time, and in January proposed (and subsequently voted to expedite) a measure to force all mobile manufacturers to standardise around USB-C. As the Register observes, however, Apple has ignored such measures in the past and may do so again in the future.
The company could avoid the question by ditching physical charging ports altogether, and we know it’s given this some thought: a patent uncovered in February shows an iPhone with no Lightning port, no USB-C, and no buttons. But don’t expect anything as radical as this to arrive in 2020: rather, the portless iPhone will be here in 2021. (That theory is backed up by a second source.)
The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max come in silver, gold, Space Grey and Midnight Green colour finishes; the iPhone 11 is available in white, black, green, yellow, purple and red. That’s a lot of choice, but what do we expect from the late-2020 generation?
The plain iPhone 12 will follow the 11 in the main, but Apple will tweak the offering depending on which colours were most popular. The XR from the year before came in white, black, blue, yellow, coral (reddish-pink) and red, but Apple dropped blue and coral in 2019 and replaced them with purple and green. If one of those hasn’t performed, it’ll get dropped in turn.
As for the iPhone 12 Pro handsets, we expect a new colour: dark or navy (or possibly even midnight) blue. DigiTimes, amid forecasts of the number of units Apple will have ready for launch, has firmly predicted that dark blue will be offered for the first time.
This isn’t a new theory, however. Near the start of 2020, leaker Max Weinbach predicted on the YouTube channel Everything Apple Pro that Midnight Blue would replace Midnight Green – which we like, but provoked mixed reactions when it was announced. Here’s what a navy blue iPhone 12 Pro could look like, in a mockup created by the site:
Leaked photos, illustrations & videos
We’ve already seen PhoneArena’s mock-up of what the iPhone 12 would look like with four rear-facing camera lenses, and EverythingApplePro’s mockup of a navy-blue finish, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this section we will post the best iPhone 12 leaked photos, concept illustrations and videos as they appear.
Let’s start with this video from EverythingApplePro. It reveals the external design of the iPhone 12 Pro (including a Smart Connector), but offers clues about internal features too, namely 5G, the LiDAR scanner and a set of built-in magnets.
Here it is! Official iPhone 12 Pro chassis leak. Confirms mostly same camera with new LiDAR placement, flat sides, magnet cutouts & smart connector-like 5G antenna? This seems to confirm the 6.1 Pro model will get LiDAR too. October can’t come soon enough. pic.twitter.com/YifSX7SWxh
— EverythingApplePro (@EveryApplePro)
September 11, 2020
Next up, a batch of photos showing iPhone 12 dummy models were sourced from a case manufacturer and posted on a fan community named HaAppelistim. For that reason the reliability of the images is open to dispute, but they fit with current theories about the iPhone 12 design – namely, that it will have flat sides much like the iPhone 4.
Next up, what do you make of these mysterious photos of the iPhone 12’s chassis? They appear to show a circular arrangement of 36 magnets whose purpose is currently unknown, although they may be intended to work with the upcoming AirPower wireless charging pad, or (more radically) to enable the phone to act as a charging pad in its own right.
The magnets could even be designed to hold the iPhone 12 against a metal stand or… a fridge. Surely that’s going too far.
This leaked photo of an alleged 5.4in iPhone 12 comes from the Chinese social network Weibo. It appears to show that the notch will remain the same size on this petite version of the handset.
We’ve also got aluminium ‘moulds’ of the iPhone 12, which suggest the next generation of handsets will have straight sides and the same notch design as the iPhone 11.
Note, however, that moulds of this kind are frequently created by accessory makers based on popular rumours rather than inside information from Apple, so they could just reflect our own theories back at us. Don’t bank on these being accurate. Read more in our separate article iPhone 12 moulds ‘leak’ indicating straight sides.
Next we’ve got photos of dummy units, posted to Twitter by well-known leaker Sonny Dickson.
The models clearly show a new square-sided design, reminiscent of the iPad Pro and the old iPhone 5. As for the camera arrangement, don’t take that for granted; Dickson warns that “cameras should not be taken 100%”. Maybe we’ll get three lenses on the back, like here, but maybe Apple will squeeze in a fourth sensor. Read more here: iPhone 12 dummies reveal flat-sided design.
And that’s not it for dummy units. The following dummies of all four iPhone 12 models, showing clearly the three different screen sizes and relocated SIM trays to accommodate the 5G antenna, come from the Japanese blog Macotakara, which cites “Alibaba sources”.
Controversially, they have just twin- and triple-lens cameras on the rear, rather than the triple-lens-plus-LiDAR expected on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Remember they’re just dummies, not the real thing.
Up next – allegedly – is a photo of the motherboard that will be used in the iPhone 12.
The image was posted to Twitter by everythingdesignleaks but originated on Chinese social media – indeed, it may have been taken back in 2019 but hasn’t attracted attention until now. It’s L-shaped, which may seem odd considering that the iPhone 11’s board is rectangular, but Apple has used L-shaped boards in the past, such as in the iPhone 8.
The Slovakian site Svetapple has posted a large number of attractive concept illustrations of the iPhone 12 Pro. (This article’s main image is also by Svetapple, from a later batch.) Remember these are not official leaks, but simply an artist’s impression.
The most noteworthy aspects of Svetapple’s renders are the new blue colour finish – although that has been rumoured before – and the inclusion of a LiDAR scanner, as on the 2020 iPad Pro.
Here’s a more detailed look at the specs and features expected to appear:
Next we’ve got photos and video of a leaked prototype from within Apple’s supply chain, posted by the Japanese blog Macotakara. The site claims it’s a 3D mockup obtained from “Alibaba sources”, although it cautions that the leak’s credibility is unknown.
You’ll note that the iPhone 12 depicted here has a far more squared-off edge than the iPhone 11 Pro Max (which it’s compared to in the righthand image). This design brings the 12 closer to the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models.
Most intriguingly, the site spotted a mysterious connector on one edge of the device:
It looks like the magnetic connector that recent iPad Pros use to attach and charge the second-gen Apple Pencil, but as Macotakara points out, that stylus is too large to fit on a smartphone. It speculates about the possibility of a new, petite version of the Apple Pencil being released to suit the iPhone 12.
For a closer look, here’s a video of the same mockup unit being examined.
Next is this concept video of the iPhone 12 Pro, from Concept Creator. It depicts the new handset with a slightly different arrangement of camera lenses on the rear.
The German design studio Hasan Kaymak has created a concept video of the iPhone 12 Pro Max with an astonishing cluster of rear-facing camera lenses and sensors. It also ditches the notch and Torx screws – since apparently the display is stuck on to the frame – and adds a 45W charger and fast wireless charging.
Up next is this stunning effort from Miloš Toman, which also goes for a quad-lens design but arranges them in a more elegant vertical formation:
Toman came up with this back in March 2019, but there are now lots of Android phones on the market with vertically aligned rear cameras, including the OnePlus 7T Pro and (with five lenses!) the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. Indeed the twin lenses on the iPhone XS and 11 are arranged vertically, and we feel that it’s a slightly more attractive approach than the big square deployed on the 11 Pro and many concept images of the 12. The consensus is, however, that Apple will go for a square again this year.
Toman has also created a video showcasing this design:
A new iPhone needs a flagship feature – something an announcement event can be built around. In 2019 it was all about the cameras (triple lenses and night mode). In 2020 we think it will be 5G, if Apple can pull it off in time.
5G – but which version?
Android phone manufacturers have been widely offering 5G for some time – since before the iPhone 11 launched, in fact – but Apple is behind the curve in this department. Why the delay?
The problem was getting someone to supply the modems. Apple used to partner with Qualcomm but the two firms had a major falling-out over patents; later a relationship was set up with Intel, but that company has since quit the 5G arena… and sold most of its smartphone modem business to Apple.
So Apple could now make its own modems, but that won’t be feasible until 2021. In the meantime, the iPhone 12 will support 5G, based on modems from another supplier (or from Qualcomm again, since legal matters have been resolved).
But what type of 5G will the iPhone 12 support? There are multiple versions, and the one everyone wants – referred to as millimetre wave, or mmWave – is less widely available and costs more to implement. Some manufacturers prefer to offer the sub-6GHz version of 5G, which is slower than mmWave (although still a lot faster than 4G).
At this point it looks like Apple will compromise on mmWave. One or two of the premium models will support mmWave 5G, while the rest will have to settle for sub-6GHz. The latest theory is that only the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the biggest and most expensive model, will get mmWave; this seems a bit harsh on purchasers of the 12 Pro, which will also cost a small fortune, but maybe they will get lucky.
But it may be an issue related to handset supply rather than money. Ming-Chi Kuo thinks Apple will order only 4-6 million mmWave units this year.
On a related note, a report in the Telegraph published with just days to go before the launch suggested that the non-Pro iPhone 12 models would struggle to achieve widespread 5G coverage in the UK because of their lack of support for a specific section (around 700MHz) of the spectrum.
This section of the spectrum is often used by operators to extend coverage to areas further away from the masts, and the inability to make use of it is likely to mean that iPhone 12 users will experience weaker 5G coverage outside major cities. This shouldn’t be a problem for the Pro models.
Separately, Kuo has warned that Apple’s 5G-ready handsets probably won’t offer 2×2 MIMO uplink as had previously been predicted, and rather than six amplifier they will have only one or two. This may only affect theoretical upload speeds, however, at least at launch: the carrier infrastructure is unlikely to support 2 x 2 immediately.
One last complication: a survey in the US has found that half of iPhone owners over there think they’ve already got 5G. Obviously they haven’t (unless their confusion is so profound that they’ve actually got Android handsets) but this raises worrying questions about how effectively Apple can sell a phone upgrade that focuses so much on a feature that most people don’t understand.
If the iPhone 12 is, as most pundits expect, sold as the 5G iPhone, will most people care? It’s a deeply misunderstood technology, to the extent that our colleagues at Tech Advisor felt it necessary to write an article denying that it will kill you.
We discuss this subject in far more detail in a separate article about 5G iPhone rumours.
Before the late-2019 event, Bloomberg was predicting the imminent launch of an iPhone with a more powerful 3D camera, as part of Apple’s continuing push into AR. This now seems likelier than ever.
Current iPhones already feature 3D cameras, used for Face ID facial recognition, which makes it harder to market this as a breakthrough or flagship feature. But Bloomberg reckons that the 2020 version will be transformatively more powerful: it will have a range of around 15 feet, the site predicts, compared to just 25-50cm on the iPhone X series and 11. It will be used to scan the environment, whereas current 3D scanning is deployed on the user’s face.
Fast Company’s source predicts that the next iPhones will feature ToF (time-of-flight) 3D cameras on the rear – which is to say, the ‘world-facing’ end – and this would be a significant step forward. This will enable improved augmented reality, a tech category that is rapidly turning into an Apple obsession, as well as photo/video effects that aren’t currently possible, such as multi-layer bokeh.
The same supplier will be used for this sensor array as for the front-facing 3D setup, according to Fast Company, and the site cautions that Apple may yet veto the inclusion for 2020.
While we’re chatting cameras, Patently Apple has spotted patent activity that points to future iPhones having the ability to create fake group selfies even if the participants couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. Very useful at a time of lockdown, but it seems more likely that this feature will be implemented in software – ie an iOS update – rather than in new iPhone hardware.
The iPhone 12 will run iOS 14 out of the box, incidentally, and will be able to install further iOS updates for free, for around five years – up to roughly iOS 19, in other words. We can’t guarantee the release schedule that far ahead, but iOS 14 is already available for other compatible phone handsets.
Last of all on the camera/sensor front, patent activity suggests that Apple is considering the use of an infrared sensor that would improve the iPhone’s AR performance. We don’t expect this to appear in 2020, however – more likely it’s one for the future.
To offer Touch ID on the iPhone 12, Apple would need to embed the sensor somewhere other than in the Home button. It could go under the glass of the screen: we’re reaching the stage of technological development where this is becoming logistically feasible.
Indeed the Chinese-language site Economic Daily News believes Apple will be ready to deploy an under-display fingerprint sensor in its late-2020 handsets, based on Qualcomm’s ultrasonic scanning tech. Qualcomm already supplies this technology for use in Samsung phones, so the capabilities are there; but the site claims this will be a second-gen version that’s faster and has a longer range.
Patently Apple, meanwhile, has spotted a patent grant that would allow the company to place a fingerprint sensor under an OLED screen.
A less exciting but potentially more practical option would be to embed the fingerprint sensor in the power/side button, a method used in Samsung’s Galaxy S10e and more recently in the iPad Air 2020. Sure enough, in a late-January report Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple will launch a lower-cost iPhone with power-button Touch ID in the first half of 2021.
My colleague Samuel Nyberg has argued that it’s time for Apple to give us Touch ID in the iPhone 12, reasoning that in an age of masks Face ID is no longer a complete solution. He observes that Touch ID is most likely to make its return in the new phone’s side button.
Ultra-short range 802.11ay Wi-Fi
Citing “sources familiar with the next iPhone 12”, Macotakara says there is a possibility that the device will support IEEE 802.11ay, a new and extremely short-range wireless standard. The site says this would enable the next iPhone to offer “significantly improved” data transfer performance between devices – in other words, AirDrop could get a major bump in the next generation.
This proposed update has been on the table for some time, having seen its earliest draft version in January 2017. The 802.11ay standard offers four times the bandwidth of 802.11ad and is based on the 60GHz band.
Thanks to hugely informative videos in May 2020 by EverythingApplePro and Front Page Tech, we now have a great idea of the iPhone 12’s specs sheet.
- A14 processor
- 5.4in/6.1in OLED Super Retina display (6.1in/6.7in OLED with 120Hz ProMotion on Pro models)
- 4GB RAM (6GB RAM on Pro)
- 64/128/256GB storage (on standard iPhones), 128/256/512GB (Pro models)
- Dual-lens rear camera (triple-lens with LiDAR on Pro)
Let’s talk a bit more about the A14 chip, which features in the iPad Air (2020) and has started cropping up in online speed-test databases. All the evidence suggests that the new process could be revolutionary, delivering vastly improved CPU and graphics performance.
The A14 is based on a 5nm manufacturing process, compared to 7nm on the A13 (and likely 3nm on 2021’s new chip). The benefits of 5nm, maker TSMC says, mean potential performance gains of around 15% over the iPhone 11.
That’s assuming Apple puts all its eggs in the speed basket, granted, since the A14 could instead offer 30% lower power consumption. Based on past behaviour we assume Apple will try to combine a balance of these two improvements, but favouring speed slightly more than battery life.
The most recent speed test results point to improvements of 20% in single-core and 28% in multi-core, as compared to the A13 chip.
We already had a sense that the A14 was going to be crazy fast. Earlier in the year the chip appeared to crop up in some online benchmark tools, and the numbers were phenomenal.
Take a look at the following screengrab from the popular benchmark Geekbench, posted by AppleInsider. It compares the score for an iPad Pro 12.9in from 2018 – one of the most powerful mobile devices Apple has ever released, albeit since overtaken by the 2020 Pro and its A12Z chip – with what appears to be a prototype iPhone 12. And the iPhone 12 is scoring higher, even in multi-core.
The ‘A14’ is clocked above 3GHz – the first of Apple’s A-family chips to achieve this – and despite having fewer cores than the A12X (6 rather than 8) it rates higher throughout the CPU tests.
How likely is this to be genuine? Reasonably likely. Prototype devices have been spotted in online test suites before previous Apple launches, which makes sense; by this point in the release schedule the company will undoubtedly have created and be testing in-house samples of the iPhone 12.
We’ve also seen alleged photos of the A14 popping up online; this isn’t hugely informative, although markings on the chip appear to indicate it was in production as early as April.
When it comes to performance, RAM is almost as important as the choice of processor; the fact that the iPhone SE (2020) has only 3GB, compared to the 4GB in all the other A13 phones, caused such a significant reduction in benchmark speed that people thought – almost certainly mistakenly – that it had been underclocked.
For this reason it’s pleasing to see the inclusion of a really solid 6GB of RAM in this year’s Pro models. The non-Pro models, however, have to settle for 4GB.
The 4GB/6GB prediction came from Jon Prosser in May 2020, but was backed up by the usually reliable leaker @L0vetodream in July.
We’ve suspected for a while that Apple would remove the 64GB base storage option later this year, and set the minimum at 128GB. The latest rumours, however, point to a less sweeping change: according to Jon Prosser the 64GB will be removed from the Pro models, but the iPhone 12 and 12 mini will still start with this lower point.
- iPhone 12 mini (5.4in): 64/128/256GB
- iPhone 12 (6.1in): 64/128/256GB
- iPhone 12 Pro (6.1in): 128/256/512GB
- iPhone 12 Pro Max (6.7in): 128/256/512GB
We may now know the full display specs for the late-2020 iPhones. In a tweet that’s since been deleted, DisplaySearch founder Ross Young dropped the full list, and it suggests that the iPhone 11’s successor will have a much sharper screen.
Here’s how they’re going to shape up, if Young is right.
- iPhone 12: 5.4in (2340×1080, 477ppi)
- iPhone 12 Max: 6.1in (2532×1170, 457ppi)
- iPhone 12 Pro: 6.1in (2532×1170, 457ppi)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: 6.7in (2778×1284, 457ppi)
(Note that we calculated the pixel density figures ourselves using CalculatorSoup, so any errors are ours alone. The original leak quoted slightly different figures of 475, 460, 460 and 458ppi respectively – we’re not sure how they arrived at those numbers.)
Here’s how that compares with the current line-up:
- iPhone SE: 4.7in, 1334×750, 326ppi
- iPhone 11 (and XR): 6.1in, 1792×828, 326ppi
- iPhone 11 Pro: 5.8in, 2436×1125, 458ppi
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6.5in, 2688×1242, 458ppi
It seems logical that Apple would try to offer something a little more impressive than 326ppi on its mid-range phones – that always seemed a little stingy for £729/$699 – and give Android handsets more of a challenge. What does seem odd is the the idea that the iPhone 12, the cheapest of the new devices, would have a markedly higher pixel density than any other model.
For that reason, and because the tweet was deleted, we’re not betting our houses on these specs being accurate. Hopefully some corroborating evidence will arrive soon.
As for the refresh rate, rumours point to the Pro models getting 120Hz. That’s old news in Android land, of course, and is already available (complete with ProMotion dynamic switching) on the iPad Pros, but would be new for Apple’s phone line. Don’t count your chickens just yet, though: other pundits believe 120Hz is off.
EverythingApplePro thinks the ProMotion feature (which is a separate but related matter: it enables a device to switch from 60 to 120Hz as and when it’s necessary, to preserve battery life) is nailed on for the iPhone 12 Pro models; Jon Prosser thinks it could yet be “nerfed in software” and was still hedging his bets in a video near the end of August, saying some prototype models offered a software toggle to ‘Enable High Refresh Rate’ and some did not.
What about the glass itself? In late July, the US firm that makes Gorilla Glass announced its latest development: Gorilla Glass Victus. This material is, Corning claims, twice as drop-resistant as the previous version and four times as scratch-resistant as rival glasses – and since Gorilla Glass is used in existing iPhone models, the gossipmongers immediately started to wonder if Victus would make an appearance in the iPhone 12.
Apple is such an important customer for Corning that we’d be surprised if Victus isn’t already being used in iPhone 12 production; the announcement has been timed in such a way that it would embarrass Apple if it now has to launch the 12 without the latest screen materials. But Cupertino has always been cagey about Corning’s involvement in iPhone production, and it’s possible that it simply won’t say one way or the other.
One leaker thinks all four iPhone 12 models will feature toughened screens based on a new glass technology called Ceramic Shield Front Cover. When translated, the leaked text (shared in this tweet from Ice Universe) describes it as “simply ceramic substrate glass, which increases the hardness and resistance to drop”.
Breaking! Probably the most comprehensive and accurate product information for the iPhone 12 conference so far, from Weibo @ kang pic.twitter.com/pn37QOTJyk
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce)
October 9, 2020
It’s also been discovered that Apple has applied for a patent for “Antireflective Treatment for Textured Enclosure Components”. This suggests that Apple is working on anti-glare screens, but it’s unlikely that the fruits of this research will be ready in time for the iPhone 12. One for 2021, we suspect.
Apple sometimes comes in for mockery when it refers to its latest device as the “best iPhone yet” – what else would you expect, people point out. Technology gets better each year, and if you didn’t offer better specs than the previous model nobody would upgrade.
In one respect, however, it appears the iPhone 12 may be a little behind its predecessor. Screenshots from various databases suggest the new models will have smaller batteries.
If the figures are correct, the iPhone 12 Max has a battery capacity of 2775mAh, 335mAh lower than the iPhone 11. The 12 Pro is also 2775mAh, 271mAh less than the iPhone 11 Pro. And the 12 Pro Max looks to be 3687mAh, 282mAh less than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
That sounds very odd indeed, not just because of the aforementioned expectation for tech to advance every year but also because 5G and OLED screens throughout the range (both expected this year) will mean greater power drain on the new handsets. More power drain, less battery capacity, bad news for battery life.
Well, not necessarily. As the Macalope points out, “we know nothing about what other changes Apple may have made in hardware or software the might affect power consumption”. For example, it’s been suggested by TSMC that the 5nm manufacturing process means the iPhone 12’s A14 chip could offer up to 30% lower energy consumption than the A13 (although much of these gains may be wiped out if Apple chooses instead to focus on performance).
For sure, if the iPhone 12 has half the battery life of the 11, we’ll discover that in testing and give it a brutal review. But Apple is aware that people take battery life seriously and we’d be very surprised if it hasn’t got a plan.
Pundits and leakers remain comparatively reticent on the subject of the iPhone 12’s camera chops, but we do hear that it could be the first smartphone to offer 4K video capture at 240fps.
Price: How much will the iPhone 12 cost?
There’s heated disagreement in this area.
Jon Prosser – a high-profile and widely respected leaker, despite an error at WWDC – thinks the iPhone 12 will start at $649, a $50 drop in price from the entry-level iPhone 11 – which would make sense, given that it will have a smaller 5.4in screen and apparently won’t include any accessories. But more recently we’ve heard that we’ll see a price rise, with the cheapest model costing $749. That would be controversial, to say the least, but Apple does love to tell us about its courage.
The central issue is the cost of including 5G this year: analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said the 5G modem and antennas will cost between $75 and $125 per unit, depending on whether Apple plumps for the sub-6GHz or millimetre wave variant. Kuo believes, however, that the company will eat this additional cost rather than passing it on to consumers, and will attempt to claw back the money by negotiating lower prices on other components and by leaving out accessories, as we’ll discuss further in a moment.
(Apple may also release a cheaper and less fully featured – but still 5G-compatible – model in 2021. That’s a theory touted by Business Insider, for one.)
The price-rise theory remains a bit of an outlier, so we’re going to remain optimistic, like Kuo and Prosser, about prices holding steady or even dropping slightly. Here’s what Prosser predicts (largely backed up by more recent leakers), with our UK estimates added in brackets at the end:
- iPhone 12, 128GB: $649 (£679)
- iPhone 12, 256GB: $749 (£779)
- iPhone 12 Max, 128GB: $749 (£789)
- iPhone 12 Max, 256GB: $849 (£889)
- iPhone 12 Pro, 128GB: $999 (£1,049)
- iPhone 12 Pro, 256GB: $1,099 (£1,149)
- iPhone 12 Pro, 512GB: $1,299 (£1,349)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max, 128GB: $1,099 (£1,149)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max, 256GB: $1,199 (£1,249)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max, 512GB: $1,399 (£1,449)
And here’s how that compares to the prices of the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, as of 12 May 2020:
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: from £1,149/$1,099
- iPhone 11 Pro: from £1,049/$999
- iPhone 11: from £729/$699
Apple has been ramping up its phone prices for a while now, particularly in the UK, and it would be pleasing if there is no price rise on the iPhone 12 Pro, despite its larger screen and 5G. Although perhaps we won’t be be feeling so positive if, as mentioned above, Apple keeps prices flat by ditching the headphones and wall charger from the box. Talking of which…
What’s in the box?
Apple has bundled pretty much the same collection of accessories and paperwork with every iPhone since 2007. But there’s evidence that this year will be different.
Firstly, about the EarPods we’ve been taking for granted. Back in May the respected pundit Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple might ship the iPhone 12 with no headphones at all. A second analyst, Dan Ives, backed up the theory in June, and in late September it was noticed that iOS 14.2 Beta 2 no longer refers to “supplied headphones”, but just to headphones in a general sense.
But things didn’t stop there. The theory now is that we won’t get headphones or a charger. The second part of that is supported by a somewhat loaded survey that Apple’s been running, asking people if they’ve still got their old chargers and whether they still work.
If Apple does strip out these two old faithful accessories from the iPhone 12 box (it’s unclear at this point if the Pro models will be included in the purge – in fact a full set of accessories could be an additional incentive to upgrade to the more expensive models) there will be a lot of unhappy campers in Apple world. But there are good reasons why it makes sense: as the survey will presumably make clear, lots of us still have one, two or even more old sets of accessories from previous years’ iPhone purchases, and which we don’t use any more because of duplication or because we’ve bought better alternatives.
Both financially and environmentally it makes little sense to bundle electrical items which consume non-trivial resources to make and dispose of and which in many cases remain unused. Far better to leave them out, avoid having to bump up the price, and let those who need to buy the things from the Apple store.
Also, it means Apple will be able to design an ‘exquisite’ new box. We haven’t seen that yet, but we have glimpsed a 3D render of the box insert from a “really reliable source”. As you can see, it hasn’t got room for a charging plug and there doesn’t seem to be space for headphones either:
Apple may be able to sugar the pill slightly if reports of a braided Lightning cable are correct. Plausible reports from the supply chain suggest the new cable will look nicer, feel nicer and last much longer before fraying.
That appears to be the only accessory in the box, so it makes sense to give it a bit of a makeover, and may compensate for some of the bad news. It also fits with current trends, because Apple sells a braided Thunderbolt cable.
Note, however, that it’s expected to be a Lightning-to-USB-C cable, which means it won’t work with the charging plug from almost any previous iPhone. (The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are the only Apple phones to come with USB-C chargers.) You may end up shelling out for a new charger anyway.
The same source has since dropped more photos of the braided cable, and it now seems there will be white and black versions. The photos were posted in a now-deleted tweet, but this composite image was snagged by 9to5Mac:
Some clearer images of the braided cable can be seen in this article, discussing yet another Twitter leak on 24 September.
In conclusion, then, here’s what we think will be in the iPhone 12 box:
- iPhone 12
- Braided Lightning-to-USB-C cable (in a white or black finish)
- Some stickers
…and that’s it.
That’s all the iPhone 12 rumours for now.
If you’d like to know more about Apple’s plans for the rest of the year, read our guide to the new Apple products expected in 2020. And for a direct (albeit speculative, for now) comparison between the 2019 and 2020 generations, read iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11.
Those who are interested in the current smartphone lineup should instead focus on our iPhone buying guide, or our roundup of the best iPhone deals. Or both.