Apple’s next round of iPhones could be here in just a month’s time, should they launch in their typical September time slot. As Android’s biggest rival, iOS and the devices that run it form a key part of the mobile ecosystem and offer us an important point of comparison for Google’s platform.
Let’s take a look at the 2018 iPhone rumors to see how the phones might stack up against the recent Android flagships, and what it means for Android going forward.
Note: Everything below is based on current speculation; take from it what you will.
iPhones in 2018: what can we expect?
Like in 2017, Apple is tipped to launch three new iPhones at its still-to-be-announced launch event. Instead of two regular iPhones and a higher-tier “X” model, though, the next phones are said to be on a different path.
Rumors suggest Apple will launch two X models — a higher spec’d sequel to the original iPhone X called the Apple iPhone XS and a larger Apple iPhone XS Plus — as well as a less expensive model, potentially the Apple iPhone 9. (Apple may also name them iPhone 8S, 8S Plus, iPhone SE X, iPhone 11, or something else, but we’re sticking to the previous names for the purposes of this article.)
The two X models could potentially have OLED screens and stainless steel bodies, while the less expensive 2018 iPhone would have an LCD screen and an aluminum housing. All are expected to look similar to the iPhone X, meaning notches across the board.
A cheaper iPhone?
The iPhone XS and XS Plus models will likely be as expensive as the regular, premium iPhones, which could mean up to $1,000 or more for the Plus model (the Galaxy Note 9, one of its main competitors, just launched $999).
The iPhone 9, however, with its LCD display and single camera, is currently tipped to be among the cheapest iPhones ever at around $600-$800.
This is significant: iPhones are typically viewed as premium phones, with premium price tags to match. A ~$700 price won’t make this iPhone a “budget” handset, but it might give some Android OEMs cause for concern. Here are some of the 2018 Android flagship starting prices for comparison:
- Xiaomi Mi 8: $420
- OnePlus 6: $529
- Pixel 2: $650
- Galaxy S9: $720
- LG G7 ThinQ: $750
- HTC U12 Plus: $799
- Xperia XZ2: $799
- Nokia 8 Sirocco: ~$850
- Huawei P20 Pro: ~$1030
Android has long since been a place for those wanting a less-expensive alternative to the iPhone, so general consumers in the West might see a new Apple iPhone at $700 as a fine deal on paper.
Triple camera vs dual camera
Photography is a huge part of the iPhone experience and Apple will no doubt up its game here once more. Whether it will go the triple camera route, however, we don’t yet know.
Huawei introduced the triple camera setup earlier this year with its P20 Pro. We pitted this against the dual-camera-wielding standard P20 and found the triple camera setup to be superior. Whether that makes three cameras a must-have for smartphone users depends on how into photography they are.
Outside of the zoom features, the phones’ camera experience was largely the same. Therefore, in Huawei’s case at least, the triple camera isn’t an essential feature for all users.
However, the Huawei P20 Pro reportedly sold well. I suspect the same would be said of the most premium iPhone should it carry three cameras. It would also give it an edge over most Android phones of the moment, including the upcoming Google Pixel 3, which by all accounts will include only dual rear cameras.
There are conflicting rumors on this, but it looks like Apple will stick with two sensors for its main camera. Without the triple camera setup, we’re probably just going to be looking at another impressive dual-camera system for the next premium iPhones.
Android OEMs big and small have done great things with camera tech this year, so the new iPhones may be reasonably well matched to the Google lot on this score.
Apple is said to be ditching Qualcomm’s modems, instead looking to Intel. This means 2018 Android flagships could be faster than their iPhone counterparts when it comes to connectivity.
It may sound like a win for the Android crew, but this probably won’t be such a big deal. Even if Apple is going with Intel modems, the speed difference may be negligible. Connectivity depends on many factors anyway, including network choice and location.
Not only that, it’s not like iPhone sales would suffer to any significant degree as a result of using Intel modems. Modem technology is rarely used to promote or sell handsets, and most consumers won’t know or care about the implications of an Intel modem versus one from Qualcomm. Still, it might be something for enthusiasts to think about going forward.
Face ID vs in-display sensors
Android and iOS are currently at odds, mostly, with security unlock methods. Android OEMs are pursuing in-display fingerprint sensors, while Apple is going down 3D face authentication route.
Apple’s approach is no doubt flashier — facial recognition is a little more “Mission Impossible” than fingerprint scanning — but there are still concerns over security. Even the latest and greatest version of iPhone’s face-scanning tech can be tricked. It may remain a gimmick unless Apple can step up security again.
There’s a suggestion that Apple will allow its proprietary Face ID system to unlock devices while in landscape as part of iOS 12 (which might simply be part of broader landscape mode changes to come), but that’s all we’ve heard on those developments so far.
Meanwhile, Android manufacturers have started to focus on in-display fingerprint sensors. These operate like normal scanners, only they’re located beneath the screen. It’s not clear yet if they’ll eventually become better than regular fingerprint scanners (at the moment, in our experience, they aren’t), but they will mean a fullscreen device can be more easily unlocked while face-up on a desk.
There’s no need to turn the phone over to reach a rear scanner or stick your face over the camera like with 3D scanning, which could hand Android the usability win. The next generation of these scanners is also gearing up to go ultrasonic, which could make them even more secure.
Apple has already unveiled many of the features of its next operating system — iOS 12, due this fall — giving us a handle on what’s in store for the 2018 iPhones software-wise. Here’s a quick overview.
With Siri Shortcuts, you’ll be able to create and name your own shortcuts to speed up certain actions. Say you want to get directions home and message your spouse with your estimated time of arrival: you’ll be able to create this option yourself, and assign it your own trigger phrase (like “let’s go home”). This is also being opened up to iOS app developers so they can integrate Siri Shortcuts into their apps.
Siri Shortcuts seems to allow the digital assistant to be more hands-on in general. It will allow for things like pushing contextual display notifications to users with certain suggestions, like popping-up a quick way to notify someone if you’re running late for a meeting. Learn more about Siri Shortcuts on Apple’s developer page here.
These developments are interesting and will only become more robust in the future, but Siri Shortcuts isn’t a revolutionary idea — Google rolled out similar routines to Google Assistant earlier this year.
Another interesting iOS 12 tidbit is the inclusion of usage stats. This will display information regarding how often you interact with your phone and in what ways. Android is also now trialing similar features (Digital Wellbeing) as part of Android Pie, so Android and iOS are basically neck and neck in this regard.
Last year, the iPhone X introduced Animoji — animated emoji which replicated user actions and expressions in emoji form. This utilized the iPhone X’s front-facing camera to do so, and this year, it’s getting an upgrade.
iOS 12 will let users create animated emojis in a more human form, and in their own likeness, with something called Memoji. Samsung is currently the closest manufacturer to Apple with emoji tech, thanks to its AR emoji. The iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera means the iOS 12 approach is still likely to be the more accurate for now though — see it in action here.
Since the introduction of the Essential Phone and iPhone X last year, a number of Android manufacturers have also adopted the display notch. Google has even developed some notch guidelines, so it’s probably here to stay on Android for the next year or two.
We don’t know yet if Apple will offer anything new with its notch design in 2018, but all signs point to it showing up again at least. Current rumors suggest it will have much the same design as before.
Meanwhile, Android phone makers have taken the notch in a few directions, with Oppo’s recent teardrop approach, seen on the Oppo R17 (below), being one of the neater implementations of it.
Dual SIM and Dongle
Apple may offer a dual-SIM option with its upcoming iPhones — something Android phones have held over iOS devices for years. This is a staple feature of smartphones sold in emerging markets, but since Apple isn’t a huge player in those territories it doesn’t appear to have been a big loss for it in the past.
Dual-SIM phones are great for frequent travelers, as they allow users to swap SIMs to take advantage of local carriers and networks. Its overall impact on the Android versus iOS competition may nevertheless be negligible.
Finally, speculation suggests Apple will drop its included lightning-to-3.5mm audio dongle with the next iPhone, which could speed up the market’s transition away from 3.5mm headphones to wireless or lightning port alternatives. It could also just increase sales of Apple’s lightning to 3.5mm adapters. Either way, it’s a win for Apple, unless fans find the move so painfully money-grabbing they decide to ditch Apple altogether. I wouldn’t count on that, but I would count on some Android OEMs to follow a similar approach from next year.
These are the features we’ve heard about so far, but there are sure to be other iPhone 2018 upgrades that influence, or have been influenced by, Android.
We’ll learn more on launch day. Until then, what are your thoughts on the next iPhones? Where will they stand against the current Android flagships? Tell me what you think in the comments.