One of the biggest challenges to Apple’s culture of secrecy is the number of regulatory hurdles that the company must clear in order to release new products. In fact, this was the very reason that Steve Jobs chose to announce the original iPhone six months ahead of its release back in 2007 — the need to file for approval for the new iPhone from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have made leaks inevitable, and as Steve candidly said on stage at Macworld 2007, “We thought it would be better if we introduced this rather than asking the FCC to introduce it for us.”
Of course, the original iPhone was a revolutionary and groundbreaking product that Apple would understandably have wanted to keep under wraps for as long as possible. In the many years since that unveil, however, Apple has acceded to the fact that regulatory filings will result in some products being leaked ahead of their time, and one of the first places we usually see hints of new Apple devices is the Eurasian Economic Commission’s regulatory database, which requires the registration of all devices using encryption technologies of any kind.
For example, the iPad Air and fifth-generation iPad mini made their appearance in the database back in January, even though they weren’t actually released until March, and now 9to5Mac has discovered new entries for Apple’s 2019 iPhone lineup — a total of eleven new models in all.
The filing describes the devices as simply “Smartphones of the trademark ‘Apple'” and lists model numbers of A2111, A2160, A2161, A2215, A2216, A2217, A2218, A2219, A2220, A2221, and A2223, noting “software version iOS 12” in parenthesis after the list.
For reasons that aren’t clear, 9to5Mac speculates that the A2111, A2161, and A2215 models represent the successor to the iPhone XR, while the others are for variations on the new versions of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max (colloquially dubbed “iPhone 11” and “iPhone 11 Max”).
The array of different product numbers isn’t surprising by itself, as Apple regularly sells at least two or three variants of each of its iPhone models to account for varying cellular technologies in different countries, not to mention the Dual-SIM Chinese iPhone, the fact that the number of versions isn’t evenly divisible by three suggests that either at least one of the models will have fewer variants, or that there could even be a fourth model waiting in the wings — perhaps the long-hoped-for successor to the iPhone SE.
What We Know
What we do know about Apple’s 2019 iPhone lineup so far is that it will be mostly a direct update to last year’s iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR models, with at least three new iPhones that will feature mostly the same physical design and dimensions.
The naming on the new iPhones is still a mystery, however, especially with Apple’s choice to fall into the Roman numeral “X” to represent the “iPhone 10” back in 2017, which it then continued into the “S” models and mixed things up with the “XR.” While some variation on “iPhone 11” seems logical, it’s less clear whether Apple will return to standard Arabic numbering or continue the Roman numerals with the “iPhone XI” — which seems like it would make things even more confusing alongside the XS, XR, and possibly even a coming XE model. In fact, 2019 may be the year when the naming of Apple’s next iPhones is even more uncertain than it was in 2017 when many were expecting the new iPhones to be the 7s, 7s Plus, and the 8.
What is almost certain, however, is that this year’s iPhones will be getting major camera upgrades, with the premium “XS” successors gaining a triple-lens camera system, and the “XR” successor getting bumped up to a dual-lens system, likely similar to what’s already found on the current iPhone XS. The additional lens in the three-camera configuration will be an ultra-wide Sony lens, expanding the range of zoom rather than providing tighter close-ups, although rumour has it that Apple will be adding more machine learning features to do things like put people back into photos that have been inadvertently cut out, as well as a new “night sight” mode. We’ve also heard reliable reports that the front-facing TrueDepth cameras will see a boost to 12 megapixels.
While the new cameras seem like they’ll be the headline feature for the new iPhone models, Apple has a few other tricks up its sleeve, including new indoor navigation features that would help users find their way around indoor venues where GPS coverage isn’t a viable option, like shopping malls and airports, along with two-way wireless charging that would allow an iPhone to act as a charger for other Qi-enabled devices like Apple’s newest AirPods with the wireless charging case.