We’ve been hearing rumours for months that Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup will be something special, adding a number of features internally like 5G support, a new 3D laser “Time of Flight” camera system, and more, and while we’ve also heard several rumours of a new design and new sizes, it looks like the actual physical design of the “iPhone 12” may in fact be less exciting than reports have suggested, if a new leaked mockup is to be believed.
A report from Mac Otakara (Google Translate), reveals what it claims to be a mockup of the 6.5-inch model of the new 2020 iPhone, and while it notes that the credibility of the 3D print mock that it received is unknown, the design looks strikingly similar to the current iPhone 11 Pro Max, with the changes being subtle rather than significant.
Of course, rumours have said that the next “Max” iPhone would have a 6.7-inch screen size, so this report calls into question either the validity of those rumours or of the current mockup. As Mac Otakara notes, it’s also possible that this is simply one of multiple models that Apple has been developing, and may not be what we ultimately see in the end.
Apple Pencil Support?
Beyond the design being basically the same, what’s particularly interesting about this mockup is a “mysterious connector” on the left side that’s similar to the magnetic connector found on the 2018 iPad Pro models, where it’s used for charging the Apple Pencil. While there have of course been rumours for years that Apple could bring the iPad Smart Connector to the iPhone, that never actually happened, and to be fair it was hard to see what the purpose would have been for placing a connector on the iPhone that so far seems to have been designed primarily to support keyboards. The magnetic connector, on the other hand, could be a hint that Apple Pencil support is finally coming to the iPhone — something else that we’ve been hearing about for years.
While a full-size Apple Pencil would be too large to fit comfortably alongside even an iPhone “Max” model, we also heard rumours this year that an Apple Pencil mini could be in the works, which seems to make sense.
Although the mockup is basically the same size as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it does show the subtle iPhone 4-esque design changes that we’ve been hearing about, with edges that are more angled and square rather than the curvy design that Apple has been using since the iPhone 6 debuted in 2014.
If the mockup is accurate, this would also be the thinnest iPhone that Apple has produced since the iPhone 6, raising concerns that Apple may compromise on battery life — especially with the new iPhones expected to support 5G.
However it’s also worth keeping in mind that the increase in thickness that came with the iPhone 6s — and almost every subsequent model — was primarily a result of Apple’s addition of 3D Touch, which required an extra layer of technology in the screen. The iPhone 11 lineup no longer supports 3D Touch, so this isn’t a factor, plus the more angular edges also offer a bit more internal space for Apple to work with.
Mac Otakara also notes that the volume and mute switches have been slightly lowered in the mockup, and the SIM slot is even further down than before. If true, these are likely just a result of changes to the internals that have required Apple to space things out differently.
Form and Function
Of course, as exciting as it would be to finally see a new design for next year’s iPhone after four years of basically the same thing, this is far from the most important change to get excited about.
Personally, we’d much rather see Apple do everything it can to improve the internal technology and keep the design exactly the same than make a change to the design for design’s sake. We’ve already seen what happens when Apple prioritizes design over technology, but the good news is that it seems that Apple has moved beyond its era of doing this, with products that manage to return to a more appropriate balance of form and function, without leaning too heavily in either direction.
The results of this revised approach have generally been positive thus far. The iPhone 11 models now boast the best battery life ever, following the end of Apple’s insistence on always making its iPhones thinner, and Apple also finally admitted tacitly that its butterfly keyboards were a bad idea, and of course released a Mac Pro that pros are actually happy with.
So what’s coming inside the 2020 iPhone should be substantially more interesting than what it will look like on the outside. If even half the rumours are true, the “iPhone 12” is going to be a pretty exciting device, with full mmWave 5G support, a long-range 3D camera, and improved OLED displays which could even feature the ProMotion display technology from the iPad Pro. There’s also a report that we could see the return of Touch ID, with anin-display fingerprint sensor, and that’s just what we’ve heard about so far; it seems inevitable that with the “iPhone 12” still almost a year away, there are going to be more rumours surfacing as Apple’s plans for the next model start to come more into focus. In fact, we’re already expecting at least five new iPhone models next year (some analysts are even predicting six), and the best news is that even with all of these features, including 5G support, Apple is expected to keep prices at the same levels.