We've seen some impressive flagship smartphones unveiled this year, including the OnePlus 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S9, but two of the biggest launches are still to come: new 2018 handsets from Apple and Google. With leaks and rumors now arriving at a steady pace, here's what we expect.
We're still not sure about the names, especially with the 2018 iPhones. Apple could call its next flagship the iPhone XI or the iPhone X2, or simply the iPhone X 2018. We might see a lower priced model called the iPhone 9, and a super-sized model called the iPhone XI Plus, but bear in mind as you read on that these names could be right or wrong.
Google's naming strategy seems clearer, and it's a good bet that the Google Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel 3 XL are the names of the two phones we'll see later this year (following on from the 2017 handsets). Even here though, there could be last-minute changes.
The new iPhones for 2018
None of this is official yet, but most analysts and tipsters agree that three iPhones are going to be unveiled this year – almost certainly in September, if Apple sticks to the schedule that it's followed ever since the iPhone 5 in 2012.
The iPhone XI (or iPhone X2) will apparently have a 5.8-inch screen like the current iPhone X, and will probably keep the same US$999 starting price too, according to analysts. That will be joined by a slightly more expensive Plus model, with a 6.5-inch screen. Both these models will reportedly have dual-sensor rear cameras.
The third model will have a 6.1-inch screen, the same sources say, but with cheaper LCD display technology rather than OLED. With a few other features missing (including 3D Touch), and a single-sensor rear camera, this more affordable iPhone might retail for $700-800. The 2017 iPhone X may also stay on sale at a cheaper price point.
All three models are going to ditch Touch ID and use Face ID, sources say, and will therefore keep the distinctive notch at the top of the display. The usual internal improvements will no doubt be included too: a faster Apple processor and perhaps up to 4 GB of RAM (the current iPhone X gets by with 3 GB).
Considering the significant redesign that the iPhone got with the iPhone X last year, we're expecting this year's models to look very similar: there won't be too many surprises in the design department. The IP67 waterproofing and dustproofing rating, the wireless charging... all these smaller features should stay the same.
These predictions come from analysts and industry tipsters with supply chain connections – people who have been mostly right about upcoming Apple products in the past. With that in mind, treat them as pointers about where Apple is headed with its 2018 iPhones, rather than confirmed facts. Details might change between now and September.
What we do know for sure is that the next batch of iPhones will come running iOS 12. The updated software, which will roll out to older iPhones too, brings with it extra augmented reality tricks, Memoji for turning your face into a cartoon character, more advanced Siri functions, and a Screen Time app for managing how much time you spend on your phone.
The new Pixels for 2018
Over in the Google camp, it now seems clear that two phones will again be Google's strategy in 2018 – the Google Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel 3 XL. Like last year, you'll be able to choose between a smaller, cheaper phone, and a larger, more expensive one, with the internal components largely similar between the two.
Online tipsters with good previous form in predicting upcoming hardware have been mocking up renders showing what the new phones might look like. The big difference between the phones, besides size, is that the bigger phone is going to have a notch up at the top of the display – and presumably some kind of iPhone X-style face recognition system to let you into your phone.
Sources are predicting that the smaller Pixel 3 will rock up with a 5.4-inch screen, while the bigger Pixel 3 XL will boast a 6.2-inch screen, or thereabouts. Those are both slight bumps in size over the comparable handsets from last year. Leaked schematics suggest both phones will have a single-sensor rear camera but a dual-sensor front-facing camera.
Google's Pixel phones have always excelled in their image processing rather than the number of sensors though, so we would still expect the new phones to be among the best on the market in terms of image quality. No doubt there will be some new AI tricks to show off in terms of stabilizing video, sharpening photos, and so on.
So far we haven't heard any rumors about the price of these handsets. The Pixel 2 originally retailed for US$649, with the Pixel 2 XL costing $849 and up, so Google might well try and hit the same price points and keep the 2017 handsets on sale as a cheaper option. Some sources suggest a budget option is on the way for developing markets, but at this stage it seems unlikely to make it to the US or Europe.
The most recently leaked photos of a device purporting to be a Google Pixel 3 XL prototype show it has a glass back, a strong hint that the Pixel phones will at last get wireless charging this time around. It would be also be a big surprise if they weren't kitted out with the Snapdragon 845, the chipset of choice for Android flagships this year.
What we know for sure is that the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL will come running Android P, which Google still hasn't fully named yet. As well as native notch support, the new software will also bring with it revamped gesture navigation controls, richer notifications, an improved Do Not Disturb mode, and – like iOS 12 – a dashboard for seeing how much time you spend in your apps and for setting limits if needed.
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