Bloomberg reporters Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, who have a track record of accurately reporting major Apple product features before they are announced, published a new report today describing features in 2020’s iPhones and iPad Pros, as well as some new features expected in iOS 13 and new iPhones later this year.
They also added to a growing number of reports that claim an updated base iPad and a long-awaited iPad mini follow-up are expected this spring.
Citing several people familiar with Apple’s plans, Bloomberg wrote that Apple plans to add a rear-facing 3D camera to the iPhone and iPad Pro. The 3D camera will scan the environment and create 3D models of it in a similar way to how the front-facing TrueDepth camera on recent iPhones scans a user’s face and tracks their expressions, but it would use a laser scanner instead of the dot-projection technology in current iPhones. This is because the dot-projection tech is not suitable to longer ranges; the new rear-facing 3D cameras would have a range of up to 15 feet.
The camera would add useful depth-sensing data to photos and make augmented reality applications more powerful and more accurate, which Apple has made a major priority internally and in its communications with app developers.
This new 3D-sensing array would come to both an updated iPad Pro and the 2020 iPhones, with the iPad Pro likely arriving first, in spring of 2020.
Apple has invested heavily in augmented reality, and we’ve seen well-sourced rumors that it is working hard on augmented reality glasses. Those were mentioned again in this Bloomberg article, but no new information was provided. Apple is looking for the next big device rife for innovation and market dominance, and we’ve written before that by focusing so much on AR in iPhones, the company is laying the groundwork for that eventual product rollout should it occur. Apple is putting itself in a strong position to compete if AR takes off in the future.
Per prior reports, Apple might plan to introduce 5G to the iPhone and iPad Pro in 2020 as well.
2019 iPhones and iPads
Bloomberg’s sources revealed a small number of details about the new iPhones coming in 2019, too, as well as what we can expect from the iPad line and iOS 13 this year.
The iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max will all see direct successors late this year, according to the sources. It looks like hardware updates to these products will be relatively minor, though. Predictably, a faster follow-up to Apple’s A12 system-on-a-chip is expected in the new phones. The report states that “the larger of the new high-end iPhones” will also feature “a third, more advanced camera.” But whether that means just the follow-up to the iPhone XS Max or the iPhone XR as well, as both of those phones are larger than the iPhone XS, is not clear. The company also says that smaller handsets could get that third camera after 2019.
The third camera would enable better zoom features, a larger field of view, and a higher resolution. This will likely play into Apple’s image processing technology as well. All three new phones will have an updated TrueDepth sensor with improved Face ID, but the report did not specify exactly how the feature will improve.
The biggest potential looks to be a move from Apple’s proprietary Lightning port to growing industry-standard USB-C—a shift that already occurred in last year’s iPad Pro update. This would be a welcome change, but it does not sound like it’s a certain one. The article simply says that Apple is “testing some versions of this year’s iPhone line” that use USB-C without indicating that the company has settled on that path.
The report did not say anything about a successor to the smaller, more affordable iPhone SE, which was discontinued last year.
On the iPad side of things, Gurman and Wu cited sources saying, once again, that Apple plans to update the non-Pro iPad this spring and that it will move to a 10-inch display and a faster CPU. This is not the first reputable report to say that, so it’s looking more likely. Like those other reports, Bloomberg’s story also says Apple plans to update the iPad mini, which has not been changed since 2015. No details were provided on how that device might change this time around. This report didn’t mention it, but some other stories on the Web have said that Apple will introduce an update to the iPod touch as well.
Finally, there’s Apple’s iOS software, which powers iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. Apple positioned iOS 12 as an update focused on stability, performance, and bug fixes, and we generally found it met those goals in our review—even though a few worrying new bugs have been discovered since the software first launched. However, it did not add many ambitious new features. That is expected to change in iOS 13.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple will deliver a long-desired revamp to the home screen in iOS 13. Except for the additions of folders and more real estate, as well as a few new gesture or 3D touch interactions, the home screen has not changed in a significant way since it was first introduced in 2007. However, the report specifically lists the home screen update under improvements to the iPad, so it’s not clear if they are also expected on the iPhone. Other planned iPad improvements in iOS 13 include “the ability to tab through multiple versions of a single app like pages in a Web browser” and file-management improvements. We’re hoping the latter addresses the serious limitation in 2018’s iPad Pro that prevents OS-wide access to files on external drives connected via USB-C.
Apple also plans improvements to CarPlay in iOS 13, as well as a macOS Mojave-like Dark Mode. iOS 13 and the new iPhones would also come with an updated version of Live Photos, which would become six seconds long instead of three seconds.