2020 iOS Predictions: iPad Pro and so many iPhones

All told, 2019 was a relatively quiet year for the iPhone and iPad. Apple brought back some old favorites to round out the iPad product line, and a new batch of incrementally improved iPhones was released in the fall, as anyone could have predicted.

But quiet years aren’t really quiet. They generally mean that at Apple Park, there are projects coming to fruition, only to be sprung on an unsuspecting public the next year. And so, once again, I present one man’s attempt to guess what projects will finally become products in 2020.

iPhone: More of the same?

The iPhone 11 Plus is the third iteration of the iPhone X and the iPhone 11 is the second iteration of the iPhone XR. Unless Apple has a surprise iPhone redesign up its sleeve, 2020 is due to bring us the not-entirely-exciting third and fourth iterations of those familiar products.

The truth is, Apple can’t reinvent the wheel every year, as much as the media and many iPhone fans would like it to. (Apple would like it, too—sales tend to spike when there’s an appreciably new iPhone design, and sag when the designs start to get old. 2020 is shaping up to be a sag.)

Still, rumors from the supply chain suggest that Apple is planning on countering iPhone ennui with volume, volume, volume—namely two new iPhone models designed to nestle among the three familiar existing ones. One of these isn’t exactly new—it’s the long-anticipated return of the iPhone SE concept.

iphone 11 models Apple

iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11.

Unfortunately for fans of small phones, the actual iPhone SE concept isn’t a small phone, but a lower-cost phone that uses the previous-generation body style. That’s why it make more sense that a new iPhone SE will take the internals from an iPhone 11 and place them in the familiar iPhone 6/7/8 case. That gets Apple a lower-priced entry phone again without needing to keep selling the iPhone 8. This seems like a sensible strategy, and I’ll go on the record as predicting that this phone will simply be called the iPhone SE. And it’ll sit at the bottom of the iPhone price list for a few years, just as its predecessor did.

More intriguing is the rumor that Apple’s preparing a smaller version of the iPhone 11. Size is relative—this rumored fourth core iPhone would have a 5.4-inch diagonal screen, meaning it would be bigger than the 4.7-inch iPhone SE, but it would be the smallest iPhone X-class phone yet—and could possibly be a relief among people who upgraded to the iPhone X, XS, or 11 Pro reluctantly because of the size difference. (Presumably with an edge-to-edge screen, the 5.4-inch iPhone would be about the same overall size as the iPhone SE.)

Another interesting rumored move for Apple is taking the iPhone Pro Max even further, upsizing it to a 6.7-inch diagonal screen. I love this move, because the users of the Pro Max are people who clearly want the biggest iPhone they can get.