iPhone 12 rumors: ‘Refreshed’ Face ID system and time-of-flight sensors

The 2019 iPhone models haven’t even been officially announced yet, and we’re already starting to see reports about what will be in the 2020 iPhones. We’ve compiled the most notable ones here, but take these with a big grain of salt. Even if these reports are accurate representations of what suppliers are saying, or come from moles within Apple itself, the company’s plans can and do change. There’s still plenty of time before the design and features have to be totally set in stone.

Update 01/16/20: An analyst from Barclays (via CNBC) predicts the iPhone 12 will have “refreshed” Face ID and a time-of-flight 3D sensor. He further states that the iPhone in 2021 might ditch the Lightning port in favor of exclusively wireless charging.

Refreshed Face ID

CNBC has a summary of a new report from a Barlcays analyst that corroborates some of the rumors we’ve already heard about the iPhone 12. But there’s one sort-of-new nugget in there: The analyst says the iPhone 12 will feature a “refreshed” Face ID system, but offers no clues on what that might mean.

The Face ID system has gone through a few minor upgrades already—with iOS 13 it got a little faster, and the iPhone 11’s TrueDepth module has an improved standard color camera, but not an improved depth-sensing system. The faster processor in the iPhone 11 helps make Face ID unlocking faster, too.

The report also says the high-end “Pro” models will feature a time-of-flight depth sensor on the rear camera array, which we’ve heard several times before. Finally, it furthers the claim that Apple might ditch the Lightning connector on the 2021 iPhone in favor of exclusively wireless charging. That idea seems a little dubious, to us: It would nearly kill the entire CarPlay market, as very few vehicles support wireless CarPlay and even if support for that feature improved dramatically, people don’t upgrade their cars that often. Apple would have to ship wireless chargers in the box, and let’s face it, as convenient as wireless charging is, it’s still too slow to be the only means of charging one’s phone. Apple would have to make wireless charging a lot faster.

New A14 processor

a14 preview 3dmark IDG

We predict a significant bump in graphics performance on the A14.

All models of the iPhone 12 are all but certain to have a new application processor, which Apple will likely call the A14. It is well-known that this processor is being produced by TSMC on its new bleeding-edge 5nm EUV manufacturing process. 

We’ve done some of our own analysis on Apple’s recent A-series processors and the capabilities afforded by the new manufacturing process to predict what we might expect from the A14.

Disputed 5G iPhone release schedule

If there’s one thing we’re certain of with the iPhone 12, it’s that it will be packing a 5G modem. The next-gen network will be much more robust than it was at the end of 2019, and the next iPhone will be ready for it.