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At Long Last, Will Apple Drop Numbered iPhones?

By Evan Niu, CFA – Aug 22, 2019 at 1:52PM

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Here's what to expect from the 2019 iPhones.

The internet had taken to calling the 2019 iPhone the "iPhone 11," considering Apple's (AAPL -1.51%) long-standing practice of alternating between "S" and numerical progression in alternating years. The 2018 iPhone was the iPhone XS ("ten ess"), and there was never an iPhone 9. The naming convention wore out its welcome long ago, and the incongruence only gets worse over time: This year will be the 13th-generation iPhone.

Apple might finally be ready to ditch numbered iPhones.

Customers holding up iPhones at launch

Image source: Apple.

What to expect in the 2019 iPhones

Bloomberg has dropped a boatload of new information today about what to expect at next month's unveiling. The Cupertino tech giant is again expected to release three new iPhone models, much like it has done in 2017 and 2018. The flagship models will bear a "Pro" moniker, according to the report, although it's unclear what the next iPhone XR will be called.

iPhone XR was positioned as a more affordable handset with many of the same features as the higher-end models, and the "XR" branding was not actually based on anything concrete. "I love cars and things that go fast, and R and S are both letters used to denote sport cars that are really extra special," marketing chief Phil Schiller explained to Engadget last year regarding the nomenclature. "iPhone Air" has always made plenty of sense.

The iPhone Pros are expected to get a rear triple-camera system, which has been rumored for quite some time. The third ultrawide-angle lens will be able to capture even larger viewpoints, while low-light performance will improve. Apple is also bolstering video recording, according to the report.

Face ID is also getting some improvements, allowing users to unlock their phones from more positions, such as when the iPhone is lying flat on a table. Some minor improvements in water resistance are also in the pipeline, and Apple is reportedly dropping 3D Touch (where a pressure-sensitive display can detect hard presses) altogether. The iPhone XR had lacked 3D Touch.

Continuing its push into custom silicon, Apple is expected to put a new "AMX" co-processor (with the "M" standing for "matrix") into the new devices. The chip is specialized to take over mathematically intensive tasks. Apple has been able to leverage similar types of specialized co-processors in the past in order to improve power efficiency and battery life by offloading certain workloads so that the primary processor doesn't need to power up. The AMX chip will assist with augmented reality (AR) and other duties related to computer vision.

As expected, the 2019 iPhones won't have 5G connectivity due to Intel's inability to deliver a viable 5G modem to Apple in time, a failure that precipitated the Mac maker's surprise settlement with Qualcomm earlier this year. That accord included a multiyear chipset supply agreement, and Qualcomm's 5G modems should make their way into the 2020 iPhones.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of INTC and QCOM and has the following options: short September 2019 $50 calls on INTC, short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, and long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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