In recent years, Apple (AAPL 1.07%) has been stretching out its design cycles. It used to be that the company would use the same design for two years, but it now typically gets three years out of its industrial designs. With the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max featuring essentially the same chassis since 2017, that means a redesigned iPhone should be in the pipeline for 2020.
Here's what to expect from the Cupertino tech giant next year.
Redesigned with 5G
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has issued a research note detailing what Apple may have in store for next year, according to MacRumors. The 2020 flagship is expected to bear a "significantly" redesigned chassis that utilizes a metal frame similar to to the iPhone 4 that was originally released back in 2010.
The new chassis design will have a "more complex segmentation design, new trenching and injection molding procedures, and sapphire or glass cover assembly to protect the trench injection molding structure," according to the report. Apple has a convoluted history in trying to get sapphire into its products, once forming a partnership with GT Advanced that eventually led to the latter filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The new manufacturing process for the metal should improve the efficiency of the internal antenna when transmitting data, although Kuo believes it will come with added costs. What's less clear is whether Apple will try to pass those higher costs along to consumers in the form of higher prices or if it will absorb them.
The Mac maker has arguably hit a limit with its pricing power. Apple's decision to reduce the starting price of the iPhone 11 appears to be an acknowledgement of that limit, as high prices have hurt demand in emerging markets.
2020 is also when Apple is expected to ship its first 5G iPhone following its settlement with Qualcomm earlier this year, which included a multiyear chipset supply agreement. Apple is working on its in-house 5G modem after acquiring Intel's intellectual property around the nascent standard, but that component won't be ready to ship for a few more years.
Rival phone makers have already launched 5G handsets, but Apple never prioritizes being first to market as long as it can be the best once it gets there. Waiting will also let the company get a better sense of 5G market conditions, according to IDC.
A redesigned chassis combined with 5G support should bolster demand, with Kuo modeling for Apple to ship 85 million of its newest iPhones in 2020, up from 75 million units of the new models in 2019.