iPhone 11 XR (2019): Rumor analysis

You know the iPhone XR? The one biz pubs like the Wall Street Journal insisted on calling « struggling » but then turned out to be best-sellers for reasons obvious to pretty much everyone else on the planet? Yeah, that one.

Well, big surprise, it looks like Apple’s less expensive, more colorful iPhone will be getting a sequel. iPhone 11R? iPhone XR2? We won’t know for sure until Tim Cook or Phil Schiller announces it this September on the big, annual iPhone event stage.

But, we’re already getting a bunch of rumors, enough to sort of squint and tilt our heads, and get a fuzzy picture of what’ll be coming our way this fall.

iPhone 11 R: The Design

By most accounts, with a couple of huge exceptions, I’ll get to in a bit, the 2019 iPhones in general and the 2019 R-model in specific will be keeping the same design as the 2018 iPhones, based on the radical redesign of the 2017 iPhone X.

That includes the same edge-to-rounded edge LCD Liquid Retina display, the everything slimmed are relatively big again bezels, and the notch.

So, if you were waiting for another all-new design, you’ll have to keep waiting. Not that it’s entirely unexpected. After many years of every second year redesigns, Apple kept the the general iPhone 6 look through the 6s, 7, and 8. That’s four generations and this design will only be entering year number 3.

Sizes will remain the same as well, according to Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors, with 5.8-inches and 6.5-inches for the iPhones 11 and 11 Max, and 6.1-inches for the just-right iPhone 11 R.

Since Apple long ago established new colors are almost as effective as new designs, it looks like they’ll be once again adding some new hues to the iPhone palette.

According to Mac Otakara, those new colors are a lime green and lavender purple, taking the place of last year’s blue and coral orange. White, black, yellow, and product red will be sticking around. So, if you put both years together, you’ll have the complete six color rainbow.

Mark Gurman tweeted what appear to be some fragments of the back glass, but it’s hard to tell what they’d look on the actual device, though a bunch of different renders are now floating around, trying to figure that out.

Also, according to Kuo via MacRumors, the glass will be frosted this year to help freshed up the look, though it’s unclear of that’s just for the iPhone 11 and 11 Max, or for the 11 R as well.

As much as the Hulk-colored iPhone could be cool, I’ve been waiting years for a Mace Windu lightsaber-style purple. I don’t know if lavender will do it, because it’ll depend on both the metallic aluminum band finish and the exact shade of the multilayer glass, frosted or not, but I’m super eager to find out.

Water resistance will remain IP68, according to Kuo, via MacRumors

iPhone 11 R: The Cameras

The front-facing TrueDepth camera system is reportedly getting an upgrade this year, according to Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors, with the RGB sensor going from 7mp on the current models to 12mp on the 2019 models.

That includes, also via MacRumors, a new, more powerful flood illuminator, which should reduce the impact of infrared light, thereby increasing reliability.

The rear camera on the 11 R, according to both The Wall Street Journal and Kuo, via MacRumors, will go from single camera to double cameras. That’ll almost certainly be a wide angle and a telephoto, like the current iPhone XS and XS Max, which means 2x optical zoom and the double camera, telephoto-centric version of portrait mode.

Which… is kind of a mixed blessing, since I really liked the more computationally heavy portrait mode on the XR’s wide angle camera. Maybe Apple could figure out how to let us use both on all the new iPhones?

The bigger and more controversial change is in the camera bump that’ll be housing the new system. Just like the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Max, rumored to have three equilateral cameras, the dual camera on the iPhone 11 R is rumored to be mounted on a big old squircle bump.

Steve Hemmerstoffer, @OnLeaks on Twitter, and Pricebaba have posted a bunch of renders showing what the configuration could look like, with the two lenses aligned left and the flash and mic offset down on the right.

There have also been several dummy models posted which show much the same.

I’ve said before it looks all shades of fugly. One the 11 R specifically, like the surprise emoji. But I’ll reserve final judgment for the final product.

iPhone 11 R: The internals

If Apple sticks to its previous pattern, the iPhones 11 will feature the next-generation Apple A13 system-on-a-chip. Fabbed on TSMC’s 7nm+ process, it should be lightning fast. But, no specific details yet on processor, graphics, and neural engine cores, or any other surprises that might be inside.

Also, 4 GB of memory could be in the cards for the new XR, according to Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors, bringing it up to par with the current XS and XS Max.

No 5G. Not for iPhone 11 R. Not for iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Max. Not this year. And, given how immature and poorly deployed 5G is going to be this year, that matters not very much to not at all. With the recent Apple vs. Qualcomm settlement, though, things are looking good for the 2020 models.

According to Barclays’ via MacRumors, though, the existing LTE radio will get a boost courtesy of a 4×4 MIMO — multi-in, multi-out quad-antenna system. Like the current iPhone XS and XS Max, which already sporty 4×4, that should, forgive the cliche, result in more bars for more people in more places.

Barclays also says Wi-Fi 6, the next generation wireless standard previously known as 802.11 will also be onboard.

According to Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors, the iPhone 11, 11 Max, and maybe the 11 R will have Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) for indoor positioning and navigation. Think of it like GPS but for inside instead of outside, or as another, more standardized attempt to make something iBeacon-like work at scale.

The iPhone XR is already a battery champ, with its bigger physical size, lower pixel count, and hyper-efficient silicon conspiring to provide a day or more of power. Which is good because, unlike the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Max, the iPhone 11 R isn’t expected to get as big a battery boost this year. Between 0 and 5%, according to Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors.

Also according to Kuo, also via MacRumors, it’s possible the 11 R will be getting bilateral wireless charging. That means instead of just charging inductively, it’ll be able to charge other devices inductively as well. It’s possible Apple could reserve that feature for just the higher end iPhones but it’s so convenient it’d be great to have it on all of them.

Android phones have had that feature for a year or more already, and while it doesn’t work very well on other phones — too much draw for too short a time to provide much if any useful charge — for smaller, lower capacity items like AirPods, it should be great.

The Lightning port still isn’t going anywhere or just going away, so still no USB-C on the body. But, it’s again being rumored that Apple will swap out the Lightning to USB-A cable for a Lightning to USB-C cable, and beef up the charger to 18 watts.

iPhone 11 R: The Competition

Unlike the original, the new iPhone XR will be entering a world with the Samsung Galaxy 10e, which packs a ton of tech into a lower cost package, the Google Pixel 3a, which keeps the same great camera app, if not so great silicon, but at less than half the price of almost any modern flagship, and the just-announced OnePlus 7 Pro, which amps up the screen, if not the camera.

The point being, everyone is trying to figure out which features they can’t and can compromise on to make a compelling phone at an even more compelling price.

For me it’s both camera and chipset. So we’ll see how close the 11 R gets to that goal.

iPhone 11 R: The Release

For the last many years, Apple has announced new iPhones in early September. This year that’d be on or around September 9. Last year, iPhone XR shipped a little later than usual, in October rather than late September. The year before, the iPhone X shipped even later. Now that Apple’s used to shipping three phones in one year, though, it’s possible everything will just ship all at once again.

That, and pretty much every other final detail about it, we’ll have to wait for the event to find out, for Tim Cook to hand off to Phil Schiller, and for everything to hit the stage and screen.

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