The flagship iPhone X might not be the best-selling iPhone Apple has ever released. Numerous well-sourced reports have stated that Apple has had to slash iPhone X production on at least one occasion because sales have fallen short of expectations. It’s possible that these reports are all off base and Apple cut orders because it ramped up production so quickly last fall, but the phone’s sky-high $1,000 price tag and a tepid response to the lack of Touch ID make that seem unlikely. Even still, the response among people who have purchased the iPhone X has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve enjoyed almost everything about the phone since I bought mine last November. It’s the sleekest, fastest and most powerful iPhone Apple has ever made, and the display is absolutely stunning. Though controversial, I also came around to really like the notched screen design. I’m clearly not alone since nearly every Android phone maker on the planet is in the process of copying it.
If there’s one thing that’s bugged me about the iPhone X, it’s probably the size of the display. At 5.8 inches, the iPhone X’s screen is larger that the iPhone 8 Plus’ 5.5-inch display on paper. In reality, however, the phone has a crazy 19.5:9 aspect ratio that’s very tall and wide, so there’s actually less overall space than there is on the iPhone 8 Plus. That’s why I’m so excited about recent rumors that suggest a larger “iPhone X Plus” will be released this year. As great as an iPhone X with a large 6.5-inch OLED display sounds though, I might skip it this year and buy a different new phone.
An iPhone has been my personal phone since the very first model launched more than a decade ago in 2007. I spent about 5 minutes with that first-generation iPhone model before knowing I would ditch my time with Nokia smartphones and BlackBerry phones had come to an end. I have purchased a new flagship iPhone model each and every year since then, but 2018 may be the year that all changes.
No, I don’t plan to jump ship to Android. I’d happily switch to the Galaxy S9+ or one of the other great Android phones out there, but I’m far too entrenched in the Apple ecosystem to abandon it now. Bravo, Apple. Of course, it’s not just that — even with the current messy state of iOS 11, iOS still provides a far better user experience than Android. Add to that the wonderful integrations across all of Apple’s different product lines, and it’s far too good an experience to leave.
So, if I’m not buying a flagship “iPhone X Plus” or the updated version of the flagship 5.8-inch iPhone X, what am I going to buy? No, I have no plans to downgrade to the iPhone SE 2 Apple may or may not announce in the coming months. Instead, there’s another new iPhone model set to launch this September, and it sounds like it might be almost perfect.
The 5.8-inch iPhone X is a bit too small for me, and there’s a good chance the 6.5-inch “iPhone X Plus” is going to be too large. As is the case with Apple’s iPhone 6/6s/7/8 series phones, the base models are far too tiny and the Plus models are too unwieldy to use comfortably with one hand. Like Goldilocks, I’ve struggled to find one that’s just right. But there were three bears in that story, and in 2018 there are three new iPhones set to be released this coming September. As it turns out, the third one may end up being just right.
The world’s top Apple insider says that in addition to a 5.8-inch iPhone X successor and a new phablet version of the phone with a 6.5-inch OLED display, there will be a third new iPhone model with a 6.1-inch screen. This new middle child will supposedly be a mid-tier phone positioned somewhere in between the iPhone SE and Apple’s flagship iPhone models, whatever they end up being called. With an almost all-screen design just like the iPhone X, a 6.1-inch model could end up being the perfectly sized iPhone I’ve been hoping for ever since Apple first launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014.
Now, here’s where things get complicated. Insiders say this phone is going to be a mid-tier handset, so the specs will be dialed back a bit compared to the high-end iPhone models Apple is planning to release this year. Can I live with that? Can other longtime iPhone users who have been waiting for the perfect sized iPhone live with that?
Let’s look at the differences we think we know about so far. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s initial note about three new iPhones set to launch this year said that the mid-tier iPhone X — for lack of a better name — will have a few key downgrades. First, the 6.1-inch display will be an LCD screen rather than a newer OLED display like the one on the iPhone X. This is probably the spec that gives me pause the most. The new Samsung Display OLED panel in Apple’s iPhone X is absolutely stunning. The LCD screens on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are still great, but they don’t hold a candle to the iPhone X’s screen.
The next big difference is Kuo’s claim that the 6.1-inch iPhone won’t support 3D Touch. Honestly, I don’t care. 3D Touch is a neat feature and I actually do use it fairly often, particularly the trackpad feature on the keyboard. There are some other useful features as well. But if 3D Touch disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss it. Most other people probably wouldn’t either. Apple did a terribly job of using this nifty tech to its fullest extent, and many people don’t even remember it exists or never knew about it in the first place.
There are likely to be a few other differences between the 6.1-inch iPhone and Apple’s OLED models this year. We’ve heard rumblings that the phone will have an aluminum midframe instead of stainless steel, for example. Again, who cares? The biggest mystery is core specs — will this iPhone have less RAM than Apple’s higher-end models? Will it have an older A series processor like the iPhone SE? That might be a deal-breaker.
Beyond size, there’s another huge advantage the 6.1-inch model will have: price. According to a note to clients sent by Ming-Chi Kuo just this morning, this new iPhone model might start at just $550. That would be an incredible value, even if the phone’s specs end up being dialed back a bit. I, like many other iPhone users, am going to have to cough up a pretty penny to pay off my iPhone X when Apple’s new iPhone models launch. Since the new models are expected to launch on time in September and last year’s iPhone X launched late in November, that’s two months of payments I’ll need to make in order to upgrade to a new phone on my installment plan. I could wait until November to upgrade… but we all know that’s not going to happen.
Apple may end up striking gold with its mid-tier iPhone X successor in 2018. The size seems perfect and the price seems right. If the iPhone X’s $1,000+ price tag truly is the thing holding back many iPhone users from upgrading, we can expect a surge of upgrades come September. As for me, I’ll have some serious soul-searching to do, but 2018 may indeed be the first year I don’t buy a flagship iPhone.