When Apple uncharacteristically warned investors that its holiday-quarter earnings would miss its earlier guidance by a substantial margin, we weren’t very surprised. Something that did surprise us, however, was how quick industry watchers were to accept Apple executives’ explanation that troubles in the China market were the root cause of slower than expected iPhone sales. We have no doubt that China played a role, but there are other factors at play here. The biggest problem with Apple’s latest iPhones isn’t China, it’s Apple’s latest iPhones.
After completely reimagining the iPhone in 2017 when Apple released its tenth-anniversary iPhone X, the company followed it up with what may be the most boring new iPhone lineup in the phone’s 11-year history. For the first time since the iPhone 3GS, Apple released an “S” series that didn’t introduce a single new marquee feature. The iPhone 4S had Siri, the iPhone 5s had Touch ID, and the iPhone 6s had 3D Touch. Meanwhile, the iPhone XS featured nothing more than a slight specs bump compared to the iPhone X, and the XS Max is merely a larger version of the same phone.
Despite all that, the XS line is still Apple’s most expensive iPhone line ever, with pricing that tops out at around $1,500. That’s exactly why Apple also introduced the slightly more affordable iPhone XR, but that model also lacks anything that might resemble a compelling new feature. Instead, it’s just a dumbed down version of the iPhone XS that comes in a few shiny colours. Thankfully, however, it appears as though Apple took the hint and it plans to introduce at least one exciting new feature on the upcoming iPhone 11.
2019 is shaping up to be the most exciting year in recent history when it comes to smartphone design… if you’re an Android user. Smartphone makers large and small are finding nifty new ways to inch closer to the all-screen design people have been clamouring for. Even Samsung is finally ready to give its Galaxy S lineup a big design overhaul, and the Galaxy S10 will pack other exciting features as well, such as a new in-display fingerprint sensor and a power-sharing feature that lets users wirelessly charge accessories with their Galaxy S10 phones.
Apple, on the other hand, is expected to use the same basic iPhone design once again, for the third consecutive year. The only two changes of note that we’ve seen in iPhone 11 rumours are the possibility of a slightly smaller notch at the top of the display, and a redesigned camera cluster around back. We don’t really care much about the prospect of a smaller notch. As we’ve explained in earlier coverage, the notch really doesn’t matter and a hole-punch display isn’t any better. It’s the new camera array around back that has our interest piqued, and it looks like a key Apple supplier might have just confirmed an earlier rumour that we were really hoping was true.
In a report on Tuesday morning, Digitimes claims to have inside information from Largan Precision. Largan is a company that will be instantly recognizable to people who track Apple because it’s a key supplier of camera lenses for Apple’s iPhones and other devices. According to the report, Largan expects to reverse its recent revenue dip in the fourth quarter by up shipments of new triple-lens modules.
“Largan Precision, a major supplier of lens modules used in Apple’s smartphones, saw fourth-quarter 2018 revenues and operating profits both slip by over 20% mainly due to decreased iPhone sales worldwide, but it remains optimistic about adoption of 3-lens or more modules for flagship smartphone models and will continue expanding its production capacity,” Digitimes reporters Sammi Huang and Adam Hwang wrote.
While the report doesn’t specifically name the iPhone 11 and Largan does supply additional companies with lenses, Apple is by far Largan’s largest client. The report also notes that Largan is poised to receive an influx of orders for “3D sensing lenses,” and enhanced 3D features have been rumoured for the iPhone 11 as well. Apple had long been a leader in smartphone camera quality, but there’s no question that the company has lost its edge in recent years as rivals turned up the heat. With the iPhone 11, Apple fans are hoping that the company can at least match the overall photo quality achieved by Huawei, and perhaps also introduce something on par with the Pixel 3’s incredible Night Sight feature.