iPhone XX Futurology

Thinking about a 20th Anniversary Apple iPhone

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything” –Steve Jobs

Earlier this month, Tim Cook stood in the new Steve Jobs Theater and unveiled the brand new iPhone X, the first major rethinking of the iPhone since its debut ten years earlier. Until the iPhone X, every previous iteration had a home button under a sharp-cornered rectangular screen. The new iPhone X ditches the home button and has an OLED screen with distinctly rounded corners and a brand new way of navigating in and out of running apps. At the top of the phone is an array of new sensors and components no iPhone has ever had, allowing for a broad new range of interactions including Face ID unlocking and facial gesture recognition.

But First, On Flying Cars And Holograms

This is not a sci-fi article. The iPhone of 2007 and the iPhone of 2017 look generally similar to one another, so let’s talk about some off-the-wall futuristic iPhone ideas and why I don’t believe we’ll be seeing them in 2027.

The Shape and Display

The iPhone X is clearly not the ideal, finalized state of a handheld computing device. The large and protruding cut-out at the top of the screen is showcased by Apple as a marvel of sensors and face-tracking mechanics only because it’s what Apple chose to do in 2017. If they could have slipped all those sensors and cameras below the screen in some magical way they probably would have. The notch was somewhere between Plan B and Plan E.

  • 5.8" OLED HDR display
  • 2436-by-1125-pixel resolution at 458 ppi
  • 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
  • True Tone display with P3 Wide color
  • 625 cd/m2 max brightness

iPhone XX Display Prediction

Notch-free ~5.5–6.5" OLED HDR with rounded corners, 450–550ppi at 3x, Pro Motion, 800–1200 cd/m2 brightness

The Cameras and Sensors

Since 2007, smartphone cameras have primarily been used for taking photographs and then sharing those photos with family and friends. Hell, since the 1800s when film photography was invented, this is what cameras were used for.

An example of the camera module offerings from LinX
From a Faceshift technology demo showing their advanced motion capture solution.
  • 3+ rear cameras of varying focal lengths
  • 2+ front cameras of varying focal lengths, hidden behind the display
  • 3D object sensors on the rear of the iPhone
  • 3D object sensors on the front of the iPhone, hidden behind the display
  • Making the iPhone aware of its surroundings with always-on cameras continuously scanning, mapping and tracking objects in 3D space that are near the iPhone
  • Eye-tracking that allows for software anticipation, making facets of a software interface be guided completely by gaze (Apple acquired SensoMotoric Instruments earlier in 2017, a world-leader in eye-tracking technologies.)
  • Biometric and health information derived from camera data of a user’s face (what’s my pulse, etc.)
  • Advanced image-manipulation algorithms that make sure FaceTime calls always show your eyes looking at the other person
  • Machine learning advances allowing for instant counting of objects near the iPhone (how many people are in this classroom, how many cars are between me and the stop light, how many pencils are on the table, how many shirts are folded in my closet, etc.)
  • Instant measuring of object and space dimensions without the need for gimmicky AR rulers (how long is that wall, how wide is that opening, how tall is that lamp, etc.)
From Magic Leap, showing what is possible with their technology

iPhone XX Camera and Sensors Prediction

3+ rear cameras of varying focal lengths, 2+ front cameras of varying focal lengths (behind the display), front and rear 3D object sensors, advanced eye-tracking capabilities, futuristic software to stitch data from cameras and sensors into an augmented reality world, turning the iPhone into a seamless digital lens.

The Battery and Internal Components

In many ways, guessing at the internal components of an iPhone from 2027 is easier than guessing at the larger software advances or reading the tea leaves of patent disclosures. Here’s the only statement in this piece that’s guaranteed to be true: the processing power will be dramatically greater and the battery capacity will be higher in the iPhone XX. Why? Because of the inevitable march of technological progress.

Battery and Internal Components Prediction

5,000–6,000 mAh laminar battery with an extraordinarily compact and terraced layout, ~A20 CPU with 8–10 mixed performance cores, ~800–1000x more powerful than the original iPhone, same chip may also be in a variety of Macs once macOS can run on ARM

Final Thoughts on iPhone XX

The purest state of a handheld mobile computing device is simply a screen that fits nicely into your hand that you can flick comfortably with your thumb.



Product designer, digital artist, optimist ✨

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