New iPhone: The mystery at the centre of Apple's 2018 handset

Why don't we know anything about it? There's two reasons – one more exciting than the other

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 23 August 2018 14:37 BST
iPhone X: Review with David Phelan

It's the big one. It's also, this time, the mostly mysterious one.

Apple's iPhone event is coming, marking the highlight of the company's year. It's an event that's known about for years in advance, and on which billions of dollars as well as the happiness and wallets of hundreds of millions of people depend.

But this year it remains a mostly secretive event. Very little is known about the new phones, or anything else that is due for release at the event.

We know there'll probably be a new phone – or, rather, three new phones of varying price and size. We know there'll also be a lot of other stuff, such as the Apple Watch, new accessories and maybe even some new computers.

We also know that everything will probably be revealed in the second week of September. If previous years are anything to go by, it will probably be revealed sometime around 12 September and be on shelves (or at the end of queues) a couple of weeks after that.

But what will they actually show off? What will the new phone be, and how will it be different from the old one?

That's something we don't know. Very little indeed has been leaked about the new handset, and it is as a consequence shrouded in mystery.

There are probably two main reasons for that mystery. The first is that leaks are happening less, the second is that there isn't all that much to say.

Apple has certainly tried to crack down on leaks, apparently because it has realised that it can spoil launches and undermine the interest in new products. It said – in a leaked memo – that staff had already cracked down on people giving out information, and that crackdown would continue.

That effort seems to be paying off. What leaks there are have appeared to have come from sources at much more of a distance, and so are either spurious, vague or some combination of the two.

But there might also be less interest in actually leaking. Apple's new phone line-up is set to be intriguing – with its three phones, all of the iPhone X shape – but it will mostly function like the "S" year of the phones, which tend to feature a whole host of upgrades.

What's more, perhaps the most interesting part of Apple's line-up this year is what it is called and how much it costs. The naming will be intriguing because Apple's current scheme doesn't seem to lend itself to updating (8s? Xs? XI?) and the pricing will be a challenge because Apple tends will be offering a cheaper version of the X that could reduce the overall price.

But both of those decisions are made within Apple, at the highest levels, and so are unlikely to leak; even if they did, Apple could change their mind anytime before the keynote presentation.

In the end, the secrecy is likely to be a combination of both: there's very little to leak, and people are leaking very little.

The same mystery hung over the WWDC event, held in June, where Apple showed off software including the operating system that will power the new iPhones. But that was less surprising, since software tends to stay more secret than hardware, which is in danger as soon as it leaves Apple's care.

The secrecy is a marked change from last year. Ahead of the iPhone 8 and X, Apple accidentally uploaded a whole host of files to its website that showed off just about everything on the phone – not only what it looked like, but how it worked and what features it would have.

That meant that the iPhone X event was predicted almost entirely in advance, with fans and customers watching on only to find out when the phone would be out, how much it would cost, and if anyone had happened to have made a mistake.

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