(CBS Local) – Go big or go cheap? That is the existential question Apple may tackle in 2018.

Apple is said to be tinkering with its 2018 iPhone lineup in an effort to goose adoption of the three models released in 2017 and three new ones reportedly coming later this year. The ultrapricey iPhone X may have dissuaded some Apple fans from upgrading — starting at $999, £999 or AU$1,579, it’s the most expensive iPhone ever — while the incremental refinements of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may have lacked sufficient oomph to drive the masses into upgrading. (Some survey data suggests that more people are buying the iPhone 8 than the iPhone X, however.)

Since the iPhone X debuted last November, there have been reports that Apple is developing at least three new models of varying sizes, including two jumbo versions based on the current flagship. In addition to new bodies and features, Apple is likely to give the next iPhone many of the annual enhancements we’ve come to expect — new build materials and colors, a bump in processing speeds, higher screen resolution and tweaks to extend battery life. (There has also been a recent proliferation of rumors about a 2018 release for the long-awaited followup to the iPhone SE.)

iPhone X

CNET

Meanwhile, the Android world is tying itself in knots to emulate the iPhone X. Two of the Galaxy S9’s marquee features — AR emoji and Intelligent Scan — are Samsung-ized versions of the iPhone’s animojis and Face ID that just don’t measure up to the originals.

OnePlus, Asus, LG, Huawei and others have announced or are rumored to be working on phones that ape the the distinctive notch design that Apple popularized (but that the Essential Phone originated). And Huawei has already improved on the notch concept with its P20, which gives you the option to toggle it on and off.

With the Android world making strides in camera technology and other fronts, Apple can’t rest on its laurels. The billion dollar questions is whether the company can take an emerging technology — AR, for example — and turn it into a must-have feature for the next iPhone.

Though we’re likely five months out from seeing the next iPhone, the rumor mill is already creating a compelling picture of what’s to come. We’ll continue to update this page with news and leaks as we begin our countdown to the 2018 Apple iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone X2, iPhone 11 or whatever the next generation may be called.

Likely: September 2018 announcement and release date

Apple hasn’t officially announced when we’ll see the next phone. But the timing for this annual ritual has now hardened into a reliable tradition. After launching the first few iPhones in June, Apple shifted to the back-to-school timeframe with the iPhone 5 in 2012 and, apart from the off-cycle iPhone SE, has stuck to it since. No reason to expect this to change in 2018.

Rumor: It could be called the iPhone 11, iPhone X Plus, or the iPhone X2

No consensus on this issue yet. According to some analysts, Apple may revert to its “S” series nomenclature, giving us an iPhone XS (perhaps a fitting homophone to “excess”) and XS Plus or perhaps the numeric equivalent, with the X2.

That noted, there are some very rich design opportunities with the two ones of an iPhone 11. And then there’s the possibility of Apple doing away with numbers entirely — at least for the lower-end, non-X model — similar to the company’s approach with its entry-level tablet, which is now just the “new iPad” every year. Regardless, we do believe that Apple effectively killed the iPhone 9 when it brought out the iPhone X alongside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in September.

Rumor: Three rear lenses

One of the new 2018 iPhone models could have a rear-facing camera with a triple-lens array, according to the Chinese language Economic Daily News (as reported by MacRumors). The article suggests that such a camera would enhance the iPhone’s rear zoom capacity and improve picture quality in dim light environments. Note that Huawei’s new P20 Pro comes equipped with a triple lens rear-facing camera.

Rumor: A bigger iPhone

Bloomberg reports that Apple has developed two new supersize iPhones: a 6.5-inch OLED model — which would be the biggest iPhone ever — and a 6.1-inch LCD version. There is also talk that Apple might drop the current 5.8-inch size for the iPhone X, based on its reportedly diminishing orders for OLED components. Previously, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo speculated that the company would release three models in 2018 based on the design of the today’s full-screen flagship.

Rumor: A cheaper iPhone

Kuo predicts that Apple may launch a single SIM version that costs between $550 and $650 (which converts to about £390-£460 or AU$710-AU$840) and another dual-SIM model, priced between $650 to $750 (about £460-£530 or AU$840-AU$970). And sure, in order to make a 6.1-inch model that’s more affordable than anything in the current lineup, Apple could omit some of the pricier components including Face ID, the OLED display, 3D Touch and the second rear camera. But when it comes to a $550 iPhone X — we have our doubts.

Rumor: A pricier iPhone

Of course, every rumor has its equal and opposite rumor. Investment analysts at UBS have predicted that Apple’s flagship iPhone for 2018 will cost $1,100 (which converts to about £770 or AU$1,415). That’s about $100 over the iPhone X’s starting $999 price tag.

Rumor: Face ID everywhere

Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that Apple will bring its TrueDepth camera system to all three phones coming in 2018. (According to the Chinese language Economic Daily News via MacRumors, Face ID may also make its way into the next batch of iPads rumored for a WWDC announcement later this year.) With facial recognition technology fully deployed across the 2018 iPhone lineup, Apple could omit the fingerprint sensor from the next batch of phones, according to Kuo, which might mean the end of the line for Touch ID.

Rumor: iPhone support for the Apple Pencil or iPen

And OLED iPhone due out in 2018 will support an “iPen” device, according to investment firm Rosenblatt Securities. Of course, this rumor — an iPhone that supports the Apple Pencil — has been around since the stylus first debuted in 2015. And yet the new 2018 iPad’s addition of Apple Pencil functionality gives this old chestnut some new life.

Long shot rumor: Virtual fingerprint scanner

While Face ID has largely mitigated the need for a fingerprint scanner, the buzz around Touch ID embedded in the display — a trusty pillar of the rumor cycle since the run-up to the iPhone 8 — persists. And for good reason: we’ve seen the technology implemented. It’s called Clear ID and it’s featured in the Vivo X20 Plus UD that went on sale in China in January. But since reverting to any sort of fingerprint sensor would be an “admission” that Face ID isn’t the future, we think its return is a real long shot.

Rumor: iOS 12 to focus on performance over big new features

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, likely to be called iOS 12, may emphasize code quality over new features and the release date of the next batch of iPhones. According to Bloomberg, the company has given developers more discretion to hold back new features that aren’t quite ready when the next iPhone is unveiled in the fall. We’ll find out more about this rumored cultural shift and its implications at WWDC, which is likely to happen in June.

[H/T CNET]

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