2018's Biggest Apple Leaks: iPhone XS and XR, iPad Pro, Macs, and More
As 2018 comes to a close, it's a great opportunity to take a look back at the year that was. Yesterday we shared our review of everything Apple announced during the year, and today we're taking a look at the rumors and leaks that gave us details on Apple's plans ahead of those announcements.
This year saw the typical iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch updates, although there were a few wrinkles thrown in with the new iPhone XR size, a redesigned iPad Pro without a Home button, and some changes to the Apple Watch with larger displays and thinner bodies.
The Mac side also saw some interesting rumors and product releases, with major improvements to the MacBook Air and the Mac mini coming alongside minor enhancements for the MacBook Pro, but unfortunately a few of Apple's Mac lines like the iMac and MacBook didn't see any updates.
Below we've rounded up some of the most interesting and notable leaks and rumors for 2018, organized by product.
2018 in Rumors
Following the September 2017 launch of the iPhone X, attention quickly turned to Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup, and usual suspect Ming-Chi Kuo was quick to outline Apple's plans for a larger 6.5-inch model and a lower-cost 6.1-inch LCD model, correctly predicting a number of details about the devices including a full-screen design with notch, rough pixel density, and general pricing range for what would become the iPhone XR.
In January, Kuo weighed in with a few more details about the iPhone XR, including its single-lens rear camera, aluminum frame, 3GB of RAM, lack of 3D Touch, and pricing. The claim of no 3D Touch was met with considerable skepticism, but it did in fact turn out to be true, with the iPhone XR offering a scaled-back Haptic Touch feature.
A month later, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman revealed that the iPhone XS Max would have a resolution of 1242x2688 and that it would be available with dual-SIM capabilities and a new gold color option. Apple itself revealed an unreleased gold version of the iPhone X that was submitted to the FCC in September 2017 and which became public in April 2018.
In early April, we also got word that a launch of (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models was imminent, and this indeed turned out to be true, with Apple offering a new mid-cycle color option to benefit a worthy cause.
Later in the month, Kuo returned to reiterate his claim that the iPhone XR would not support 3D Touch, outlining changes to the display and touch-sensing technology that led to Apple removing the feature.
By early June, we were getting a good idea of what the new iPhones would look like, with increasingly accurate design drawings and renderings surfacing, likely from third-party case manufacturers sourcing leaked information from Apple's supply chain. And in late June we learned more details about the dual-SIM functionality of the upcoming iPhones, based on one physical SIM and one eSIM.
Early July was the first time we heard the 2018 iPhone lineup could see some vibrant new colors, with Kuo claiming that the iPhone XR would come in colors such as red, blue, orange, gray, and white. And a few weeks later we got our first really good look at the front glass panels for all three 2018 iPhones, clearing showing the slightly thicker bezels on the iPhone XR compared to the iPhone XS and XS Max.
Late July was also when we started hearing more substantial rumors that the iPhone XR might launch a bit later than the rest of the 2018 lineup, and this did turn out to be the case. The iPhone XR reportedly faced some technical challenges such as LED backlight leakage, but the staggered release also gave Apple an opportunity to spread out promotion of its new phones a bit.
Physical dummy units of the new phones also started showing up by late July, giving people an opportunity to see how the new models felt in the hand. We also learned that iOS 12 had optimized apps for landscape mode on the iPhone XS Max.
A major iPhone leak came straight from Apple just a couple weeks ahead of the company's iPhone media event, when the company uploaded an image of the iPhone XS and XS Max in gold to its live streaming page for the event. The leak confirmed several rumors regarding the device, including its "iPhone XS" name. A week later, multiple sites learned that Apple was likely to use the "iPhone XS Max" name for its largest phone, while Mark Gurman indicated the LCD phone could be named "iPhone XR."
Apple wasn't done leaking its own announcements, as just ahead of its September 12 media event, the company prematurely updated the product sitemap on its website to list the new phones. The listings confirmed the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR names and also revealed the color and storage capacity options for each model.
As with the iPhone, rumors about Apple's redesigned iPad Pro kicked off in the final quarter of 2017, with Ming-Chi Kuo predicting that the device would include a TrueDepth camera system supporting Face ID. Just a month later, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman accurately described a number of other details about the iPad Pro, including slimmer bezels, a custom Apple-built GPU, Face ID, and no Home button. Gurman also correctly predicted that the iPad Pro would continue to use an LCD rather than an OLED display and that a new version of the Apple Pencil was in the works.
Following the release of iOS 12 betas starting in June, we began to see more evidence of Face ID support on iPad, with developer Steven Troughton-Smith noting that the AvatarKit framework used to drive the Animoji feature had been adapted to work on iPad.
In late July, we heard from Japanese site Mac Otakara that the updated iPad Pro would not include a headphone jack, following in the footsteps of recent iPhone models. The report also claimed the redesigned iPad Pro would include "diamond cut" edges on the front and back, and while the iPad Pro did indeed sport flatter sides and less rounded edges than on previous iPads, we didn't quite get the beveled edges of the iPhone SE, for example. The report also claimed the Smart Connector would be moving from the edge of the iPad Pro to the bottom rear, which didn't make a whole lot of sense at the time.
As the calendar flipped over to August, we saw our first sign of redesigned iPad Pro models direct from Apple, with a new low-resolution battery usage icon in the fifth iOS 12 beta depicting a device with slim bezels and no Home button. Similarly, UI masks found in the same beta indicated the iPad Pro display would likely include rounded corners similar to those found on the iPhone X.
Late August saw our first third-party case leaks for the iPad Pro showing a mysterious cutout on the rear of the device just above the Lightning port, which corresponded with rumors of a relocated Smart Connector. Speculation centered around a portrait orientation Smart Keyboard attachment, but that didn't seem to make much sense and it really wasn't until we saw the Smart Keyboard Folio unveiled at Apple's October event that we really understood how Apple intended for the new Smart Connector location to work.
In early September, Kuo issued a new report claiming the new iPad Pro would come with a USB-C port rather than a Lightning port, and that an 18-watt USB-C power adapter would be included in the box.
Early in October, 9to5Mac reported that the new Apple Pencil would feature AirPods-like proximity pairing, rather than requiring the Apple Pencil be plugged into an iPad for pairing purposes. A few days later, we saw our first claim that the new iPad Pro would be just 5.9mm thick, Apple's thinnest iPad ever. There was some uncertainty about whether this would be true of both iPad Pro sizes, but they did indeed both end up having the same thickness.
Just ahead of Apple's October 30 event, Benjamin Geskin shared details on the second-generation Apple Pencil that would ship alongside the new iPad Pro, including aspects such as the simpler design, tap and swipe gestures, and magnetic attachment and charging along the side of the iPad Pro. On the same day, a higher-resolution icon was also discovered in iOS 12 revealing the design of the iPad Pro.
Shortly before the calendar rolled over to 2018, DigiTimes claimed Apple was working on an updated 9.7-inch iPad that could come in late 2018 at a cheaper price point. The timing and pricing claims were off, but Apple was indeed working on a new iPad. The website followed up in early February with a claim that a refreshed iPad could appear as soon as the following month, and a few weeks later new iPad models received certification with the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Once Apple announced its education-focused event in Chicago for March 27, Mark Gurman confirmed that Apple would be introducing a new iPad and education-focused software at the event. That same day, Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that the new low-cost iPad would also include Apple Pencil support, which turned out to be correct.
Rumors about a new 13-inch notebook surfaced all the way back in January, with DigiTimes claiming Apple was working on a likely replacement for the MacBook Air that hadn't been updated since 2015. No other details on the machine were shared at the time, and confusion persisted all the way up until release about whether the machine would be a new MacBook Air, a MacBook, or something else, but it eventually made its debut carrying the MacBook Air name.
In January 2018, Gurman offered a vague rumor claiming that Apple was working on a trio of new Mac models that would include a custom coprocessor like the T1/T2 chips found in the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro. He didn't specify which models these would be, but the claim did end up being true with the MacBook Air, updated MacBook Pro, and Mac mini all gaining the T2 chip in 2018.
Kuo popped up again in March to claim that Apple was preparing a cheaper MacBook Air for launch in the second quarter of the year. It was the first time we'd heard about the new notebook being an updated MacBook Air, and while the timing was a bit off and it certainly wasn't cheaper than the previous model, the new machine was definitely in the works. DigiTimes followed up a few days later with its claim that the new MacBook Air would include a Retina display, which was welcome but expected news.
By late April, we started hearing better information on the timing of the new MacBook Air, with DigiTimes claiming it was pushed back to the second half of the year, tempering hopes that it might appear at WWDC in June. Reports in mid-August said we should expect a launch around the end of the third quarter, which would put it at the end of September, and we ended up getting it almost exactly a month later than that.
It wasn't until the latter part of August that we got our first word of a redesigned Mac mini from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. He didn't have much detail to offer at the time, although he said it would be focused on pro users with storage and processor options that would likely push the price higher.
By early September, we heard from Ming-Chi Kuo that the new MacBook Air would include Touch ID support, although it would not have the full Touch Bar seen on the MacBook Pro.
Late March was the first time we heard anything substantial about the Apple Watch Series 4, with Ming-Chi Kuo revealing that the new models would include 15 percent larger displays, although at the time it wasn't clear whether that would come from smaller bezels or a larger body, and it eventually turned out to be a bit of both.
The same late August leak straight from Apple that gave us a look at the iPhone XS and XS Max also revealed the new Apple Watch Series 4, showing off a gold stainless steel body, a new red ring for the Digital Crown, a larger edge-to-edge display, and a new Infograph watch face. Subsequently, it was discovered in the watchOS beta that the larger Series 4 model would carry a 384x480 display, a significant increase from the previous 312x390 resolution.
Apple's premature update of its website sitemap just ahead of its September 12 event revealed that the casing sizes for the Apple Watch would be increasing by 2mm each, as well as various finish and band options.
Following a number of performance and quality issues with iOS 11, Apple took a step back in 2018, with Axios' Ina Fried reporting in January that Apple would be delaying some changes originally intended for iOS 12, including a Home screen refresh, CarPlay enhancements, Mail app improvements, and various photo-related updates. By pushing those features back to iOS 13 in 2019, Apple hoped to put more emphasis on stability and bug fixes for iOS 12 while also improving responsiveness and speed. Mark Gurman quickly followed up on Fried's report to claim that the feature delay also extended to macOS, although to a lesser degree.
In February, Gurman revealed that iOS 12 would bring Animoji to FaceTime and that the update would bring deeper Siri integration, improved Do Not Disturb options, and a redesigned Stocks app. And just a few days before WWDC, Gurman shared his expectations that the conference would focus on software news like digital health tools in iOS 12, ARKit 2, and more, with hardware news coming separately later in the year.
In late May, we found evidence of recent trademark activity from Apple surrounding several potential macOS names, with the greatest amount of activity surrounding the name "Mojave." Apple itself was responsible for a major macOS leak just a week later, prematurely publishing a brief Xcode 10 video on its Mac App Store servers. The video revealed dark mode, an Apple News app for Mac, and a desert desktop background supporting the possibility of macOS 10.14 being named Mojave.
In what was undoubtedly the most ironic and amusing leak of 2018, an internal Apple memo cautioning employees against leaking information to the media was itself leaked in full. The memo specifically mentioned several previous leaks including the iOS 11 gold master, with Apple noting that the employee responsible for the leak was identified and fired. Apple also highlighted the fact that employee leakers can not only lose their jobs but also be subjected to criminal prosecution. The company said it caught 29 leakers in 2017 among its employees, contractors, and supply chain partners, with 12 of those individuals being arrested.
In early May, we saw our first leak regarding an Apple-designed 18-watt USB-C power adapter to support faster charging of iOS devices. There was confusion as to whether it would ship in the box with this year's iPhones, and while that did not turn out to be the case, it did ship with the new iPad Pro models with Apple starting to sell it on a standalone basis a few weeks later. We got our first look at an actual prototype version of the adapter in early July.
2019 should once again be a busy year for Apple and we'll have more to say on that next week, but at a minimum there are still a number of rumors from 2018 that are carrying over into the new year – everything from the ongoing AirPower and AirPods saga to rumored over-ear headphones, Apple's promised revamped Mac Pro, and much more.