This would be my Ultimate iPhone for 2019

Now, I've written before about this and that hardware feature I'd like to see Apple grab from other manufacturers and bring over to the iPhone. And, sure, Apple has already long since made their own plans for iPhone 11 and iPhone 12, and are likely sketching out the versions after that as well. But, for this, I kinda want to do the opposite. Instead of looking out or going out, I want to turn in. I want to try to come up with what I think would be the ultimate expression of the iPhone by Apple.

And hey, if you like the idea and want to see me try and do the same with Samsung's Galaxy, Google's Pixel, Huawei's P-series, or any other phone, let me know in the comments.

Ultimate iPhone Design

Apple has gone through what I'd call three and a half or four great design waves with the iPhone.

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s (Image credit: iMore)

The first was the original, of course. Iconic bead blasted aluminum with that big black plastic cumber bun around the back to let all the radio signals out. It was followed by very similar designs for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, only with a full black tux and tails, and eventually a white one as well.

Then came the iPhone 4 and 4s, which I didn't really like when I first saw the leaks but have come to love probably the most out of any of the designs. It's just all Leica and Braun. A stainless steel band around a glass sandwich. The iPhone 5 and 5s were similar in shape but less industrial in execution, stretched out and unibodied, and, after seeing Kim Kardasian's re-anodized iPhone go viral, added a champagne gold finish the to the still very minimal mix.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus, hell, 7 and 7 Plus and 8 and 8 Plus all shared the same base external design. Taking a page from the more curved aesthetic of the then-newish iPod touch, iPad mini, and iPad Air, but carrying it forward to the front edges as well as the back. Apple also played more with color, adding rose gold and even a jet black, before settling back down to just a single, coppery gold. iPhone X and Xs, while flipping the table on almost everything else kept that same basic form. A rounded round-rect. Platonic in its ideal… but maybe also a little safe.

So, to the surprise of absolutely no one, I'd love to see what I think most of you would also love to see — not quite a return to the iPhone 4 look past, but a reimagining of it for the present.

Apple did just that with the latest iPad Pro lineup, so flat, so edgy, which is exactly why so many of us want to see it come back to the iPhone.

Give me that in silver and space gray, but throw in a product red, and that's be my ultimate design.

Ultimate iPhone Display

The story goes Steve Jobs put his original iPhone prototype in his pocket with his keys and, after seeing the resulting scratches, had Apple spin on a dime, jump on a plane to corning, and figure out how to bring Gorilla Glass to phones in a matter of weeks. Yeah, regardless which phone you use today, thanks Steve.

iPhone and HomePod

iPhone and HomePod (Image credit: iMore)

Back then, literally the biggest LCD display Apple could produce was 3.5-inches. So, that's what we go for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, 4 and 4S as well. Rumor has it Apple experimented with bigger screens in the iPhone 4 days but weren't happy with the results and considered the early OLED technology, with its monstrous Pentile sub-pixel layouts and burn in, off axis color ships, lack of uniform brightness, blue aging, and other complications kinda trash.

So, with iPhone 5 and 5s, we got a slightly taller 4-inch display and big thumb-friendly marketing campaign instead.

It wasn't until iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that Apple finally went big and bigger, with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD displays. Displays they stuck with through the 6s, 7, 8, and their plus-sized models.

OLED only came with the iPhone X. They used Samsung's industry leading process and Apple's display team mitigated and masked the hell out of them, and they not only looked terrific, the color calibration, management, and overall science Apple had developed for DCI-P3 gamuts in iPhone 6s meant that they also looked… like iPhone displays.

So much so that, since microLED isn't a shippable display technology yet, much as I wish it were otherwise, and since I'm going to try to keep this out of the realms of sci-fi and as grounded in reality as possible, I'm going to stick with OLED for my ultimate iPhone. At least until that changes.

And I'd make it that perfect, goldilocks, sweet spot display size right in the middle that Apple currently reserves for the iPhone XR — 6.1-inches.

With super silky smooth 120Hz ProMotion refresh, of course. And, yeah, Apple Pencil support. Because this is me and mine.


Apple only really got serious about iPhone cameras with the iPhone 4. Since then, though, they've done a ton of small things that add up to huge improvements, from Focus Pixels to jargon-of-the-year-award-winning deep trench isolation. I've done a whole column on this already, so I won't recapitulate it all here.

For my ultimate iPhone, though, I'd go with a four camera system on the back. Wide angle and telephoto like we got with the iPhone 7 Plus for that seamless optical zoom in, along with an ultra-wide for a just as seamless zoom out, and a time-of-flight sensor to make it as TrueDepth as the front camera has been for a while now.

If that sounds a lot like the rumors for the next couple of years anyway, so much the better.

Sure, we're in the age of computational photography and Google's shown us how much machine learning and algorithms can really bring out of a solid if single camera system. And I want all the software features too, of course.

But, I also want really great hardware for that software to build on. And, also, because I actually like shooting without all the AI assists some times as well, and Apple current telephoto actually already gives some really great, really natural bokeh, more where that came from.

Same on the front. I don't like the notch but I also don't like any of the current work around any better, be they holes, or mechanical choochers what raise and lower camera systems up and down or flip them around, tabarnak.

So, until sub-display sensors are perfected, my ultimate iPhone is keeping the notch. And throwing a second, wider angle RGB camera into the array as well. Because good selfies are good but good groupies are great.

That's right, I called them groupies. Because squadies would sound lame. Fight me in the comments.

Ultimate iPhone Security

Over the last decade and change, we've gone from passcode to Touch ID with iPhone 5s to Face ID with iPhone X. I've also already done a whole column on what I want to see here, and I'll again link it in the description, but the gist is this: I don't want any active security any more. I don't want to have to Touch ID or Face ID just to use my iPhone. What I want is a threshold system.

iPhone with Touch ID

iPhone with Touch ID (Image credit: iMore)

So, any time the camera sees me — now with an even wider-angle on the front — it captures a glance of my face. Any time I touch the display, whether it has optical or sonic imaging in one area or across the whole display, it registers a partial fingerprint. Any time I speak, Siri records a snippet of my voice ID. As I'm carrying it around, the M-series motion co-processor analyzes my gait. And, especially if it matches known locations, times, and behaviors, and senses companion devices like an Apple Watch, it just unlocks.

If that trust threshold ever falls below my preference level, sure, it challenges me for a full on face or fingerprint scan to restablish trust, the way it does with passcode now. And that can always be the ultimate fall back.

But otherwise, it just lets me do me.

And, even though I suspect the tech for this might just make it cost prohibitive for now, I kinda want it in my ultimate iPhone so much I'll bend the rules. Or keep it for an Ultimate S year if I have to.

Ultimate iPhone Radios

Wi-Fi 6, sure. 5G is still sci-fi except for a few buildings in a few cities if you stand at exactly the right spot at exactly the right angle — see Michael Fisher, The Mr Mobile's recent video — so I'll stick to the fastest Qualcomm LTE available for now for my Ultimate iPhone and also save 5G and Apple's own custom modem likewise for S years.

Ultimate iPhone Ports

I talk a lot about deleting all the ports and the buttons. So much so that people make fun of me for it. And by people, I mean Dieter.

But here's the thing, I only talk about it openly because manufacturers all talk about it secretly.

They feel like it'll cut down on mechanical failure and get us closer to real water proofing, not just resistance.

But that's all still science fiction as far as I'm concerned. Squeezable sides are still in their awkward teenage years and wireless charging and data transfer still isn't as fast or reliable, never mind as wired, but as wireless should be.

And we still can't just put out phone down on a table, without a pad, and have it charge from a universal tower a few inches away.

So, until all that is a reality, I'm going for USB-C in the port hole. It's good enough for the Mac. It's good enough for the iPad Pro. And, dammit, 8-years after the introduction of Lightning, it's good enough for my ultimate iPhone.

Ultimate iPhone Price

So, ok, price. I get it. A lot of people have seen the prices of phones go up and up over the last few years. And while cars cost more now than in the past, even food costs more now than it did before, we're just not used to that when it comes to technology. FFS, the price of tech is supposed to go down. Always and only down.

And yes, we use our phones more and for more than ever before, and we keep them for two or three or more years more often than did previously, but when we do go buy them that up front price stings.

But, pushing new technology forward, which is what flagship phones are doing these days more than any laptop or tablet, is expensive.

So, I'm wondering if there isn't a way to sort of figure that all out? Instead of making and marketing my Ultimate iPhone as a new flagship and then offering an R model underneath it with a few, carefully chosen omissions to keep down the price. I'm wondering if we can make an Edition on top of the now-normal flagship that just costs a little more.

Apple's already done just that with the Apple Watch and, because it was an Edition, it didn't cause much if any widespread anger in the marketplace. I mean, after the gold ones were pacified with extreme prejudice and the ceramic ones took their place.

So, I'm going to bundle my Ultimate iPhone, maybe with a jet black ceramic back option, I'm still knocking that around, and a pair of black AirPods and a black USB-C cable, because dark mode everything and everybody knows black is just cool and you can charge more for it, and offer it all up in an awesome Edition box.

That way, the people who always want and can afford the latest and greatest can subsidize all the regular phones for all us regular people.

And maybe the ASP — the average selling price Wall Street is obsessed with — goes up enough that even the return of a 9.7-inch iPad or iPod touch-style iPhone SE Remix can be brought back to balance it out on the ultra low end.

So that's it. My ultimate iPhone. Yeah, I didn't get into memory or storage and if we're going for an Edition, we can throw in a 1TB option and the 6 I guess GB of RAM needed to drive it at the ultra-high end.

And for battery, how about a next-generation Smart Battery… plate. Instead of a case that you put over your iPhone, it's a module you slap on the back that connects via Smart Connector, and fits so perfectly, including around the camera bump, that it looks like it's just part of the phone.

But, you can take it off when you don't need or want it and slap it back on when you do. We could even put it in that Edition box with a bow on it. But not a literal bow. You know what I mean.

Bam. I mean boom.

Ultimate iPhone. Served.

At least mine. Now I want to hear all about yours. If you got to make the iPhone of your dreams, what would it be?

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.