Sure, the iPhone 7 only launched in September – but things move quickly in the world of Apple.
In fact, judging by prior form and industry sources, production and development of the next Cupertino flagship is well underway.
There’s no better time than the present, then, to pore over the raft of rumours, leaks and speculation flying around about the next-gen iPhone.
What’s in store? Well, as ever, it’s tough to make concrete predictions about what the iPhone 8 – or, perhaps, the iPhone 7s – will offer Apple fans until we see more solid evidence, leaked or otherwise.
That said, with 2017 being the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone, if you believe the hype, something big could well be on the cards. Read on to find out more.
WHAT WE KNOW
>>> It’ll (probably) be all-glass
It’s very early days, but there are already several shreds of evidence to suggest that 2017’s iPhone will be an all-glass affair. Okay, so it’ll probably still have a metal frame around its midriff but, whether to differentiate itself from the ever-growing pack of smartphone slabs or to do something special for the iPhone’s 10th birthday, several sources are pointing to a glass front-and-back design.
If you’re wondering whether that’ll be really rather risky, well, it’ll probably be properly tough glass, too. It’s long been suggested that Apple might stick the sapphire crystal of its Watch on an iPhone – but that might be prohibitively expensive. A more reasonable option could well be to sheath it in Phire, a new, scratch resistant material being developed by Gorilla Glass makers Corning.
>>> It might have a curved AMOLED display
Every time a new iPhone comes up for discussion, it’s inevitable that speculation about its screen will be near the top of the list. What size, what shape, what spec: all hot topics amongst industry sources and rumour-mongers – and that’s as much the case with the next iPhone.
There’s growing evidence that the 2017 iPhone will feature a display that’s curved in some way – whether at the edges or entirely. Yes, we’ve heard it before and, yes, we’re reluctant to put ourselves out there without more than a patent to go on – but, that said, given the success of Samsung’s Edge hardware, now could well be the time for Apple to go bendy.
On the other hand, some have suggested, based on early evidence and the presence of the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro, that secondary displays on the device’s edge are as likely as a curved screen. We’re now expecting one single display, which is split into two “parts” through software – a 5.15in main screen, and a smaller secondary “function area” beneath it. The screen itself will be around 5.8in, but have much slimmer bezels than the ones we’re used to seeing on an iPhone.
What’s more, more than one source has suggested we’ll see Apple move from its current LCD tech to some form of OLED for its display – whether to facilitate something flexible, or to counteract the added weight of the all-glass body.
>>> It’ll be seriously expensive
As if Apple’s steadily rising prices haven’t already added up so that every new iPhone makes a bigger dent on your bank balance, the iPhone 8 could be the most expensive one yet. Reports suggesting the AMOLED screens Apple will be using cost more to produce than the iPhone 7’s LCD display probably mean Apple will be passing that increase on to its customers.
It’s all down to Apple wanting to use 3D Touch with AMOLED, which is proving trickier to do than with LCD. That could bump the cost well over US$1000 when the phone eventually arrives.
>>> It’ll charge wirelessly
More than one source has pointed towards the long-awaited wireless charging smarts finally arriving with next year’s iPhone. In fact, there’s evidence that Apple has been puzzling over how to achieve wireless charging at greater distances than the current haul of docks and mats permits. With limited NFC – largely for Apple Pay – introduced on the iPhone 6, many believe it’s high time for Apple to ship its flagship with wire-free charging. We’d have to agree.
>>> It might ditch the home button
If several key sources are to be believed, the next iPhone will do to the home button what the iPhone 7 did to the headphone jack. Apple went halfway with the 7, ditching the actual button aspect of its home button in favour of a sapphire glass circle with taptic feedback. Now, there’s mounting evidence to suggest Apple will be scrapping it altogether.
How would that work? Well, a patent has surfaced – yes, one of those again – for a fingerprint scanner built-in to the actual glass, something that’s already been partially demonstrated by Chinese mobile manufacturer Xiaomi, which would do away with the need for a home button. This would fit with the all-glass rumours, as well as suggestions that the bezels on the new iPhone will be far smaller – though it would also require an iOS re-design to add a digital home button.
The latest reports suggest a “function area” in place of the Touch ID home button, which would hold virtual buttons and interactive icons – a lot like the Touch Bar on the latest MacBook Pro. This wouldn’t be a separate display, like it is on the MacBook or on HTC’s U Ultra, but a part of the main screen.
>>> It’ll be picky about its camera lenses
There’s no word yet on the actual tech that’ll go into the next iPhone’s camera, but it has been suggested by more than one industry expert – most notably Ming-Chi Kuo – that the next iPhone edition will keep its dual-camera tech for the premium Plus model, rather than sharing its smarts across the range. Boo.
>>> It’ll come in new colours
Perhaps less revelatory than some of the other rumours circulating, there’s a suggestion that the new iPhone will come in at least two new colours – red and blue. OK, it’s hardly ground-breaking, but it is a departure from the muted tones usually associated with Apple’s flagships – and it’s something that was signalled, perhaps, by the Jet Black iPhone 7. Will we see a 5c rivalling colour line-up? Probably not, but it would be nice to see Apple affording its customers the luxury of a little more choice.
>>> It might come in three models
A 4.7in device, a 5in device and a 5.5in device, according to some. That line-up would fit well with an upgrade to the iPhone SE, alongside either an iPhone 8 and an iPhone 8 Plus.
The latest theory suggests Apple will go big on the display, but slim down the bezels, effectively making a phone with the same screen space as an iPhone 7 Plus, but the same physical size as the iPhone 7. There would be no need for a larger phone to launch alongside it, so the next iPhone could arrive as a single, one-size-fits-all handset.
>>> It might be the iPhone 7s
You might have noticed that we’re being a little coy about what to call the next iPhone. That’s because no-one’s sure whether it will be the 7s or the 8. Apple has in recent years followed a fairly linear strategy of releasing a full upgrade one year, followed by an ‘S’ upgrade the next. Why would it break that cycle? Well, because of that 10-year anniversary. Would the Cupertino company really ship a marginally upgraded iPhone 7s on this grand occasion? Our heads say maybe – our hearts hope otherwise.
ALL THE LATEST NEWS
Wondering what our sources are? Well, you can put down the ketchup: here’s every story, rumour, leak and speculation we’ve spotted in the wild over the last few months.
> 15 March 2017
Parts supplier TPK Holding has revealed (via 9to5Mac) the cost of each AMOLED screen being used for the upcoming anniversary edition phone – and it’s more than Apple currently pays for its LCD displays. Rather than paying £6 per screen for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8’s screen will cost twice the price. That will almost definitely mean a price bump for customers once the phone arrives. Expect the next iPhone to be seriously expensive.
> 17 February 2017
9to5Mac reports that KGI research analyst (and source of accurate leaks in the past) Ming-Chi Kuo has the latest info on the next iPhone’s screen. Apparently it’ll use a 5.8in OLED display, but with significantly slimmer bezels than previous phones. That means it can squeeze a much bigger display into a phone the same size as the current iPhone 7.
The actual display area will be around 5.15in, because the bottom part of the screen will be dedicated to a “function area”, that replaces the physical home button with an interactive control panel – a lot like the current MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.
> 8 December 2016
TechRadar picks up a report by Japanese blog Mac Otakara that the iPhone 8 – or, possibly, the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus – might well come in a red colour option as well as, possibly, a new Deep Blue.
> 8 December 2016
SlashGear reports that the 2017 iPhones may, in fact, be the 7s and 7s Plus, according to Apple’s Taiwanese suppliers. It suggests that the only significant detail to change on next year’s models will be the processor, whilst the raft of major upgrades for the iPhone 8 will be delayed until 2018.
> 7 December 2016
Bloomberg reports that Foxconn – long-time assembler of Apple products – has confirmed plans for investment and expansion in the US.
> 28 November 2016
The Wall Street Journal publishes a story claiming that Apple is working on as many as 10 prototypes for its next handset. The biggest revelation? That at least one of the pre-production models carries a curved screen.
The story also claims that Apple’s suppliers have been tasked with producing more OLED displays and screens with higher resolutions than those of arch rival Samsung.
> 23 November 2016
The New York Times publishes a transcript of a phone conversation with Donald Trump, in which he suggests he might persuade Apple to move production of future products – apparently including the iPhone 8 – to factories in the United States.
> 26 October 2016
Nikkei Asian Review publishes another article, this time suggesting that three iPhone models will be launched in 2017: a 4.7in device, a 5in device and 5.5in device. What’s more, the story builds on rumours that the new iPhones wil carry backs made of glass, manufactured by a Chinese company, in a move away from the present metal shells.
> 11 October 2016
A second United States Patent surfaces detailing an Apple patent for a “display-integrated light sensor” that “can be implemented as an ambient light sensor or a proximity sensor”.
> 4 October 2016
United States Patent is granted to Apple for “a capacitive fingerprint sensor” that’s “formed within the dielectric structure.”
> 28 September 2016
Trusted Reviews publishes a story exploring the possibility that Apple will implement an in-screen fingerprint scanner on the all-glass iPhone 8. The suggestion is based on tech already in use by Chinese mobile maker Xiaomi, with the implication that Apple might utilise an ultrasonic scanner, without a home button or indent.
> 12 September 2016
9to5Mac quotes statements by industry insider Ming-Chi Kuo that iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-camera tech will remain exclusive to Apple’s premium iPhone models, citing a need to keep costs down and retain an incentive for buyers to opt for the more expensive Plus.
> 09 August 2016
Patently Apple reports that Apple has been granted a patent for a curved display, with plans suggesting the presence of displays of some sort on the phone’s edge.
> 20 May 2016
Nikkei Asian Review shares a story detailing claims by Allen Horng, chairman and chief exec of Catcher Technology (a supplier to Apple), that one iPhone model next year will adopt a glass casing – though it will reportedly still have a metal frame surround.
> 23 April 2016
Storm.mg suggests the iPhone 7 might scrap the home button altogether, in favour of an inductive design.
> 17 April 2016
MacRumours picks up a report by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting that Apple’s 2017 devices will ditch their present aluminium casings in favour of something new – most likely glass. Why? Kuo suggests it’s in order to “enhance the competitiveness” of the iPhone in a market dominated by metal-skinned smartphones.
Kuo further suggests that lightweight AMOLED displays may be implemented on the next generation Apple mobiles, in part to compensate for the heavier glass components.
> 28 January 2016
Bloomberg reports that Apple is developing wireless charging for its iPhones and that the cable-free tech could be seen on its smartphones as soon as 2017. According to the story, Apple is researching technologies to allow phones to charge at further distances than those offered by charging mats at the moment.