If you're disappointed in what the iPhone 7 has to offer, and you're hoping to see more substantial update this year, your patience could soon be rewarded. Apple just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its original iPhone, and it could mark the occasion with some big changes to its smartphone — at least to one of the models it offers.
iPhone 8 Concept by TechconfigurationsBased on the rumors we heard since last fall, there are plenty of reasons to be excited by the next iPhone. It will reportedly feature a completely new design with an all-glass enclosure, an OLED display (finally), a revamped Touch ID feature, wireless charging and — perhaps — support for the Smart Connector currently found on the iPad Pro lineup.
And that's just part of it. Here's everything you need to know about the iPhone 8 and what you can expect.
Latest News and Rumors (Updated Jan. 19)
• There's been chatter about wireless charging coming to the iPhone ever since rumors circulated about the new model getting an all-glass design. The latest evidence that wireless charging will come to the iPhone 8 involves a parts supplier signing on to provide Apple with a component that will help with fast wireless charging.
• As many analysts expect Apple to offer three iPhone models this year — two that offer modest improvements on the current 4.7- and 5.5-inch versions and a third larger iPhone that introduces more substantial changes like an OLED screen — a new report contends the iPhone 8 will have a wraparound screen. That same report from Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri also suggests the next iPhone will a laser sensor that will add facial and gesture recognition capabilities to the device.
Release Date: When Does the iPhone 8 Arrive?
Right now, expect Apple to stick to its usual release schedule: a September press event, followed by the release of the phone a week or so later. Apple could throw us a curve ball here — 2017 will be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone’s debut, after all, and that first iPhone hit the market in June 2007.
There's a more recent precedent for Apple releasing a new phone earlier than the fall: Last year, it introduced the 4-inch iPhone SE in March.
Screen: An OLED Upgrade
All signs point to Apple taking a page out of Samsung's book with the iPhone 8 — and that's a good thing. Reports from the likes of Bloomberg had suggested that Apple was lining up suppliers for OLED panels, though subsequent stories suggested that OLEDs might be in short supply. The problem, says Bloomberg, is that the company which makes the machines that OLED manufacturers use is facing a severe backlog of orders.
If a report from Digitimes pans out, though, Apple may have found the solution to its OLED supply issues. Samsung will provide Apple with OLED panels (at least until other suppliers can step up production, the Wall street Journal says) for a 5.8-inch iPhone. That's right, Apple's adding a third iPhone alongside its 4.7- and 5.5-inch models, according to Digitimes, which would square with earlier reports from Barclays Research.
OLED panels offer richer colors and better viewing angles. They'll also allow Apple to go with a curved design for the iPhone 8, which is exactly what the Korea Herald says that Apple will do with its OLED-equipped iPhones.
If Cowen and Company's Timothy Arcuri is correct, the new iPhone will be quite a stunner, as Arcuri says it will offer a wraparound 5.8-inch display, according to an AppleInsider post on the analyst's report.
Lineup: Another iPhone Model
The Digitimes report on Apple's display plans is the latest in a steady drumbeat of reports that claim Apple will add a third model to its iPhone lineup, though there had been some disagreement on just how big the new iPhone would be. Nikkei Asian Review and Japanese blog Macotakara both suggested a 5-inch iPhone could be in the works, though Apple Insider's sources swatted down that rumor. It's "extraordinarily unlikely that Apple would launch both a 4.7-inch and a 5-inch phone," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told us when we asked him about a 5-inch iPhone in October. "It'll be one or the other, along with a model to update the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus."
A 5.8-inch model, as reported by DigiTimes, makes more sense, as Apple could add a lot of marquee features like an upgraded OLED screen to that phone, while retaining 4.7- and 5.5-inch phones. Indeed, another Macotakara report claims Apple will release an iPhone 7s and 7s Plus in 2017 with only modest changes (an A11 processor, for example, and a new red model). That would be a pretty underwhelming update, so one theory advanced by MacRumors is that Apple could also introduce a more tricked-out iPhone 8 alongside these minor 7s and 7s Plus models.
These leaked schematics appearing on Sina Weibo claim to show internals of the iPhone 8.Momentum for this rumor was picking up steam even before the Digitimes report on the 5.8-inch OLED-equipped iPhone, as a post on Chinese site Sina Weibo that AppleInsider spotted features purported manufacturing documents for the iPhone 8. Those documents reiterate the plans for three iPhone models, with top features appearing in a high-end phone code-named Ferrari. Those features include an OLED panel, edge-to-edge design and wireless charging; schematics included in the leak also suggest a change to the iPhone's internals that would separate the iPhone's processor and storage from the cellular and wireless communication parts.
Apple is also planning a new design concept with the iPhone 8, according to reports, citing KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who tends to be in the know about Apple hardware. Rather than rely on a metal case, the next iPhone could come in an all-glass enclosure. (Presumably, this would be the 5.8-inch model iPhone, should that rumor pan out.) The result could be a smartphone with a continuous glass case that adds a level of elegance and design appeal few other smartphones can match, though Xiamoi is trying to get a leg up on an all-glass iPhone 8, with the just-announced Mi Mix phone.
Credit: SynapticsThis rumor isn't that far-fetched. In December, Synaptics unveiled a new line of optical fingerprint sensors that include biometric technology and can go under the glass of smartphones. This kind of advancement allows phone makers, including Apple, to use all-glass fronts that can extend from one edge of the handset to the other.
The move to a glass design — which recently resurfaced in a Digitimes report — would be a return to form for Apple, which used glass in the iPhone 4 and 4S before transitioning to metal with the iPhone 5 after customers suffered ugly cracks after a spill. Hopefully this time around, Apple can offer stronger glass to prevent those problems. Reportedly, Apple will use an aluminum frame with the iPhone 8, while turning to stainless steel for the higher-end version of its phone, according to Kuo's analysis.
iPhone 8 Concept by TechDesignsThere's another reason Apple could move to an all-glass design: it would make it easier for the phone to support wireless charging. That's the latest from Ming-Chi Kuo, as reported by Mac Rumors. (A subsequent research note from Kuo suggests that the 4.7-inch iPhone will get this all-glass design in addition to the iPhone Plus.) We have heard that wireless charging is a possibility for the next iPhone. Nikkei Asian Review says that Foxconn, the company that puts the iPhone together has tested out wireless charging modules while Digitimes reports that a Taiwanese firm that makes components for fast wireless charging is now part of Apple's supply chain for the next iPhone. It's unclear if Apple would follow the route taken by other smartphone makers such as Samsung and LG, which let you charge your phone by placing it on a charging pad. Apple could also be looking at longer range methods for wirelessly charging your phone.
If you want a more fanciful forecast of what the iPhone 8 could look like, Apple has been awarded a patent that describes a foldable iPhone concept. Such a phone would use carbon nanotubes to allow users to fold it like a clamshell while still ensuring the safety of its screen. A different patent for what Apple calls "flexible display devices" further suggests that future iPhones could grip onto your clothing, making it harder to misplace your phone. Foldable phones come up in another Apple patent filing, this one for a wrap-around display that will feature touch sensitive edges for controlling volume or the phone's camera. That patent filing included drawings of an iPhone with curved walls that are also foldable. However, this talk of foldable phones seems a bit premature, when Apple still has other design and display specs to nail down for the iPhone 8.
Apple recently won another patent that could influence the iPhone 8's design. As spotted by AppleInsider, the patent describes a technology in which a phone's display would feature "one or more openings" that might look like a "window through which a user of the device may view an external object." Essentially, such a patent would make it easier for Apple to give future iPhones a full-face display, as has been rumored for the next iPhone.
Features: Tap to Wake, Fast Charging, Augmented Reality
What new features might find their way into a new iPhone? Apple leaker Sonny Dickson told Forbes that the iPhone 8 will offer a Tap to Wake feature similar to what you see in some Android phones. Dickson also expects the new phone to feature fast charging, thanks to a Tristar 3 Hydra chip inside the phone.
The Cowen and Company report that predicts a wraparound screen for the iPhone 8 also talks up another interesting feature for the phone, according to 9to5Mac: a front-facing sensor could provide facial and gesture recognition features for the phone.
Apple has made no secret of the fact that it's bullish on augmented reality. The next iPhone could reflect that, according to tech blogger Robert Scoble, with that commitment to AR potentially impacting the phone's design. Specifically, Scoble says in his forecast of what to expect in the next iPhone that the device could use a a clear piece of glass that essentially creates a see-through design. Scoble speculates that Apple would go in this direction to create a phone better suited for augmented reality headsets.
That prediction isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. Business Insider reports that there's an effort underway at Apple to integrate augmented reality features into the company's products, starting with AR capabilities for the Camera app in the next version of iOS. Adding AR features would allow you to point your iPhone camera at a real-world object or peerson, with the app able to recognize it and manipulate it, Business Insider says.
Apple has been pretty upfront about its feelings toward artificial intelligence, with CEO Tim Cook saying AI will be a huge focus for the iPhone. Specifically, Cook told Nikkei Asian Review that artificial intelligence will help with everything from finding your parked car to recommending what music to stream. Intriguingly, Cook also suggested that AI could increase the iPhone's battery life, though he didn't provide any details.
Touch ID: Integrated into the Screen
With the iPhone 8, the entire home screen could become a Touch ID button, in essence. Apple Insider spotted a patent for a fingerprint sensor capable of reading your finger through the phone's touch screen, removing the need for a dedicated button on the phone. That, in turn, would allow Apple to expand the screen across the front of the iPhone 8, reducing the size of the phone's bezel. Users would then be able to press down anywhere on the glass and both open the handset and make mobile payments.Credit: Apple Insider, U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office
You can get a hint of how this feature might work from Xiaomi's Mi 5s. That phone from China integrates an ultrasonic fingerprint under its glass. And Synaptics' recent announcement of its Natural ID FS9100 sensor that can fit underneath a smartphone's display suggests a feature like this is pretty close to being reality.
The Smart Connector: Accessory Potential
Last summer, when iPhone 7 concept photos were flooding the web, a French site called Nowhere Else posted a leaked image of an iPhone lineup, including one featuring a Smart Connector similar to what you'd find on an iPad Pro. While that phone never materialized — and rumors point to Apple adding a 5-inch phone, not a super-sized phablet — the Smart Connector could still find its way onto a future iPhone.
Credit: Nowwhereelse.frAlthough the addition of a Smart Connector likely won't get too many people excited – few accessory makers are even delivering support for it right now – it could gain some traction on the iPhone. With Smart Connector support, the iPhone 8 could support a whole new list of accessories that will extend its functionality and make it more appealing to consumers and business users, alike. Think battery cases, keyboards, camera add-ons and more.
The Cameras: Improved Sensors
How does Apple follow up on the dual-lens camera it added to the iPhone 7 Plus? If a group of patents awarded to Apple is any indication, the company could be working on a multisensor camera capable of producing "super resolution" images.
As detailed by AppleInsider, the camera patents are fairly complex. One patent involves a light splitter cube that can break incident light into different color components while a second patent describes how plural image sensor arrangements are used to create a combined image data structure. Essentially those sensors would be better at capturing light, which in turn, would mean higher quality images. And AppleInsider notes that the folded camera design described in the patents would help with features like optical image stabilization and zoom.
Should Apple add a third to the iPhone lineup, as analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted, look for the two larger models to feature two camera lenses on the rear. Kuo expects the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 to retain a single camera on its back.
What's Inside: A11 Power
Most of the current rumors surrounding the iPhone 8 have focused little on internal components. All we know right now is that the iPhone 8 will likely come with a more powerful processor — the A11, if Apple sticks to the naming conventions for its processors. (An A10 Fusion CPU powers the iPhone 7.)
It could offer more RAM than the iPhone 7, and might have more storage. There's also room for Apple to increase the RAM in next year's iPhones. The iPhone 7 reportedly has 2GB of RAM at a time when 4GB is fairly standard for flagship smartphones.
Price: Likely the Same, But One Model Could Cost More
Like the internal components, details are slim on how Apple might price its next iPhone, especially if it introduces a third iPhone as expected. Although Apple has largely used last year’s pricing to dictate the price tag of each new iPhone generation, the company bumped up the price on its iPhone 7 Plus by $20 over the iPhone 6s Plus to $769. It's possible, therefore, that with a big update to the iPhone 8, Apple could similarly charge a premium for its next update. That scenario could become even more likely, should Apple make only modest updates to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus while releasing a third iPhone model with more impressive features.
With iPhone 8 rumors heating up, some designers have started floating concept designs based on reported features for the next iPhone. One of our favorites comes from German website Handy Abovergleich and shows off an iPhone with an all-glass front that's missing a physical home button. A virtual bezel appears where the TouchID sensor would go, along with some other virtual buttons.
Credit: Handy AbovergleichAnother compelling version comes from concept designer Venjamin Geskin, who posted a YouTube video (first spotted by BGR) that highlights an edge-to-edge OLED display. Other features highlighted in the video include such rumors as a Quad HD display, integrated Touch ID capabilities and a virtual Home button directly on the screen.
What We Want
The iPhone 7 is a fine device with important upgrades that help Apple keep pace with some of its competitors. However, Apple hasn't quite been able to break from the pack and overcome the challenges presented by Samsung and Google in their Galaxy and Pixel lines, respectively. That's why we would be disappointed if Apple merely trots out an iPhone 7s and 7s Plus in 2017; we hope the company is planning at least one model with some big changes, such as that rumored 5.8-inch iPhone with the upgraded OLED screen.
We think an OLED screen is a must for at least iPhone model. It would be even better if Apple can bake Touch ID into the screen itself. The feature would effectively deliver a screen technology that can cover the iPhone's entire face and innovate how users interact with Touch ID.
It'd also be nice if the next iPhone offered a brand-new design that doesn't look so similar to the iPhone 7 (and the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s), and comes with that oft-mentioned all-glass enclosure. Reducing the amount of bezel around the screen would be one way to deliver on that goal. And if Apple can deliver more improvements to its iPhone's camera — whether it's the multi-sensor camera described in recent patents awarded to Apple or some other innovation — no one will complain.
Ultimately, power users will also want to see some bulking up to the iPhone's power and an A11 processor that helps the Apple smartphone stand out in a crowded market overrun with powerful competitors. Adding a bit more RAM could also go a long way in helping the iPhone maintain its performance edge.
Oh, and Apple, if you're reading this, don't forget about better battery life. It improved in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but it's an area where other phone makers have outpaced Apple. Adding wireless charging — particularly if it goes beyond the charging pad other phone makers use — would be welcome as well.