Before you know it, the iPhone 7 will arrive. But will Apple's new phone offer enough to get you to upgrade?
We're getting a clear picture of what to expect from the next iPhone — including when it will arrive. And so far the rumors have left us feeling a little underwhelmed, with the reported features sounding more like modest improvements over Apple's current smartphone lineup and not the overhaul we've come to expect every other year. In fact, many Apple watchers are suggesting that a more substantial update is in the works for 2017.
Until then, though, here's what appears to be on tap for the iPhone 7.
Credit: Phone Arena
- A Mid-September Release A prominent leaker of phone news says the iPhone will hit retail shelves on Sept. 16, though other signs point to a Sept. 23 arrival. Whatever the date, all signs point to Apple unveiling the new phone shortly after Labor Day, most likely at a Sept. 7 press event.
- No Headphone Jack Leaked photos and videos all but confirm the iPhone 7 will go without the 3.5mm headphone jack, opting for a slimmer design that requires Lightning-compatible headphones.
- Dual Cameras for the iPhone Plus More leaks have revealed a dual-lens setup for the larger iPhone Plus, while the iPhone 7 is expected to have a larger lens than what you're used to with the iPhone 6s.
- iPhone Pro Probably Dead At least one leaked photo depicted a third model that will appear alongside the existing iPhone and iPhone Plus this fall. Dubbed the iPhone Pro, this version would have offered improved cameras, a massive amount of storage and a Smart Connector for attaching to accessories and charging devices. But evidence is mounting that Apple is sticking with the iPhone and iPhone Plus models this fall.
- A Pressure-Sensitive Home Button Just as the screens on the latest iPhone respond to different presses thanks to Apple's 3D Touch feature, the iPhone 7's home button will reportedly respond to pressure and provide haptic feedback when you press it.
- 32GB of Storage According to multiple reports, Apple seems to have realized what the rest of the world has long since concluded — that 16GB is too little capacity for today's smartphones.
- Built Tougher The iPhone's expected to become more durable, matching the waterproof features Samsung added to its flagship phones.
Here's a deeper look at the features currently rumored for the iPhone 7 — and everything we want from Apple's new phone.
The iPhone Debuts Sept. 7
The Sept. 7 date comes from a Bloomberg report detailing changes expected for an upcoming MacBook Pro update. But that date isn't exactly out of left field: Apple has held iPhone launch events on Sept. 9 for two years running, so Sept. 7 would be keeping with Apple's usual time frame.
Expect the iPhone 7 to arrive in stores either a week or two later. According to Evan Blass, a leaker of phone news with a good track record of getting rumors right, the iPhone will hit retail shelves on Sept. 16. That's a little earlier than when iPhones normally arrive after an Apple event. Last year, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus arrived in stores on Sept. 25. But with Samsung already having taken the wraps off the Galaxy Note 7 and other phone announcements expected at the IFA trade show in Berlin in early September, Apple could feel the need to get the new iPhones in users' hands sooner rather than later.
A report by 9to5Mac suggests Apple could stick to its usual schedule with a Sept. 23 release date. That's based on what looks like a retail schedule from AT&T that resets retail hours on the Sept. 23 date.
No More Headphone Jack
What once looked like a far-fetched rumor when Japan's Mac Otakara first reported it now seems pretty much a certainty: The iPhone 7 won't have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, users will plug in headphones through the phone's Lightning port, either with the help of an adapter or with headphones built specifically for the new iPhone.
The Wall Street Journal cited sources confirming the headphone jack as a goner, and CAD renders allegedly of the new phone posted on French site NowhereElse.fr depict an iPhone without a 3.5mm jack. Need more evidence? This TechnoBuffalo video shows off a dummy iPhone 7 that only features a Lightning port.
The iPhone 7 would hardly be the first phone to launch this year without a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Moto Z doesn't have one, either. Such a move could allow the new iPhones to be a little thinner; the leaked images of the new phones also indicate that Apple is adding speakers on both sides of the Lightning port. (A more recent report from MacRumors suggests that those additional speaker holes may just be cosmetic, though.)
Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark OfficeApple may be looking at ways to ease the transition to a headphone jack-free world. A patent filing spotted by Apple Insider describes a headphone that would plug into the Lightning port with the ability to switch between wired and wireless listening. If that device isn't ready, Apple could include a pair of wireless earbuds with the device, with 9to5Mac reporting the possibility of a pair of Beats-branded "AirPods" shipping with the new phone. In its iPhone 7 video, TechnoBuffalo suggests Apple will include a Lightning port adapter for plugging in headphones.
A Dual Camera for the iPhone Plus
With the Galaxy S7 overtaking the iPhone as the best phone camera, Apple likely wants to re-establish the iPhone as the top camera smartphone. If reports are right, the company is turning to a dual-camera system to pull that off — at least for some of the new phones.
Well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI securities said earlier this year that the iPhone 7 Plus would feature rear cameras with two different lenses to collect more image data. KGI also speculated that the 5.5-inch phone will come with an optical zoom to add 2-3x magnification, as well as optical image stabilization.
Image via NowhereElse.fr
More leaked photos posted on NowhereElse.fr claim to show the dual-camera setup on the iPhone Plus, as does a leaked photo, allegedly from a presentation by Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, from the Chinese site MyDrivers.
KGI believes the new camera setup will integrate with LinX camera technology that Apple acquired last year, which would use the data from both cameras to create much higher-quality photos. LinX is an Israeli company that Apple bought last year, which specializes in creating high-definition images out of smaller multi-lens configurations, according to Apple Insider.
The two-camera setup is not a new idea for smartphones. The LG G5, for example, uses two cameras that allow you to shoot both regular photos and wide-angle shots with the same phone. The Huawei P9 also has two cameras, in this case both backed by Leica, where one camera captures info in monochrome and the other focuses on color. The result is supposed to be an image with the pixel size equivalent of 1.76 microns, which is impressive.
The new iPhones are expected to keep the same 12-megapixel sharpness.
Credit: NowhereElse.frAs for the lens on the iPhone 7, it's likely to be a single lens, but it will be much bigger than the one on the iPhone 6s. Leaked images of the iPhone 7 show a physically larger lens surrounded by a prominent bump.
A Third iPhone? Probably Not
Right now, the working assumption with the iPhone 7 release is that Apple will stick with its current lineup: a 4.7-inch iPhone and a 5.5-inch Plus model. But for a time, it looked like we might have gotten a third model, thanks to some leaked photos suggesting Apple had an iPhone Pro in the works. Credit: NowhereElse.fr
Photos from NowhereElse.fr fed this rumor, where an iPhone appears alongside two models labeled the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7. The rumored iPhone Pro had a dual-lens camera on its back and a Smart Connect like the one you'd find on an iPad Pro. An earlier image on on the Chinese social networking site Weibo also showed a Smart Connector port on the back of an alleged iPhone. (The Smart Connector could also be featured on the iPhone 7 Plus, should Apple stick to its two-phone lineup as expected.)
Credit: Weibo/iappsnewsHad it existed, an iPhone Pro figures to have a pro-sized price tag. PocketNow spotted pricing chatter on Weibo that suggests a base model iPhone Pro could cost around $850 once you figure in currency conversion and export fees. That's a hefty premium that will require some standout features to get people interested in buying a pro-level phone.
And perhaps that's why the iPhone Pro won't be joining the other iPhones in Apple's lineup this fall — if that even was the plan to begin with. Nikkei reports that plans for an iPhone Pro have been put on the back burner.
Home Button Leads Design Changes
Apple added pressure-sensitivity to the iPhone's display with the 3D Touch feature iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. It could pull off the same trick with the iPhone 7's home button, according to a Bloomberg report. Rather than depress, the revamped home button would be able to detect different levels of pressure and provide haptic feedback.
Being able to tell the difference between a tap and a hard press could mean new ways of interacting with your iPhone — think of what 3D Touch's peak and press features let you do on the current iPhone models. It also lowers the risk that the home button could stop clicking if it's damaged by dust or lint.
As for other design changes, look for more of the same from the current iPhone lineup. Leaked photos on the Italian site Macitynet suggest the new models will sport the same colors as the current iPhone lineup — gold, rose gold, space gray and silver. That doesn't necessarily preclude other colors from emerging closer to the iPhone's fall release, though.
The latest video from TechnoBuffalo suggests the iPhone 7 will look a lot like the iPhone 6s, from its size and shape to its physical home button. Sketches on NowhereElse.fr show the iPhone 7 will have the same 138.3mm height and 67.12mm width as Apple's latest phone. The sketch makes no mention of depth, however, so it's hard to tell whether or not the iPhone 7 will be significantly thinner than the 6s.
From the looks of leaked photos and videos, whether on TechnoBuffalo or NowhereElse.Fr, look for the antenna bands to be subtler on the iPhone 7, curving around the top and bottom edges of the phone. MacRumors had originally reported that the plastic antenna bands seen on the 6 and 6s will not be present, giving the iPhone 7 a sleeker look.
Could be Waterproof
Water and iPhones haven't mixed, but that could change with the iPhone 7. TrendForce is expecting the new phones to be waterproof, which would match a similar feature that Samsung currently touts for its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Certainly, the removal of a headphone port from the next iPhone would simplify waterproofing the device considerably.
The MyDriver photo that mentions wireless charging as an iPhone 7 Plus feature also claims that the phone will be dust- and water-resistant for what it's worth. And TechnoBuffalo's iPhone 7 video shows the phone sitting by trickling water, suggesting some water resistance. As for what you could do with a waterproof iPhone, Patently Apple spotted a patent awarded to Apple for a system that lets you take photos underwater.
More Storage on the Base Model
The days of having to cram your photos, music and other files into the iPhone's 16GB capacity — or paying up for a model with more storage space — could come to an end with the iPhone 7. When word of the iPhone Pro leaked, it contained another tidbit of information about Apple's fall iPhone lineup: Apple is reportedly boosting the starting amount of storage on the iPhone to 32GB. The Wall Street Journal confirmed those plans, citing a source familiar with Apple's iPhone roadmap. TechnoBuffalo's iPhone 7 video says higher-end models of the iPhone 7 could offer 256GB of storage.
All that squares with earlier reports: As noted by 9to5Mac, IHS Technology analyst Kevin Wang has found supply chain evidence that the next iPhone will come with at least 32GB of storage, meaning Apple will finally ditch the 16GB iPhone. That will be a welcome addition as 32GB is pretty much the standard for flagship phones these days.
Wireless Charging for iPhone?
Apple could introduce a new way to charge a future iPhone. The Verge did some digging and found that Apple has ramped up hiring of employees who specialize in wireless charging, including two recent hires from charging startup uBeam. That would square with a Bloomberg report that Apple is looking for ways to wirelessly charge your iPhone from a distance, without having to use a charging mat. Of course, that Bloomberg report speculated such a feature wouldn't be ready into 2017.
Credit: MyDriversHowever, the leaked photo posted on MyDrivers that depicts a dual-lens camera on the iPhone 7 Plus also lists wireless charging as one of the features on Apple's high-end phone. That photo is allegedly from a presentation at Foxconn, which would build the next iPhone, if that lends any weight to the rumor.
New A10 CPU and Other Improvements
Some of the iPhone 7's improvements are fairly easy to predict. You can probably expect the new iPhone to feature an A10 processor since Apple routinely upgrades the CPU in its phones with each new release. If you believe the early leaked iPhone 7 benchmarks, Apple's new phone will smoke every phone in the land, as well as rival some premium Windows laptops in terms of pure power. Separately, Digitimes reports that Intel will supply half of the LTE chips for the iPhone 7.
Battery life also figures to improve. According to Slashgear, the iPhone 7 could pack a battery with 7.04 watt-hours of power, which would be a big step up from the iPhone 6s Plus' 7.01 watt-hours. The iPhone 6s has 6.51 watt-hours of juice. Both of the latest iPhones trail the field when it comes to endurance. The iPhone 6s lasted just 6 hours and 46 minutes on the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE, compared to the 8:43 for the Galaxy S7. The iPhone 6s Plus lasted a longer 8:43, but that's no match for the S7 Edge (10:09).
The 2017 iPhone
Yes, that's right — the iPhone 7 isn't out yet, and we're already talking about the phone coming after that. Yet another research note from KGI's Ming-Chi Kuo forecasts a major overhaul of the iPhone's case slated for next year. According to 9to5Mac's summary of Kuo's note, Apple plans to switch to an all-glass enclosure for the iPhone in 2017.
Analyst Mark Moskowitz of Barclays wrote earlier this year that supply chain checks suggested no "must-have form factor changes," according to a report in Fortune. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal's report on the disappearing headphone jack in the iPhone 7 suggests that Apple is holding off on major changes to the iPhone until next year, which coincidentally marks the device's 10th anniversary."
All of this could signal a move away from Apple's traditional approach to releasing a major iPhone update one year, followed by a more modest update the following year. Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple is planning on extending the iPhone's product cycle, meaning the phone maker would go longer between major iPhone updates, a move the publication says reflects a maturing smartphone market where there are fewer earth-shattering enhancements to make.