iPhone 8 Mystery Solved with Rumored 'Function Area'

When it come to iPhone 8 rumors, there's been a pretty big contradiction of late. Some reports have pointed to a 5.8-inch screen, while others say Apple's 10th anniversary phone will sport a 5.1-inch to 5.2-inch panel.

The answer could be: both.

The iPhone 8 could have a function area with virtual buttons. Credit: TechDesigns

(Image credit: The iPhone 8 could have a function area with virtual buttons. Credit: TechDesigns)

A new report from Apple Insider, citing KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, claims that the iPhone 8 will replace the Touch ID button with a new "function area" that would give the device a set of "always-on, static system controls into iOS."

The iPhone 8's front would indeed be covered by a 5.8-inch OLED screen, but somehow also be as compact as the iPhone 7. The actual display area, though, minus the function area, would be closer to 5.15 inches.

That seems like a lot of real estate for virtual buttons, so we're hoping that this function area would automatically turn off when you're binge watching Netflix or playing games. Otherwise, the function area will be like a MacBook Touch Bar you can't get rid of.

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The report goes on to lend more weight to the iPhone 8 costing $1,000. Kuo estimates that this would be the starting price, which sounds a bit obscene. You can blame that sticker shock on the "50 to 60 percent bump in production costs," compared to today's LCD-based iPhones.

Back in September, as Apple Insider notes, The New York Times reported that the next iPhone would likely have a "full-screen face" with an embedded "virtual button," but it now looks like there will be more than one button.

Having a function area could open up interesting possibilities for developers, but it remains to be seen how the implementation would be different than the virtual buttons already available in apps today. Perhaps Apple will be taking a page from Samsung with its Edge app shortcuts on the S7 Edge, which are always just a swipe away.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.