We're about to find out if Apple's next iPhone can live up to a year's worth of hype.
Apple CEO Tim Cook takes to the stage at his company's new headquarters for a press event today (Sept. 12), where he's expected to take the wraps off the company's latest phone. And that's when we'll finally see which rumored features make the cut. More importantly, we'll find out how this new phone measures up to the latest flagship devices from Samsung — both the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, which have seen massive updates since the last iPhones came out in September 2016.
With just a few hours to go before Apple's big event, here's what we're likely to hear.
Final News and Rumors (Updated September 12)
- Apple will release three phones, with the 5.8-inch model with high-end features like an OLED display will be called the iPhone X.
- Apple's two other phones will be modest updates to the current iPhone lineup, and they'll be called the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. They're likely to have wireless charging and an A11 processor — both features slated for the iPhone X.
- The iPhone X won't ship immediately or it will be in short supply, as Apple works to ramp up production on the new phone.
- Instead of fingerprint unlocking, the iPhone X will use face recognition as a security feature — which Apple is calling Face ID. We have a better sense of how Face ID will work.
- Leaked camera specs suggest the iPhone X will feature dual 12-megapixel lenses on the back with a 7-MP selfie cam up front. There will also be a front-mounted IR camera for Face ID.
What Will the New iPhone Be Called?
It's been widely assumed that Apple will stick with numbers to designate its iPhone models, and that this new version will be called iPhone 8. But firmware uncovered by developer Steve Troughton-Smith describes the new phone as the iPhone X, a nod to the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone.
Apple is releasing two other phones alongside the iPhone X, and they'll be updates to the current iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Instead of slapping an S at the end of those models, Apple will call them the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, according to Troughton-Smith's firmware discovery.
For the sake of clarity, we've updated references to the new high-end iPhone to be the iPhone X in this rumor roundup. iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus now refer to the more modestly upgraded phones.
When Is the iPhone X's Release Date?
We know when we're going to see the new iPhone. We just don't know when we'll actually be able to buy it.
It's all but certain that Apple is using its Sept. 12 to reveal the latest iPhone (as well as a few other products like a new Apple Watch and updated Apple TV). If Apple were to stick to form, that means the new phones would go on sale no later than Sept. 22, since iPhones generally ship 10 days after their big reveal.
That may not be the case this time around. TechCrunch reports that the iPhone X is likely to debut later than some other, more modest iPhones. (We'll talk about that in a minute.) That report echoes a similar one in the Wall Street Journal that details how Apple ran into delays and supply constraints as it worked on the iPhone 8. (An earlier report in Fast Company suggested Apple engineers were scrambling to make sure all the new features on the phone worked properly.)
The bottom line: you're going to see a new iPhone on Sept. 12. When you can actually hold it in your hand is anyone's guess.
You'll be able to watch Apple's press event (opens in new tab) from the comfort of your Web browser.
How Many iPhones Will There Be?
In recent years, Apple has unveiled two iPhones at its fall launch — the regular iPhone alongside a larger Plus model going back to 2014. That seems likely to change this year, based on a November 2016 report by KGI's Ming-Chi Kuo and seconded in a very thorough report by Bloomberg this spring on Apple's iPhone X plans. In this scenario, Apple releases the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus if you prefer — which will feature modest improvements from last year's models, while also rolling out an iPhone X packed with more eye-catching changes.
What Size Will the iPhone X Be?
We can assume the iPhone 8 and 8Plus would feature the same size as the current iPhones — 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively. That leaves the iPhone X. One school of thought, led by reports from Barclays Research and Digitimes, suggests Apple will go big with its third iPhone, adding a 5.8-inch display. Renderings on the Chinese site iFanr, supposedly based on leaked schematics from Apple suppliers, back up the 5.8-inch phone theory.
But a report from Kuo, who's wired into the Apple supply chain, suggests the iPhone X will have a 5.1-inch screen. A follow-up report clarifies that discrepancy a little bit. Kuo thinks Apple could replace the Home button with a function area with virtual buttons offering what AppleInsider describes as "a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS." In this scenario, while the actual size of the OLED screen would be 5.8 inches, the active display area would be closer to 5.1 inches.
Whatever size the iPhone's display is, don't expect it to dwarf Apple's existing lineup. MacRumors spotted leaked images of molds posted at SlashLeaks that show an iPhone X only slightly bigger than the rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 8. The 8 Plus will remain the largest phone in Apple's lineup. Leaked images of new iPhone cases also back up that theory. And a video posted by Unbox Therapy not only shows how a prototype iPhone X measures up against Apple's current iPhones, it also places the new phone next to a Galaxy S8 and its 5.8-inch display. (For the record, Samsung's phone looks a little taller, though Apple's phone might be slightly wider.)
Confirmation of the iPhone's new look may have just come from Apple itself. iOS developer Guilherme Rambo was poking around the firmware for Apple's upcoming HomePod speaker when he noticed an iPhone icon that's in line with bezel-free look rumored for the iPhone X.
What Are the Rumored Specs of the iPhone X and iPhone 8?
|Model||Screen Size||CPU||RAM||Base Storage||Max Storage|
|iPhone 8||4.7 inches||A11 Fusion||2GB||32GB||256GB|
|iPhone 8 Plus||5.5 inches||A11 Fusion||3GB||32GB||256GB|
|iPhone X||5.8 inches||A11 Fusion||3GB||64GB||256GB|
The most noteworthy spec on the iPhone X will be that display, as Apple should finally replace the LCD screens it's used on recent models with an OLED panel. It looks like Samsung will initially supply Apple with OLED panels, while other suppliers step up production, the Wall Street Journal reports. As a result, the switch to OLED from LCD may only impact one of the new iPhone models, with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus retaining LCD screens, according to a report from Japanese blog Macotakara. (In 2018, though, every iPhone will get an OLED panel, according to reports by both ET News and Nikkei Asia Review.)
OLED panels offer richer colors and better viewing angles. They could also allow Apple to go with a curved design for the iPhone X, which is exactly what the Korea Herald says that Apple will do with its OLED-equipped iPhones. However, MacRumors keeps quoting a growing number of Apple watchers — including IHS Markit analyst Wayne Lam, research firm TrendForce and, most significantly, Ming-Chi Kuo — who suggest that Apple won't match the curved displays Samsung offers with its flagship phones.
In addition to getting a new OLED panel, the iPhone X should also boast a higher resolution than you're used to seeing on an Apple phone. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith found evidence in the HomePod's firmware of an iPhone with a resolution of 2436 x 1125. The iPhone 7 Plus tops out at 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Most of the current rumors surrounding the iPhone X have focused little on internal components. All we know right now is that the iPhone X 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.) Digitimes has suggested that the A11 processor being produced by Taiwan Semiconductor will appear in all new iPhones coming out this fall. That means the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will run on the same chip as the iPhone X.
That A11 could be a pretty speedy chip if a leaked benchmark spotted by SlashLeaks is accurate. In that benchmark, an iPhone running an quad-core A11 processor at 2.74-GHz posted a single-core score of 4,537 and a multi-core score of 8,975 on the Geekbench 4 benchmark. Both of those numbers are much higher than what we saw when we tested the Galaxy S8. Twitter user @UniverseIce spotted similar benchmarks that also show the A11 dusting the fastest current Android phones.
The new iPhone could offer more RAM than the iPhone 7, and might have more storage. The iPhone 7 reportedly has 2GB of RAM at a time when 4GB is fairly standard for flagship smartphones. Research firm TrendForce, in a note spotted by BGR, reports that the iPhone X may have just 3GB of RAM, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus.
What Features Will Appear in the iPhone X?
Based on the rumor mill, here are the most likely features coming to the next iPhone.
• An All-Glass Design: Rather than rely on a metal case, the next iPhone could come in an all-glass enclosure, a rumor from a Ming-Chi Kuo research note first picked up by 9to5Mac. (Presumably, this would be the 5.8- or 5.1-inch model, depending on which rumor pans out.) The result could be a smartphone with a continuous glass case that adds a level of elegance and design appeal. Digitimes says all of the iPhones Apple unveils Sept. 12 could adopt the all-glass form, too.
The move to a glass design — which 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 is going to use a stainless steel frame for at least one version of the phone, according to reports from both Kuo and Digitimes.
• Facial Recognition Technology: Apple could add a new unlocking feature to its phone this year by bringing facial recognition features to the iPhone X. According to a research note from JP Morgan's Rod Hall that MacRumors obtained, Apple could add a 3D laser scanner to the front of its phone to give you another way to unlock the device. As we'll see in a moment, facial recognition may replace 3D Touch as the main way to unlock the phone. 9to5Mac reports the feature will be called Face ID.
Face recognition could support other features, such as the ability to silence notifications when you're looking at your phone, as developer Guilherme Rambo may have discovered.
• An AR-Ready Phone: Apple has made no secret of the fact that it's bullish on augmented reality, so AR-friendly features are likely to find their way into the next iPhone. Specifically, Business Insider has reported that there's an effort underway at Apple to integrate AR capabilities into the Camera app. Subsequently, Bloomberg has reported that the iPhone should gain AR-friendly features as part of a company-wide effort to incorporate the technology into its products.
Pulling that off will require some hardware changes, which could mean a 3D camera sensor headed for the iPhone X, according to a separate Business Insider report. And Fast Company reported that Apple's working to add a rear-facing 3D laser onto the next iPhone, which not only help with augmented reality apps, but also improve the rear cameras' ability focus.
We know that iOS 11, the next version of Apple's operating system, is going to be friendlier to AR, thanks to the ARKit developers tool that will help app makers build AR experiences into their apps. Since ARKit works on any phone powered by an A9 processor and running iOS 11, these AR-friendly apps won't necessarily be restricted to the iPhone X, but iOS 11's AR-friendly feature does emphasize Apple's interest in adding these capabilities to its devices.
• AI Improvements: 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.
MORE: Hidden iOS 11 Features
In iOS 11, which will power the new phone, Siri will get smarter, being able to offer proactive suggestions for searches, articles and events based on your past browsing history. These features are starting to appear in the now available iOS 11 beta, with Siri offering search suggestions within the Safari browser.
• Wireless Charging: Moving to an all-glass design would make it easier for the phone to support wireless charging, which is exactly what Ming-Chi Kuo forecasts will happen. That feature was essentially confirmed by Robert Hwang, CEO of iPhone assembly firm Wistron. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Hwang said "Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing."
While some had hoped that Apple might go with over-the-air charging in the next iPhones, that's unlikely to happen with this year's lineup. Instead, AppleInsider reports that the new phone will support inductive charging. At least, wireless charging is expected on all new iPhone models, according to KGI's Kuo, including the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. However, Apple is reportedly having problems getting the feature to work, and Apple pundit John Gruber has suggested that this fall's phones may ship without the feature enabled; wireless charging support would be activated later via a software update.
• New behavior for the home button: The iPhone X's extended screen means the physical home button is going to make way for a virtual one. And that virtual button may behave differently than what you're used to, resizing itself and disappearing at times for more immersive game-playing and video-watching.
What About the Fingerprint Reader?
If the iPhone's display is going to stretch from one end of the phone to another, Apple's going to have to find a new place to put the home button and the TouchID sensor that lives beneath it. Apple is likely to use a virtual home button, which could disappear and resize depending on how you're using your phone, according to developer Steve Troughton-Smith. That still doesn't explain what will happen to the fingerprint sensor, though.
Clearly, Apple would like to just slip the sensor under the front display, preferably using its own technology. But that's apparently proven to be too complex, and Ming-Chi Kuo is now contending that Apple is scrapping plans to include 3D Touch on the iPhone X. Instead, he suggests Apple will rely on face recognition.
In fact, Bloomberg says Apple may put a 3D sensor on the front of the phone that will enable face scanning. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith seemingly confirmed that while exploring the firmware for the upcoming HomePod speaker; apparently, that software contains code code related to the iPhone that would handle various scenarios for unlocking a device using face scanning. Expect the feature to run more smoothly than it does on Samsung's flagship phones, according to a BGR report — and that includes being less likely to fall for tricks like using a photo to unlock the device.
Will the iPhone X Have a Headphone Jack?
The iPhone 7 famously dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack, forcing you to either use an adapter that plugs into the phone's Lightning port or go with wireless headphones. If you were holding out hope that Apple might reverse course, the latest sales figures for the iPhone, in which Apple sold a record number of devices, seems to suggest that Apple will stick to its guns. And that Apple Insider report on wireless charging also contends that Apple won't include a headphone jack adapter with future iPhones. The company may include a nice freebie with the iPhone X — wireless AirPod headphones. That's according to a JPMorgan report that 9to5Mac found.
Apple could usher in yet another radical change with the iPhone X, if a Wall Street Journal report proves accurate. While also suggesting the next iPhone will have a curved screen, the Journal says Apple could get rid of its Lightning jack in favor of a USB Type-C port.
Will the iPhone 8 Feature Fast Charging?
Apple leaker Sonny Dickson told Forbes that the iPhone X 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. Forbes threw its weight behind the quick charging rumor, citing what developers have found poking around the HomePod firmware.
What Will the Cameras Be Like on the iPhone X?
With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple added a second camera to the back of the phone. According to Ming-Chi Kuo's forecast, the company could put the emphasis on the front camera this time around, adding 3D-sensor capabilities.
MacRumors explains how this would work in a summary of Kuo's research note. In addition to the existing front camera, Apple would add infrared transmitting and receiving modules to the iPhone. That would allow the front camera to sense the location and depth of anything in front of it. Such a camera would provide the iPhone 8's rumored facial recognition features, but 9to5Mac points out that it could also generate 3D selfies that could be used with augmented reality. Business Insider's report on Apple's augmented reality plans, says the iPhone X's camera will add a 3D sensor that will allow the phone to detect distance, helping it to figure out where to overlay virtual objects onto real world views.
There's another potentially impressive feature headed to the iPhone X's camera. Looking at the HomePod firmware, developer Guilherme Rambo found evidence of a Smart Camera feature that will be able to automatically detect whatever you're shooting so that it can optimize the camera's settings.
If Apple is serious about adding AR to the iPhone, that could mean a change to the layout of the dual rear cameras. iFanr's renderings showed an iPhone with dual lenses stacked vertically, prompting Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin to tweet that such a change would be helpful toward support the AR features rumored for the iPhone 8 since it adds some distance between the lenses. A subsequent leaked image of a rumored iPhone X case posted by KK Sneak Leaks also shows vertically stacked cameras.
Even with the new layout, expect the bump surrounding the two rear cameras to appear on the iPhone X as well, Forbes's Gordon Kelly says.
As for camera specs, Steve Troughton-Smith says to expect a pair of 12-MP lenses on the back of the iPhone X, with a 7-MP selfie cam up front. The rear camera will be able to record 4K video at 60fps — twice as fast as the iPhone 7 — and 1080p at 240 fps.
How Much Will the iPhone X Cost?
Expect to pay a lot for the iPhone X. While Apple typically keeps iPhone pricing the same from year to year, the company bumped up the price on its iPhone 7 Plus by $20 over the iPhone 6s Plus. It's possible, therefore, that with a big update to the iPhone X, 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.
In fact, a report in Fast Company suggests that a high-end iPhone X could command more than $1,000, since Apple will be paying up for OLED screens on that model and RAM prices are going up. A Goldman Sachs report echoes that number, according to MacRumors, with higher-capacity models costing as much as an Apple laptop. CNBC cites a JPMorgan report that the iPhone X would have an average selling price of $1,100. (Average selling price takes into account the price of all models.)
Other reports from Apple Insider suggest a less dramatic price hike. Those reports, based on a UBS note to investors have the iPhone X starting at $850 to $900. A 256GB version of the phone might run you $950 to $1,000.
To put that number in context, Samsung's newly unveiled Galaxy S8 starts at around $750; the larger Galaxy S8+ costs $850. The Galaxy Note 8 starts at $930 unlocked.
What Will the iPhone X Look Like?
Long before Apple unveils its new phone, we've got a good idea of what it will look like, thanks to a series of leaked images and videos of prototype iPhones built by accessory makers so that they can design cases, screen protectors and other add-ons for the new phone. The models are getting more elaborate, like this glass-and-metal version featured in a video by EverythingApplePro.
Marques Brownlee also has a video featuring an iPhone X dummy unit, in which he compares the upcoming iPhone to Apple's current devices.
Most of the iPhone prototypes appearing so far don't have a powered-up screen. The exception comes from case-maker Nodus, which created a render based on information it has about the next iPhone. The images, posted at BGR, show a powered-up device.
Other leaks seemingly confirm the iPhone X's expansive display. One of the more impressive renders was tweeted by serial leaker Evan Blass that depicts an Urban Armor Gear case encircling the iPhone's edge-to-edge screen.
Meanwhile, BGR has posted a mock-up for an iPhone X based on what it says are leaked schematics for the new phone. You may notice a pattern starting to develop here.
Israeli news site Walla posted a video of what appears to be an iPhone Xdummy unit. It features minimal bezels on the front of the phone and vertically aligned camera lenses on the back.
A new iPhone usually inspires a bunch of artist interpretations of what the phone could look like, and the iPhone X is no exception. One of the best comes from ConceptsiPhone, which has used all the popular rumors surrounding the iPhone 8 to create a video speculating on what the new phone might look like when it finally arrives.
We've collected some of the best iPhone X concept designs (back when it was still being called the iPhone 8) to see if any stir your imagination.
Even images of the modest iPhone 7 updates are starting to leak, as 9to5Mac posted an image reportedly of the iPhone 8 (otherwise known as the 7s) from leaker Sonny Dickson.
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. And we hope that model is ready not too long after its September 12 unveiling.
We think an OLED screen is a must for any high-end iPhone. While we wish Apple could have figured out a way to bake TouchID into the screen, we're interested to see how facial recognition will work on the new phone as well as how Apple supports features like Apple Pay that had previously relied on TouchID. We hope the solution is better than Samsung's awkwardly placed fingerprint sensors.
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. And if Apple can deliver more improvements to its iPhone's camera — specifically the AR-powered features — 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.