Hold the Phone: How Many New iPhones Is Apple Planning?

The latest iPhone rumor making the rounds might have you seeing red — and not just because that's the color Apple is reportedly planning to add to next year's lineup. Instead, what's noteworthy about this rumor is that it suggests the new color will be about the only change Apple has planned for next year.

But that doesn't necessarily mean all the other rumors you've heard about the next iPhone, from OLED displays to wireless charging, won't come to pass. It could mean that Apple is planning multiple updates to its smartphone lineup that include modest changes to its existing phones alongside an entirely redesigned iPhone.

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Let's start with the rumor itself, reported by Japanese blog Macotakara and spotted by MacRumors. Citing Taiwanese suppliers, Macotakara says next year's iPhone will add a red-colored phone to the mix, to go with the existing gold, rose gold, space gray, matte black and jet black options. That same report says the phones will feature an A11 processor, a step up from the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

And that'll be it for next year's iPhone, Macotakara concludes. They'll be no radical redesign like the ones being bandied about to date. Heck, there won't even be much of a name change. Macotakara's report says the 2017 phones will be called the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus.

If that's all there is, that would be a big bummer, even if you are way too much into the thought of a red phone. Even this year's iPhone update — modest by Apple's standards — included features like dual-lens cameras on the Plus model, improvements to the display and better battery life. Following that up with a second consecutive incremental iPhone update would be a curious move for Apple, particularly as the company tries to find ways to revive its smartphone sales growth.

Which is why, even with Macotakara's recent track record — that site correctly predicted the removal of the iPhone 7's audio jack — I don't believe this new rumor paints a complete picture. If you look at it in the context of other iPhone rumors, though, it makes a little more sense how Apple could roll out an iPhone 7s/7s Plus update while still finding a way to make a splash for the 10th anniversary edition of its smartphone.

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As MacRumors notes in its report on the Macotakara rumor, it all comes back to an earlier rumor found in Nikkei Asian Report that Apple would launch three iPhone 8 models next year. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has floated a similar idea.

A third more impressive iPhone model makes sense, given that a constrained supply of OLED panels may make it difficult to go with an all-OLED lineup for next year's phones. Apple could then add other rumored features like an all-glass design, wireless charging capabilities and a TouchID controller beneath the phone's display, without having to worry about that phone's price tag spiraling upward. After all, Apple would still offer the 7s and 7s Plus, presumably at the same price it charges for the current iPhones.

I'm not sure I'm entirely convinced that Apple is going to go in this direction, as it potentially adds confusion to its smartphone lineup. And since none of us happen to be carrying around that blue iPhone 7 the rumor sites claimed we would be getting last September, it's not as if every rumor about new iPhone colors always pans out.

Still, it's a reminder that given a choice between a major overhaul and a minor update, Apple could surprise us next year all by splitting the difference.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.