Why You Might Want to Skip iPhone 7 and Wait for 8

Tom Petty may have been right about the waiting being the hardest part, but if you've hesitated at pulling the trigger on a new iPhone purchase up until now, your waiting could pay dividends by this time next year, as Apple is reportedly planning a major overhaul of its smartphone lineup.

Next year's version of the iPhone is likely to feature an entirely new design, highlighted by an all-glass enclosure. Analysts expect Apple to upgrade the iPhone's display to an OLED panel and possibly even introduce wireless charging to the phone. It's a radical change from the look and feature set of recent iPhones — so much so that if you're considering a new smartphone, you should weigh the pros and cons of holding off until next year.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus certainly offer plenty of incentive to upgrade, particularly if you've been holding on to your current phone for a while. Both phones are powered by Apple's new A10 Fusion chip, which bested all other smartphones in our testing. The new phones also add water resistance, improved battery life, brighter screens and better cameras. We particularly like the dual-lens set up on the iPhone 7 Plus, which brings a true optical zoom to smartphones, and puts Apple's phone among the best camera phones available.

But as impressive as many of these features are — and Tom's Guide rates the new iPhones very highly — they're not that revolutionary. As good as the new iPhones are, they share plenty in common with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, just as those phones were a modest upgrade from the iPhone 6 and iPhone Plus that preceded them.

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That's a bit of a strategic shift for Apple, which usually breaks out an entirely new iPhone design every two years. But with most carriers no longer offering subsidized phones — in which you buy the phone at a reduced amount in exchange for a two-year contract — many people are holding onto their smartphones, going longer in between upgrades. Apple could also be motivated by the fact that 2017 will mark a decade since the iPhone's debut, and it may be looking to make a splash with that 10th anniversary model.

But even if you don't buy the theory that the famously nostalgia-adverse Apple wants to make a big show of a landmark anniversary, it's clear from the rumors already circulating about the next iPhone that it will likely introduce a lot of major changes to the lineup. Start with the rumored name: Instead of calling next year's phone the iPhone 7s, most rumors suggest that Apple is leaping directly to the iPhone 8 to further emphasize how different this new phone will be from its predecessors.

Highlights of the changes apparently on the drawing board for the next iPhone include:

* An OLED Display: Apple would be playing catch-up with Samsung here, as its flagship Galaxy S phones feature Super AMOLED screens. While both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are brighter and show off a wider color gamut than their predecessors, their resolutions are relatively pedestrian compared to what you get from a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Should the iPhone 8 upgrade to an OLED display — and display maker Sharp has all but confirmed that it will — you can expect better contrast, more saturated colors and wider viewing angles than you've gotten from previous iPhone screens.

* An All-Glass Enclosure: Apple may do away with the metal design currently found in the iPhone 7 in favor of an all-glass front-and-back — a look that calls back to the iPhone 4 and 4s. Those glass panels will either be framed by aluminum or stainless steel, with the latter option more likely in a high-end iPhone. Apple's going for more than aesthetics here — the company will reportedly shrink the bezel on the iPhone 8, giving more of the front of the phone over to the display. The Xiaomi Mi Mix concept phone provides a look at what Apple might have in mind for its own phone.

* Wireless Charging: Rumors about Apple coming up with a new way to charge the iPhone have been circulating since this spring. But they're picking up steam with the iPhone 8, as a new report suggests Apple's manufacturing partner has begun building wireless charging modules for the next iPhone. The company assembling these modules still has to prove it can produce enough of them to wind up in the iPhone 8, but it's clear Apple sees a wire-free future for its phones.

MORE: iPhone 8 Rumors: What to Expect from the 10th Anniversary iPhone

The iPhone 8 could adopt other features, too. Apple's always looking to improve the phone's cameras, as the iPhone 7 update proved, and the company recently won new patents for multisensor cameras capable of producing "super resolution" images. The iPhone 8 could also feature the Smart Connector found on the iPad Pro, introducing a new class of accessories to the iPhone. Even if only a handful of these rumors pan out, we're looking at a significantly different phone than what Apple offers today.

The challenge is, to get your hands on this rumored device, you're going to have to wait. Assuming Apple sticks to its schedule of fall updates for the iPhone, we're at least 10 months away from finding out just which of these rumors will turn into iPhone 8 features.

The challenge is, to get your hands on this rumored device, you're going to have to wait.

If a new iPhone is at the top of your holiday shopping list, that may turn out to be too long of a wait. And that's OK — as noted above, September's iPhone update introduced a number of compelling features, particularly if you're eyeing the iPhone 7 Plus. The rise of annual upgrade programs like the one Apple offers means that you could buy your new iPhone now and still jump to whatever device Apple introduces in a year's time.

But if the phone currently in your pocket is less than two years old and any of the rumored iPhone features sound more compelling than what Apple introduced this fall, time may be on your side.

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.