After months of speculation, Apple delivered a very modest update of the iPhone lineup back in March. But the new Product Red editions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and the updated iPhone SE, are just the appetizer. The main course will be a dramatically redesigned iPhone — coming later this year, according to the rumors.
When will we see the iPhone 8 — or whatever Apple decides to call it? Frankly, the rumors are all over the place. Fall is a reasonable guess, given that Apple has scheduled September introductions for every major iPhone since the iPhone 5 in 2012.
This time, however, things could be different. For the 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone, we’re expecting Apple to come out swinging with some real breakthrough innovations. And, according to the most recent rumors, some of these hot new technologies are going to make it toughfor Apple to deliver the goods by September. More on that below.
Bottom line: the iPhones released in March were small potatoes. A much more grandiose introduction is likely to come later this year. As we edge closer to the launch, we’ll continue to assemble the most important rumors below.
Specs we might see on the iPhone 8
- A variety of possible sizes, including 5.8-inch, 5.5-inch, 5-inch, and 4.7-inch models
- Curved, edge-to-edge OLED display with True Tone technology
- Home button/Touch ID located on back or integrated into display
- New Touch ID featuring face or iris scanning
- Wireless charging
- Dual-lens camera, possibly in a vertical configuration and/or with AR capabilities
- Support for the Apple Pencil
- USB-C replacing Apple’s Lightning connector
- Enhanced water resistance
- Apple’s next-generation processor (the A10X or A11)
- Stainless steel and glass body
- Upgraded storage starting at 64GB and 3GB of RAM
- Intel or Qualcomm modem
- Priced somewhere between $850 and $1,000
The iPhone… what?
For now, we’re calling it the iPhone 8, though we don’t know officially what the company will call it. As seen most recently with the new iPad — with the iPad Air 2 succeeded by the iPad — Apple may take a freewheeling approach to nomenclature.
It does seem likely that the company will offer up an iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus — updated versions of the current models — as less expensive alternatives to the next generation flagship. For the 10th anniversary model itself, however, anything is possible. The iPhone 8 is the conservative bet but we’ve seen rumors about an iPhone 10; an iPhone X; and the offbeat iPhone Edition, seemingly inspired by the premium Apple Watch Edition.
The iPhone… when?
We expect Apple to announce in September, as usual. That noted, there are more and more reports that Apple is having manufacturing issues related to “significant hardware upgrades.”. This is driving a number of alternative theories including an October or November launch — or an announcement in September, with “severe shortages” and/or deliveries delayed until later in the fall.
There’s also a credible theory circulating that that Apple could use a September launch event to release the “S” series edition of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus — featuring incremental hardware and software upgrades — leaving the iPhone 8 debut for later on.
It’s also possible that Apple could introduce a new iPhone at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled for June 5-9 in San Jose, California. But probably not.
A new display
After months of debate and conflicting rumors, there is consensus: the next iPhone will have an OLED display. In fact, it’s this new display technology — well, new for Apple, Samsung has been using it for years — that may be one of the major factors in the potential September launch delay.
How far will Apple push the edge-to-edge display with the iPhone 8?
Bloomberg has published a detailed story that suggests that Apple is testing a version of the iPhone 8 that features a screen that “covers almost the entire front of the device.”
In February, the Wall Street Journal predicted that the iPhone 8 would come equipped with a curved OLED screen. More recently, Nikkei Asian Review reported that Apple had placed an order for 70 million “slightly curved” OLED panels from Samsung.
According to Bloomberg, one of Apple’s prototypes features a combination of curved glass and stainless steel. This corroborates earlier rumors (reported by DigiTimes and Nikkei Asian Review) suggesting that the company might replace the traditional aluminum iPhone design with a glass and steel body. Previous rumors about the possibility of a ceramic body seem to have faded out.
Home button gone wild
The nature and location of the iPhone 8’s home button is a hot topic. The latest buzz is that Apple might move it to the back of the phone, as shown in alleged render images leaked on Chinese site Weibo and on Twitter.
It’s also quite possible that Apple could ditch the home button altogether, following in the footsteps of Samsung with its Galaxy S8, or somehow integrate it into the display. Which brings us to…
Touch ID 2.0
MacRumors reports that Apple is attempting to integrate Touch ID into the iPhone 8’s new OLED display — and having big problems. According to a number of analysts, Apple’s suppliers are struggling to provide the new components necessary for a revised iPhone that incorporates a full-screen OLED panel, virtual home button, and optical fingerprint sensor.
And there are some interesting theories about the contingency plans — in the event that Apple can’t work it out. These include relying on the phone’s expected new facial and/or iris recognition functionality; relocating Tough ID to the back of the phone; or delaying the launch altogether. A research analyst has even suggested that Apple might eliminate Touch ID altogether for the iPhone 8.
Meanwhile, DigiTimes reports that Apple has developed its own in-house fingerprint sensor, which may or may not the be technology at the heart of the integration problems. And Apple Insider has surfaced a patent application filed by Apple for “acoustic imaging system architecture” that could ostensibly authenticate users by the acoustic properties of their fingerprints. Sounds cool.
This issue remains way up in the air. Sources ranging from Morgan Stanley to Fast Company are talking about an iPhone 8 that will cost more than $1,000. More recently, a UBS analyst theorized that the 64GB entry-level model would start at $850 — just like the new Samsung Galaxy S8+ — and that the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus would cost $649 and $749, respectively.
One area in which the iPhone 8 may end up trailing the Galaxy S8 is cellular network speed. The Samsung phone features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor or, in some markets, Samsung’s own Exynos 8895 chip — both of which support Gigabit LTE. According to CNET’s Roger Cheng, Apple uses Qualcomm and Intel modems — and, at the moment, the Intel version can’t deliver Gigabit LTE speed. This could force Apple to slow down the Qualcomm version to ensure all iPhones are on the same footing.
USB-C vs. Lightning
Countering a Wall Street Journal report that Apple would go with a USB-C port for the iPhone 8, a Barclays analyst (reported by MacRumors) has suggested that Apple will stick with its Lightning connector — and include a 3.5mm headphone jack adapter — for the next phone.
Reuters reports that there are multiple groups at Apple working on technology for an iPhone that supports wireless charging. And we are seeing more leaked schematic drawings that seem to suggest that wireless charging could be a real thing.
In the past, The Verge has reported that Apple has been staffing up on wireless-charging experts. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that Foxconn, one of Apple’s main manufacturing partners, is making wireless charging modules. Though Apple would likely make this feature available on the premium iPhone 8, MacRumors reports that Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that all new iPhone models — that would include the “S” series, presumably — will get it.
Apple could walk away from the Lightning port and not add a USB-C connection, of course, which would make the iPhone more resistant to water. On that note, the Korea Herald reports that the next iPhone will have a higher water resistance rating — IP68 compared with the current generation’s IP67, for those keeping score.
Vertical cameras and AR
Nearly every “leaked” image, including the one here published by OnLeaks, shows the iPhone 8 with two cameras in a vertical configuration; this one appears to show an LED flash in the middle.
In addition, multiple analysts have predicted that the iPhone 8 will come equipped with 3D sensors that will enable augmented reality (and enable facial and/or iris recognition, too). Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has supported the 3D sensor theory, adding that Apple will equip with the iPhone 8 with a new front-facing camera system equipped with an infrared transmitter and receiver.
Apple may dump its 32GB model and offer a 64GB and 256GB model, according to TrendForce; the report also suggests that the company will boost the amount of RAM to 3GB. This incremental bump would follow the recent precedent of Apple ditching its dreaded entry-level model (formerly 16GB) when it released the iPhone 7.
And Barclays analysts have predicted that all three forthcoming iPhones — the 7S, 7S Plus, and iPhone 8 — will come equipped with Apple’s True Tone technology, which adjusts display settings for ambient lighting conditions, and which is currently featured on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. (The next edition of the iPad Pro is also rumored to have a True Tone display.)
Bringing the GPU in house
Apple is developing its own graphics chips to be used in future versions of products including the iPhone. But the timeframe for phasing out its current supplier is 15 to 24 months, so it’s unlikely that an Apple-manufactured GPU will make it into the next iPhone. We’re probably looking at 2018 or 2019 for this one.
SOURCE – CNET, The Wall Street Journal, TechRepublic, MacRumors, DigiTimes, Twitter, The Verge, Reuters, Weibo, Fast Company, Trendforce Report, Bloomberg