Ladies and gentlemen, we have a date. And if our expectations are fulfilled, Apple will unveil a trio of new phones in about a week.
On Sept. 12, at 10 a.m. PT, the company will hold its inaugural event at the Steve Jobs Theater at its newly built headquarters in Cupertino, California. The official invitation, distributed to media on Aug. 31, follows tech blog Mac4Ever’s report (later corroborated by the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch) that Apple plans to bring out new phones at an event on Sept. 12.
As we count down the days until then, it remains clear that, despite a rush of rumors, leaked images and firmware clues, we still know next to nothing officially. Including what these phones will be called.
To wit: This weekend, veteran leaker Evan Blass tweeted that he’s “heard” the new flagship called the iPhone X — and others report that what we’ve been calling the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus may actually be the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. (The case makers’ lobby has doubled-down on the iPhone Edition for the 10th anniversary model, via MacRumors.)
Whatever they’re called, Apple hopes the new phones will cast a big iPhone-shaped shadow over Samsung’s brand new Galaxy Note 8 — and drive up sales before its financial quarter closes on Sept. 30. (The premium model is reported to start at around $1,000.) In addition to a redesigned flagship iPhone with an OLED display, new UI and facial recognition technology, we also expect see other products introduced, including the Apple Watch 3 and a new 4K Apple TV.
If the rumors are true, Apple’s new iPhones will see the light of day in about a week. We’ll continue to count down the days, assembling all of the rumors below.
iPhone 8 specs we might see:
- Three new models including two minor “S” upgrades and an all-new flagship
- Curved, edge-to-edge OLED display with True Tone technology and/or Ion-X glass
- Virtual home button
- Facial recognition alternative to Touch ID
- “Wireless” charging (i.e. inductive charging) and/or faster USB-C charging
- Dual-lens camera, possibly in a vertical configuration
- AR capabilities featuring rear-facing 3D laser for enhanced depth perception
- Support for the Apple Pencil
- Stainless steel and glass body
- Multiple color including a reflective, mirror-like finish
- Upgraded storage and memory, possibly starting at 64GB and 3GB of RAM
- Intel or Qualcomm modem
- iOS 11 (preview)
- Enhanced water resistance or waterproofing
- Higher quality earpiece for louder, clearer audio
- Apple’s next-generation processor (the A10X or A11)
- Priced between $1,000 and $1,200 in the US, available in limited quantities to start
Counting down the days
Despite months of rumors about turbulence in Cupertino and manufacturing issues in the supply chain, it appears we can stick with the Sept. 12 release date for the three new iPhones. The initial report by Mac4Ever that was corroborated by TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal added an intriguing detail: that the new Steve Jobs Theater was unfinished — and that its “construction timetable could affect the timing or location of the event.”
Yet Apple continues to move forward with its standard early September event, despite months of reports about potential postponement and even panic. The presumption is that Apple will deliver a plentiful supply of the two LCD models, while the OLED iPhone 8 may be more difficult to come by, at least initially.
The iPhone TBD
Apple usually doesn’t label its phone models, so despite an accumulating pile of authentic-looking images, we still don’t know officially what the new ones will be called. Until recently, we thought the iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus were sure things; and then came new reports suggesting that Apple may call them the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. If so, the new flagship would have to be called something else. Evan Blass’ tweet only said he’s “heard” it referred to as the iPhone X, while others are guessing the iPhone Edition, and the iPhone 10 and iPhone Pro remain viable alternatives.
Bye-bye, home button?
The new iPhone may replace the home button with a new UI.
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, among the most credible sources of Apple news, reports that the iPhone 8 may dispatch the home button concept completely, replacing it with a new gesture-based user interface. He suggests that the new phone will have an app dock similar to the one found on the iPad, with a thin software bar anchored along the bottom of the display.
Last month, Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted that the iPhone 8 will have a virtual home button, which can change its size or disappear entirely, depending on the app or task. And Ming-Chi Kuo has long insisted that the iPhone 8 would have a virtual home button but not Touch ID.
$1,000 base model
The New York Times reports that the “premium model” iPhone 8 will start at roughly $1,000. That squares with earlier predictions from Morgan Stanley, Fast Company and Goldman Sachs, who have suggested that the new flagship could cost as much as $1,200 in the US (roughly £950 or AU$1,450), which would account for upper-end models with more storage capacity (more on that below). Earlier this year, a UBS analyst reported that Apple could price the 64GB iPhone 8 as low as $850 (roughly £655 and AU$1,110) to better compete with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The iPhone 7S and 7S Plus are expected to be priced comparably with the current generation 7 and 7 Plus, so $649 (£500 and AU$850) and $769 (£580 and AU$980), respectively.
Pencil support for the iPhone 8?
Apple could undercut one of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8’s greatest strengths by adding Pencil support to the iPhone 8. The long-simmering iPhone stylus rumor boiled up, as Apple filed new patent applications connecting the Apple Pencil with the iPhone (via PatentlyApple). We think this one’s a long shot for the iPhone 8 — there hasn’t been much chatter or photographic evidence to support it — but inevitable in the long run.
The game-changer: Face ID
According to developer Steve Troughton-Smith, the HomePod firmware leak confirms the existence of the iPhone 8’s facial-recognition technology; if true, you’ll be able to use your face to unlock the iPhone 8, pay for stuff and much more. Mark Gurman, the Bloomberg News technology reporter with a strong record on Apple stories, says that the company’s pitch will be that “Face ID is quicker, more secure, and more accurate than Touch ID.”
A purported image of the iPhone 8’s rumored dual camera array, which is said to enable new facial recognition technology.
Face-seeking cam on the front
To support the new facial-recognition technology, Apple has arranged the front-facing cameras in a new configuration within a cutout atop the new edge-to-edge display. According to veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the setup will support AR and 3D modeling with a trio of components — a front-facing camera, infrared transmitter and infrared receiver.
Dual cams on the back
The growing consensus among the rumor watchers is that the iPhone 8 has two rear cameras arranged vertically with an LED flash in the middle. Fast Company has reported that Apple has developed a rear-facing 3D laser system that supports AR depth detection and autofocusing.
LCD or OLED displays?
The iPhone 8 may have an edge-to-edge OLED display, with a cutout along the top bezel.
Both. The 7S and 7S Plus are expected to stick with the iPhone’s current LCD technology. The next flagship is almost certain to have an OLED. (We’ve also heard that the entire iPhone lineup could go OLED in 2018.) Ironically, those OLED screens will almost certainly be supplied by archrival Samsung, which is said to control around 98 percent or more of current phone-sized OLED manufacturing capacity.
iOS 11 + iPhone hardware = big leaps in AR
We know iOS 11 is going all-in on AR. Apple delivered the public beta of the next generation mobile operating system in June (here’s how to install it) and the HomePod leak has expanded the list of cool stuff we’ve discovered. Beyond facial detection, highlights include a smarter, more capable Siri, screen recording and AR software that will overlay the virtual world on to the physical one. Read more about iOS 11 in our preview.
3 phones, 3 colors
Could this be what the iPhone 8 looks like in black, silver and gold(ish)?
Kuo reports that each of the three new models will be available in three colors — black, silver and gold. This runs counter to previous reports of an expanded palette of options that included a mirror-like, reflective finish, jet black and rose gold.
In August Troughton-Smith refined his initial leak of the iPhone 8 glyph with some precise measurements of the front of the device, with a camera cut-out along the top edge. An increasing number of images and video of dummy phones and molds show an iPhone 8 that’s bigger than the iPhone 7 and smaller than the 7 Plus; the iPhone 8’s display, rumored to extend from edge to edge, with very narrow bezels, would likely be more comparable with that of the 7 Plus. The iPhone 8 is likely to feature a combination of curved glass and stainless steel, according to Bloomberg.
Will Apple bring wireless charging to all three new models or just the iPhone 8?
Ming-Chi Kuo reports that all three new models, both the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus as well as the flagship, will support faster “plugged-in” charges, though you’ll need an add-on USB-C power adapter to take advantage of it. Noted Apple watcher John Gruber tweeted in July that “wireless” charging — that is, an inductive charge pad accessory, which, technically, still has wires — may be “sold separately” and not until later in the year, as part of a future iOS 11 update, similar to Apple’s rollout of the iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode in 2016.
According to analysts at JPMorgan (as reported by MacRumors), Apple may equip the iPhone 8 with an “enhanced receiver,” which is housed within the slit on the front of the phone where you put your ear during calls. This upgrade would ostensibly deliver louder, clearer audio as well as superior waterproofing (more on that below).
The AirPods are a $159 accessory. Could Apple include them for free with the iPhone 8?
AirPods included? Don’t bet on it
JPMorgan has also postulated that the iPhone 8 will come with AirPods included. These Bluetooth-enabled headphones currently sell as a $159 accessory (£159 in the UK and AU$229 in Australia). And so this one is a stretch. But if Apple prices the new phone high enough, there could be margin enough to make it happen. Which brings us to…
One area 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.
Apple waved goodbye to the analog headphone jack with the iPhone 7. And it’s probably not coming back.
Return of the headphone jack? Nope
A Barclays analyst (reported by MacRumors) has suggested that Apple will stick with its Lightning connector — and include a 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter — for the next phone. Highly doubtful. Despite the shade being thrown by competitors like OnePlus, whose new newest phone has the legacy connector, Apple is very unlikely to reverse its position on this one.
That same Nikkei Asian Review article also claims that at least one of the forthcoming iPhones will be waterproof. This follows earlier rumors, reported by the Korea Herald and others, that the next iPhone will have a higher water-resistance rating of IP68 compared with the current generation’s IP67, meaning it could be immersed in water for longer and to greater depths.
The iPhone 8 is expected to run on Apple’s A11 CPU. There’s a rumor that the company is developing its own graphics chips, too. But the time frame 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.
According to a listing on Chinese blogging site Weibo, Apple may dump its 32GB model, at least for the iPhone 8, and offer three storage tiers: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB; this is consistent with an earlier rumor reported by TrendForce. These reports also suggest that the company will boost the amount of memory to 3GB, though the 7S and 7S Plus will get only 2GB. These incremental bumps for the flagship would follow last year’s precedent of Apple ditching its outcast 16GB model when it released the iPhone 7.
And what about the iPhone 9?
From the outer frontier of the iPhone hype cycle, The Bell (via Korean site The Investor) reports that Apple will supersize its future phones, with the iPhone 9 featuring two variations with an OLED display — a 5.28-inch model and a 6.46-inch one. And Nikkei Asian Review suggests that all of next year’s iPhones could adopt new screen technology, not just the most high-end model.