Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
The iPhone 7S or iPhone 8 may not be due out until later this year, but we are already hearing a number of rumors about Apple’s next flagships. It seems as though we’re in for some major changes with the iPhone 7S/8, including a switch to OLED screens, a larger 5.8-inch screen, curved glass backs, and more.
Here’s everything we know so far about the new iPhones coming in 2017.
Even more water-resistant
The iPhone 7 was the first device in the iPhone family that could be submerged up to a meter underwater for 30 minutes. Apple’s going to take it a step further with the next iPhone, ramping up the IP rating from IP67 to IP68. If true, that would put it on par with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
You’ll hardly notice a difference, though, as the IP68-rating allows submersion up to 1.5 meters underwater for the same length of time. The rumor comes from the Korea Herald, which cites “multiple sources.” We can’t verify this, but it’s not an unsurprising feature for the next iPhone.
The sources also say Samsung is looking to bring the IP68 rating to its more budget-friendly devices, like the A3, A5, and A7, as well as the J series.
Design: Say goodbye to the home button and look forward to new materials
There have been a ton of rumors about the materials to be used to build the next iPhone, and while some suggest that the device will have an all-glass back, new rumors say that instead Apple will switch out aluminum for stainless steel. The report, from DigiTimes, says that the “iPhone 8” will come with a stainless steel frame — but its unknown if they mean the 2018 iPhone, which is expected to launch after the iPhone 7s this year, or the next iPhone model.
If true, it would mark a return to stainless steel for Apple, which used the material in its phone in the iPhone 4s. Still, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, only high-end iPhones are expected to get the new material, as stainless steel both looks better and is more expensive.
While rumors about the iPhone 7, which arrived in September, indicate that it may not get a huge redesign, the Wall Street Journal said in mid-June that the 2017 iPhone will be radically different. New information from sources speaking to Bloomberg also reiterate that the 2017 iPhone may “appear like a single sheet of glass.” That would eliminate much of the bezel around the display as well as the home button.
BGR is further reporting that the top bezel will also be removed — this could be a tricky move, as the top bezel houses the ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, the front speaker, and the front-facing camera. But a patent discovered by Apple Insider suggests that Apple is actually looking to move the front-facing sensors to underneath the display. For a closer look, you can check out U.S. patent No. 9,466,653, titled “Electronic devices with display-integrated light sensors.”
These reports corroborate rumors brought to light by Apple insider John Gruber, who was among the first to say that the 2017 iPhone 7S/8 also may not have a single bezel — that plays well with the idea of a single sheet of glass. The entire front of the device could be one giant display, and the Touch ID sensor would be embedded in the screen itself. This has been reiterated in The New York Times, which quoted anonymous sources.
“Apple is likely to continue making iPhones without headphone jacks, and next year’s iPhone will have a full-screen face with the virtual button built directly into the screen, according to two people at the company who spoke on condition of anonymity because the product details are private,” the Times reports.
These rumors have been further corroborated by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, whose recently released report suggests that the 2017 iPhone would feature a black-tinted glass front and back design. Apparently, the popularity of the glossy finish of the jet black iPhone 7 prompted this decision — as KGI Securities reports, around “30 to 35 percent and 45 to 50 percent of pre-orders around the world, and in China,” respectively, were of the jet black variety.
In an earlier report, Kuo revealed that he thinks the glass back on the 2017 iPhone will also be curved for added comfort. Although going back to glass may seem like an odd retro move for Apple, it would also open up possibilities like wireless charging, which is nearly impossible to achieve with an all-metal device.
Moreover, Kuo suggests that higher-end models of future iPhones will likely use stainless steel in their cases — so look out, world. We’re about to get real fancy.
Here’s a concept video made by Ran Avni at ConceptsiPhone, which shows what a borderless iPhone could look like. The design in the video is based on Marek Weidlich’s design on Behance.
As for the size of the devices, Gruber says he doesn’t know whether Apple is “going to shrink the actual thing in your hand to fit the screen sizes we already have, or whether they’re going to grow the screens to fit the devices we’re already used to holding.”
More: Apple iPhone SE review
True wireless charging
The next iPhone’s true innovation may be long-distance wireless charging.
Indeed, California start-up Energous, which is thought to be working on a wireless charging station capable of transmitting power up to 15 feet, is working with Apple suppliers Dialog Semiconductor and Pegatron. Rumor has it the upcoming iPhone will support Energous’s WattUp platform, which transfers energy over fairly long distances.
Indeed, the most recent report from KGI suggests that Apple will, in fact, add wireless charging in 2017. Ming-Chi Kuo says that iPhone 8 owners will have the option of using an inductive pad to rejuice their handsets, much as one might charge the Apple Watch. While we initially thought that Apple might not democratize access to these wireless charging capabilities, only offering the functionality for more expensive, higher-capacity models, this may not be the case any longer. The latest report from Ming-Chi Kuo notes that the new 4.7-inch iPhone will feature wireless charging as well.
A patent applied for by Apple in September 2016 refers to an “inductive charging station” similar to the magnetic charger used by the Apple Watch. Previous rumors suggested that longtime Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. would produce charging modules for the iPhone 7S/8.
A dual camera module?
A new rumor suggests Apple may release a 5-inch iPhone with dual vertical cameras. Their purpose will likely be similar to the cameras on the existing iPhone 7 Plus — the iPhone 7S/8 would be able to use Portrait Mode and take advantage of the dual lens system.
Japanese blog Mac Otakara, citing an unnamed Taiwanese supplier, suggests dual cameras will be a part of the upcoming ‘S’ iPhone lineup. They’re rumored to be arranged in a vertical configuration as opposed to the current horizontal layout on the 7 Plus.
And according to a report from The Korea Economic Daily, Apple is collaborating with LG to create a dual-camera module that would allow for 3D photographing. This would certainly make sense, as LG is already the company behind the iPhone 7 Plus camera. While Apple previously patented 3D-object and gesture recognition, it’s unclear whether the upcoming iPhone will bring these patents to life.
OLED screens for the iPhone
Will the 2017 iPhone finally include a better-looking and more advanced OLED display? Tough to say. A report from Bloomberg revealed that the company which makes many of the machines responsible for fabricating OLED displays, Japan-based Canon Tokki, may have trouble meeting demand.
It notes that Canon Tokki has “a growing backlog” of orders even after doubling its output in 2016. Case in point: The wait for an OLED-making machine from Canon Tokki Corp. is about two years.
Initially, Samsung is expected to be the sole supplier of new iPhone models’ displays. According to DigitTimes, it expects to ship between 60 million and 70 million OLED units in 2017 — up to a maximum of 20 million units per month.
LG and Japan Display are reportedly looking to enter production later on in the process. And another report suggests Apple is speaking with Sharp Corp. to supply additional OLED screens. On September 30, Sharp announced a $566 million investment in developing OLED production facilities, citing June 2018 as the target date for product output. “Apple has unofficially or as a nod encouraged Sharp to go into it,” Amir Anvarzadeh, Singapore-based head of Japanese equity sales at BGC Partners Inc., told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “Apple’s general strategy is to increase the competition on the supply side, and dilute the risk exposure to one company.”
The iPhone 7S/8 that does come with an OLED screen will likely be more expensive, the Wall Street Journal reported, as the displays are costly to produce. However, the same report notes that Apple could decide against the OLED model altogether. There’s precedent for such a 180: Last year, a global shortage of sapphire glass forced Apple to abandon the material for the iPhone 7.
The Motley Fool report hints that OLED panels may be used across the iPhone range in 2017 or 2018, not just on the so-called iPhone 7S/8. According to the DigitTimes note it found, “supply chain sources believe that 50 million of these AMOLED-equipped iPhones will make it out to customers in the first year of availability.” While 50 million sounds like a lot, it’s a far cry from the 200 million iPhones Apple sold last year, perhaps indicating that the company will gradually shift into OLED rather than equipping all phones with the new tech right away.
The new iPhone’s display may be flexible. Samsung Display, the subdivision of electronics behemoth Samsung that oversees the company’s display technologies, will supply Apple with “millions” of curved screens for the highest-end iPhone 8, according to The Korea Herald. It is reportedly of the plastic variety as opposed to the Gorilla Glass screens of iPhones past, and “curved all over.” Minor revisions of the to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, meanwhile, will use flat LCD panels.
Earlier, a report from Nikkei Asian Review suggests that at least one new iPhone will feature a premium OLED display that’s curved on both sides, somewhat like Samsung’s Edge series. And a document surfaced by a Chinese social media corroborated those details. The sketches show a high-end iPhone, code-named “Ferrari,” that boasts a “glass sandwich” design, an edge-to-edge OLED display, wireless charging, and a touch-sensitive home button.
A new selection of colors?
The Jet Black iPhone was a huge hit for the iPhone 7, and while it cost $100 more than the same phone in other colors, Apple proved that many people don’t care about having to pay more for a sleeker device. According to recent rumors, the company may well do the same thing with the iPhone 7S — this time, however, the color may not be Jet Black. According to the rumors, the color choice will be red.
A red iPhone would be a pretty big deal for Apple, which has traditionally stuck with more subdued colors — like whites, blacks, and grays. A red addition to the lineup would be a bold new choice for customers.
The rumor comes from Japanese Apple blog Macotakara, which also claims that the 10th anniversary iPhone will indeed be called the iPhone 7S — not the iPhone 8.
Will Apple launch 4 iPhone sizes in 2017?
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Are you one of the few who thinks that the iPhone 6S Plus is too small for your probably huge hands? Well, we’ve got good news for you. According to several reports, Apple may add a 5.8-inch iPhone to its lineup in 2017.
For years, Apple avoided increasing its iPhone screen size beyond the traditional 3.5 inches. Now, the company is comfortable with its 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones and rumor has it, Apple wants to go even bigger in 2017 with a 5.8-inch iPhone.
The first report came from the Motley Fool, which picked up on a note obtained from DigiTimes. The so-called iPhone 7S Pro would complement the already quite large, 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus. According to the rumor, the 2017 iPhone lineup may include the standard iPhone 7S, with a 4.7-inch display; the iPhone 7S Plus, with a 5.5-inch display; and an iPhone 7S Pro, with the rumored 5.8-inch display. The Motley Fool also notes that the new device may come a year later, in 2018, when the iPhone 8 will be announced.
Noted KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has seconded the rumor, reports 9to5Mac. Kuo writes that Apple’s full 2017 iPhone lineup will include the following iPhone screen sizes: 4 inches, 4.7 inches, 5.5 inches, and 5.8 inches. He also suggests that Apple may experiment with either glass, ceramic, or plastic backs on the 2017 iPhones.
In his latest report, Kuo suggested that the 4.7-inch 2017 model, the so-called 7S, will serve as a midrange or perhaps even low-end iPhone. While the fancier iPhone 8 “Ferrari,” which is currently rumored to boast an OLED screen, a bezel-less design, and wireless charging, will comprise around 50 to 55 percent of new shipments next year, Kuo said that the “iPhone 7S” could account for between 30 and 35 percent of new iPhone shipments in 2017.
The 5.8-inch iPhone would be new territory for Apple, as would launching four iPhones in one year. It’s unknown whether these rumors will come true, or if Apple is merely experimenting with the idea of a jumbo iPhone.
Article originally published in May 2016. Julian Chokkattu, Kyle Wiggers, Lulu Chang, and Christian de Looper have contributed to this report. Updated on 01-13-2017 by Julian Chokkattu: Added rumors of an IP68 rating.