Update August 1, 2017: After discovering numerous references to facial recognition biometrics and an image of an bezel-less design, developer Steven Troughton-Smith continues to dig into the HomePod’s pre-release firmware. Among the new findings are a higher-res screen, tap to wake functionality, and a virtual home button. See “The rumor, part two” in the What’s the latest section for all the new details.
Apple’s is still selling tens of millions of iPhone 7s every month—but all everyone can talk about is what’s coming next. After all, 2017 marks the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, so Apple is reportedly gearing up to make this year’s model extra special.
If you passed on the iPhone 7 to wait for the iPhone 8—or the iPhone 7s or whatever name Apple decides to use—it sounds like the next phone could be the design refresh you were waiting for. Just don’t expect the headphone jack to return. We’ll keep track of the latest rumors and how plausible they are, and we’ll put them in one spot (this one!) so you can pop on over whenever you want to read the latest.
What’s the latest?
The rumor: We’ve been hearing for weeks that the iPhone 8 will ditch the home button for a radical new design built around a new OLED screen that covers nearly the entire front of the handset. But as with all rumors, we’ve been skeptical. However, it appears as though an eagle-eyed iOS developer has uncovered the truth.
Steven Troughton-Smith dug into an early firmware release for Apple’s upcoming HomePod speaker and found a treasure trove of information about the iPhone 8. Most notably, it seems to confirm that the iPhone 8 will dump Touch ID. According to Troughton-Smith, the pre-release firmware includes several references to a new “BKFaceDetectStateInfo” string, which seemingly refers to a new face detection biometric system. Additionally, the firmware contains a small icon of the iPhone 8, and it matches up nearly perfectly with the rumors, right down to the camera cutout at the top.
The rumor, part two: And that’s not all the HomePod firmware has revealed. Troughton-Smith has unearthed a few more goodies about the next iPhone, most notably the likely screen resolution. He uncovered references to a resolution of 1125 x 2436, which would give the iPhone 8 a 5.15-inch 3x retina display at 521ppi, making it the highest resolution iPhone screen ever. Back in February, highly accurate tipster Ming-Chi Kuo predicted this exact size for the iPhone 8. However, he explained that the full size of the screen would actually be 5.8 inches at 1242 x 2800, with part of the bottom reserved for the virtual home button and other functions. Troughton-Smith also discovered references to a “home indictator” rather than a home button, so it’s likely that Kuo was right on the money. Additionally, tap to wake functionality, a popular feature on Android phones, will likely make an appearance, but Troughton-Smith sees nothing to indicate under-the-display Touch ID.
Plausible? Um, yeah. Of all the rumors we’ve read—and that’s no small number—this is the most believable. Unless Apple is trolling us hard, it’s pretty clear that the iPhone 8 will have a new facial recognition biometric and a completely new design. While the pieces here don’t necessarily confirm the rumor that Touch ID will be going away, it certainly lends credence to the idea, especially in light of the home button-less image and home indicator reference. At any rate, with each passing day (and rumor) we’re getting more and more excited about the iPhone 8, whatever it costs.
Frickin laser beams in the friction camera?!
The rumor: We already know that Apple is hard at work at a killer AR framework that lets developers create amazing virtual experiences, but Fast Company reports that Apple is working to add a rear-facing 3D vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser system to the iPhone 8. What that means to us is a killer way to lock in on what the camera sees. According to the site, the new sensor will accomplish two tasks, enabling better depth detection for augmented reality apps, and implementing more accurate autofocus for photography.
As it stands Apple has done some amazing things with ARKit, but all eyes are on the iPhone 8 to bring it to the next level. Fast Company cautions that the feature might not be ready for this year’s phone—or might be limited to the higher-end models—but one thing is for sure: A laser sensor in the iPhone 8 would certainly give Apple a needed boost in the AR race.
Plausible? Apple’s augmented reality ambitions were all speculation until WWDC, but now that ARKit has landed, it’s clear that AR is a big part of Apple’s iOS roadmap. And the next iPhone is the perfect device to showcase what the new tech can really do. A depth-detecting laser sensor incorporated into a next-generation dual-camera system will instantly make the iPhone 8 the most intriguing handset for AR, giving it an edge that might actually make it useful for something more than capturing Pokémon at the park.
Delayed wireless charging and a sky-high price tag?
The rumor: It’s all but confirmed that the iPhone 8 will have wireless induction charging built in, like many of its Android peers. Some new speculation from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber suggests it might not be ready when the handset launches. In a tweet he writes, “I’ve heard that inductive charging … might be late, waiting for iOS 11.1 (a la Portrait mode last year).” One of the premier features of the iPhone 7 Plus is Portrait Mode, which blurs the background around your subject to create a depth effect, but early adopters had to wait a few weeks to get it. If you remember, the iPhone 7 launched on Sept. 16, but Portrait Mode didn’t arrive until over a month later, on Oct. 24. It would be a bummer if wireless charging were similarly delayed on the iPhone 8, but because Gruber also says the charger will be sold separately, we might be waiting a while before the accessories ship anyway.
Gruber also opines on the price of the iPhone 8, or as he calls it, the iPhone Pro. In a lengthy post on his site, he concludes that the new OLED model will likely start at $1,200 for 64GB of storage. That’s a sky-high price for sure, but rumors have been swirling about the four-figure price of the iPhone 8 for a while now.
Plausible? John Gruber doesn’t play the rumor game all that often, but when he does, he generally has solid information. As such, both of these nuggets are entirely possible. It’s not uncommon for Apple to delay features until they’re just right, so it would sooner delay wireless charging than ship a buggy version. Gruber also lays out a surprisingly compelling argument for such an expensive phone. In short, Apple will be fighting supply issues for months to come, so it needs to offer a reason for tens of millions of people to buy the regularly priced models releasing alongside it. A $300 difference in price would certainly fit the bill.
Goodbye Touch ID?
The rumor: After months of conflicting reports that put the iPhone 8’s fingerprint sensor either under the display or on the rear casing (as with Android phones), often-accurate KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has dropped a bombshell (via StreetInsider): The iPhone 8 won’t have a Touch ID sensor at all. Apple is reportedly dumping fingerprint support in favor of facial recognition, which will be enabled by a new 3D-sensing front camera. The report also backs the existence of the camera cutout at the top of the screen, which will give the 5.8-inch iPhone 8 bragging rights as the phone with the highest screen-to-body ratio, besting even the Samsung’s super-slender Galaxy S8.
Plausible? It’s starting to look like this is going to happen. A previous post on Reddit floated this idea, and now one of the most accurate tipsters in the Apple universe has backed the claim. Touch ID has had a major impact on the security of our iPhones, not just with unlocking, but also with secure files, Apple Pay, and App Store purchases. In our experiences with facial recognition, it’s not nearly as accurate or convenient, and hackers have had better luck with spoofing it. We’ll have to see what Apple does here, but this seems like a worse move than killing the headphone jack.
Waterproofing and wireless charging
The rumor: The iPhone 8 will feature both waterproof capabilities and wireless charging, according to a report in Nikkei Asian Review. The information comes from Wistron, one of Apple’s assembly companies, which told shareholders on Wednesday that the new features will “alter the assembly process a bit.” Apple made last year’s iPhone 7 the first to be considered water-resistant, and we’ve heard previously that Apple is seriously considering wireless charging. It’s unclear, though, whether the all-new 2017 iPhone will sport these new capabilities.
Plausible? It makes sense that Apple would want to take the iPhone 8 one step further in terms of water-resistance, so making it technically waterproof is the next logical step. Apple is notoriously cautious in designating its products waterproof or even water-resistant, though, so we’ll see if the company makes this claim in the upcoming iPhones.
As for wireless charging, this seems likely. Apple joined the Wireless Power Consortium last year, and previous rumors have indicated that all new iPhone models being released this year will feature wireless charging. So if you’re going to bet on an all-new feature, wireless charging is as close to a safe bet as we’ll get before launch date.
When will it come out?
The rumor: There are conflicting theories regarding the iPhone 8’s launch window. Some have speculated that Apple may miss the traditional September launch window because a lot of custom-ordered parts, including pieces for the display, wireless charging, and printed circuit boards, won’t be ready by September, according to the latest findings from Nikkei Asian Review. The iPhone 7s models are expected to come out on schedule, however.
In this report, an analyst from research company IHS Markit confirmed that Samsung is now the exclusive OLED supplier for the new iPhones, because Samsung specializes in manufacturing curved smartphone displays. However, the analyst says “Samsung is facing challenges in delivering what Apple wants,” even though they’ve cranked out close to 75 million curved iPhone displays so far.
This is not the first time we’ve heard that Apple has faced roadblocks during the iPhone 8’s production. This follows an earlier report from reputable KGI analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, which reported that the iPhone 8 will be out in October or November due to these supply issues. Previously, Digitimes reported that Apple was facing delays in developing its proprietary fingerprint sensor for the new OLED-equipped iPhone 8 (if, indeed, that feature will remain on the phone). Additionally, Japanese news site Macotakara reported that STMicroelectronics, the new supplier of the iPhone’s 3D camera sensors, needed more time to ramp up mass production. With all these production issues, some reports even suggest the iPhone 8 won’t come out until 2018.
Rumors being what they are, analysts at JPMorgan had predicted Apple would take the wraps off its new iPhone at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, based on a note obtained by 9to5Mac. This is something the company hasn’t done since 2010—and didn’t do this year, after all.
Plausible? At first, it seemed very unlikely that Apple would miss its typical September launch date. Plus, Digitimes doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to iPhone rumors. But now that Nikkei Asian Review and Ming-Chi Kuo are jumping on board, this rumor gets a credibility boost. Apple is tinkering with assembling OLEDs for the first time, as well as incorporating new camera sensors and fingerprint sensors (if the latter is still a feature). If there were an iPhone model that required a little more time, the iPhone 8 would seem to be it.
We’re not surprised the JPMorgan prediction fell through. During the company’s second-quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said people were pausing their iPhone purchases because they saw rumors of upcoming iPhones and wanted to wait. Announcing an iPhone 8 in June and not making it available to buy until September would all but kill Apple’s iPhone business—at least without hefty discounts to spur sales.
What’s with the delay?
The rumor: The 3D Touch feature on the iPhone 8 has been a real pain for Apple. According to AppleInsider, Apple is still trying to get 3D Touch to work properly on the iPhone 8, and this will push the production schedule to October or November. In addition, Apple is reportedly paying more than double to get 3D Touch on the iPhone 8. AppleInsider previously reported that TPK Holdings is charging between $18 and $22 to implement 3D Touch on the OLED iPhone 8. The same company currently charges between $7 and $9 per current iPhone. The price increase stems from the fact that implementing 3D Touch on an OLED display requires putting the sensors between a “glass sandwich.”
Plausible? Even if the iPhone 8 doesn’t come out until way later this year, Apple shouldn’t be too worried. A new, souped-up iPhone would be perfect for the holiday shopping season, and investors are already drooling about the higher demand it could trigger. It’s also possible that Apple has come across some unexpected costs in producing the all-new iPhone 8, especially because is the company’s first time building in an OLED display. The iPhone 8 is already rumored to command a higher price tag, so even if Apple has to pay more to provide the same features, its margins will remain intact.
Concept video based on CAD schematic?
The rumor: A new concept video has surfaced that renders some of the most prominent rumors about the iPhone 8. The video showcases the iPhone 8’s OLED display, as well as the vertically aligned rear camera system. Based on a factory computer-animated design schematic, the video is courtesy of French gadget leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer, known as OnLeaks on Twitter.
Plausible? Hemmerstoffer has a good track record when it comes to iPhone rumors. Last year, he posted a photo of the iPhone 7 case months before the device was unveiled. However, even Hemmerstoffer admits the latest video may not be 100-percent accurate because Apple is testing various prototypes of the iPhone 8. “I can’t confirm this is 100% accurate,” he tweeted. Watch the video below.
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