iPhone 8 launch: 90 days and counting?

 cnet.com  7/3/2017 11:11:59 PM  25  Justin Jaffe
vivo-phone

Vivo unveiled a phone concept last week with a fingerprint scanner embedded into the display -- the very feature rumored to be imperiling the iPhone 8's September debut.  

Vivo

The 10th anniversary of the first iPhone has come and gone. Now, if Apple sticks to it usual playbook, we are closing in on 60 days until the next iPhone debuts. 

This year, however, there are questions about that playbook. 

For months, an ensemble of supply-chain gossips and technology analysts have voiced doubts about the company's ability to deliver the iPhone 8 (or whatever it's called) in the first half of September. Veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo continues to insist that the new phone will not ship until later in the fall. Others report that Apple is right on schedule.

The potential delay is said to be the byproduct of a major redesign that includes an OLED display, wireless charging and the integration of Apple's next mobile operating system with some blockbuster AR capabilities. But the central issue appears to be related to Apple's attempted integration of Touch ID into the iPhone 8's rumored virtual home button. 

In recent weeks, we've seen a bunch of realistic design drawings, videos and iPhone 8-ready case protectors popping up online. And there have been reports of websites claiming visits from iPhone 8 devices, which has been a harbinger of an imminent release in the past. 

Regardless of the exact timing, all signs point to a brand new iPhone coming before the end of 2017. As we count down the days until that introduction, we'll continue to assemble the most significant iPhone 8 rumors below.

iPhone 8 specs we might see:

  • Three new models including two minor "S" upgrades plus an all-new iPhone 8
  • Home button and Touch ID embedded in the display or located on back
  • New biometric security featuring iris scanning and/or facial recognition via LG's new 3D sensor technology
  • Curved, edge-to-edge OLED display with the iPad's True Tone technology, possibly with Ion-X glass
  • "Wireless" charging (inductive/magnetic charging, as with the Apple Watch)
  • Dual-lens camera, possibly in a vertical configuration and/or with AR capabilities
  • Support for the Apple Pencil
  • USB-C charger (leading to Apple's existing Lightning connector on the phone)
  • Enhanced water resistance or waterproofing
  • Higher quality earpiece for louder, clearer audio
  • Apple's next-generation processor (the A10X or A11)
  • Stainless steel and glass body
  • Upgraded storage and memory, possibly starting at 64GB and 3GB of RAM
  • Intel or Qualcomm modem
  • iOS 11 (preview)
  • Priced between $850 and $1,099 (roughly £650 to £900, or AU$1,150 to AU$1,500)

The iPhone... when?

There's a ton of debate about this. 

We usually see new Apple phones in the fall. And there are many reports that Apple is right on schedule.

But a number of supply chain sources and analysts are throwing cold water on that expectation for this year. We've been hearing rumors about supply chain manufacturing issues related to the "significant hardware upgrades" planned for the new phone. Kuo, the analyst, contends that the phone won't ship until October or November. Other scenarios include an announcement in September followed by "severe shortages." It's also possible that Apple could launch the "S" series in September, leaving the major release for later in the year. 

The iPhone... what?

Yep, we're calling it the iPhone 8. Nope, 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 seems likely that we'll get an iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus in addition to the next-generation flagship. For the 10th anniversary model itself, anything is possible. We've seen rumors about an iPhone 10; an iPhone X; and the offbeat iPhone Edition, seemingly inspired by the premium Apple Watch Edition.

At WWDC, Apple introduced the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 11, dropping some hints about the next iPhone in the process. With the next-generation phone, we can expect to see upgrades that make Siri, Apple's voice assistant, smarter and more capable; new layouts and options for the lock screen, App Store and Control Center; and AR software that will overlay the virtual world on to the physical one. Read more about iOS 11 in our preview.

Vertical cameras and AR

Many of the "leaked" images we've seen so far show the iPhone 8 with two cameras in a vertical configuration, with an LED flash in the middle. According to Korea Economic Daily, LG is providing 3D facial recognition technology that could be used for "biometric" identification -- like Touch ID, but with your face instead of your thumbprint. And if the iPhone 8 comes with LG 3D sensors, they would almost certainly also support augmented reality applications.

Probably the biggest upgrade 

It looks likely that at least one of the new iPhones will have an OLED display. (The iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus are likely to stick with current LCD technology.) 

Pieces of the iPhone 8, iPhone 7S, and iPhone 7S Plus?

Pieces of what's to come? On the left, purported iPhone 8 components. On the right, what's said to be the front panel of the iPhone 7S and rear panel of the iPhone 7S Plus, respectively.

kamisky via reddit

A curved OLED panel (reported by The Wall Street Journal and Nikkei Asian Review) would be a big-time addition for the iPhone (even though, yes, Samsung's been using one for years). Bloomberg says the iPhone 8's screen "covers almost the entire front of the device" and Kuo says it will have "the highest screen-to-body ratio" of any phone. 

It's this new display technology, however, that could be one of the major factors possibly pushing back the release date. 

The future of the home button

Kuo insists that the iPhone 8 will have a virtual home button but that it will not support Touch ID. There are rumors that Apple might move it to the back of the phone, as shown in alleged render images leaked on Chinese site Weibo (via Slashleaks) and on Twitter by Apple leaker Sonny Dickson. One analyst firm suggested that there is a "high chance" that Apple will locate it on the back of the iPhone. And Apple could ditch the home button altogether, following in the footsteps of Samsung with its Galaxy S8.

Is Touch ID the fly in the ointment?

Last week, Qualcomm unveiled its under-screen fingerprint-sensing technology in a Vivo phone at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai. So, in theory and in practice, it can be done. And according to a handful of reports, Apple has embedded Touch ID directly into the display. Manufacturing the combination virtual home button/optical fingerprint scanner has apparently been a supreme technical challenge, however. And Apple has other options including relocating Touch ID to the back of the phone, eliminating Touch ID or delaying the iPhone 8 launch altogether. 

Rumors was the case that they gave me

We're not likely to see the iPhone for a couple of months, but accessory manufacturers have already begun taking orders on cases and screen protectors. Though manufacturers regularly do get the specs wrong, this step may be a signal that Apple has locked down its final design.

And the majority of images of cases, renders and molds that have appeared so far show an iPhone 8 that, size-wise, sits between the iPhone 7($749.00 at Apple) and 7 Plus($869.00 at Apple). It's worth noting that the iPhone 8's display, rumored to extend from edge to edge, would likely be more comparable with that of the 7 Plus.

In terms of materials, one of Apple's prototypes features a combination of curved glass and stainless steel, according to Bloomberg. 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.

Charging: wireless and USB-C

The sleuths at MacRumors have uncovered a new sound in iOS 11 theorized to be associated with engaging the iPhone 8's rumored wireless charging capabilities. The follows multiple sources, including Nikkei Asian Review and Apple analyst Kuo, that have suggested that the next iPhone will support wireless charging as well as USB-C for faster "plugged-in" charges.

Enhanced audio

According to 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 water-proofing (more on that below).

airpods-classic-sticker.jpg

Today, the AirPods are a $159 accessory. Could Apple included them for free with the iPhone 8?

Apple

AirPods included

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...

Price

This one's way up in the air. Sources ranging from Morgan Stanley to Fast Company to, most recently, Goldman Sachs are talking about an iPhone 8 that could cost more than $1,000 in the US (roughly £800 or AU$1,350). A UBS analyst has theorized that the 64GB entry-level model would start at $850 (roughly £655 and AU$1,110) -- just like the new Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus -- and that the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus would cost $649 (£500 and AU$850) and $749 (£580 and AU$980), respectively.

Gigabit LTE

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.

Return of the headphone jack?

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. 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. 

Enhanced waterproofing

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 at greater depths.

More storage

Apple may dump its 32GB model and offer 64GB and 256GB models, according to TrendForce; the report also suggests that the company will boost the amount of memory to 3GB. This incremental bump would follow the recent precedent of Apple ditching its dreaded 16GB model when it released the iPhone 7.

ipad-truetone.jpg

Is True Tone coming to the iPhone?

Apple

Mood lighting

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. If included, this would adjust display settings for ambient lighting conditions as it currently does 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 its products, including the iPhone. 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.

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.

Update, July 3, 3:20 p.m. PT: We'll continue to add new rumors and stories as they emerge.

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