The iPhone 7s or iPhone 8 is apparently where ALL the big changes are happening... ROLL ON, 2017!
The pace of the smartphone industry is pretty rapid, quicker than most tech circles in fact. This is largely due to the fact that phones require the use of a mobile network, and mobile networks across the world have established a system of contract tariffs allowing users to get both a new phone and the use of the network for a monthly fee. These contracts typically last between 12-24 months. So that means, unlike computers, or cars, or TVs, or home audio systems, smartphone manufacturers NEED to have a new flagship model hitting the market every year, and to keep competetive they have, so far, needed to be able to show some signficant change or advancement in features.
This, of course, presents quite a unique challenge to handset OEMs, and from the little glimpses we catch from time to time from within these firms, the most effective system seems to be to ALWAYS have the next phone in development, even ahead of the release of a new model. Above all, it's an issue of planning, with OEMs apparently needing to have the next few generations of devices roadmapped, and with research and development departments geared up to create one after another. Non-stop development, in other words, as soon as you buy that new, just-launched iPhone 6s, or whatever, the next model has already been on the drawing board for quite some time.
Apple's plans for as far ahead as 2017 and 2018 have surfaced on-and-off in recent months, so we know things are being prepped even before the arrival of the iPhone 7 series in September 2016. And what's more, the devices for 2017 and beyond are shaping up to be far more interesting - it would appear the model coming inside 2016 will NOT be a big leap forward, while 2017's offering will be a major overhaul.
But has Apple under-estimated its consumers with the iPhone 6s, which sold 10 million less units than its predecessor? The iPhone 6 sold exceptionally well, beating everything that came before it and put Apple well out in front of the competition with respect to overall sales of a flagship and brand appeal. The iPhone 6 was a big win.
The iPhone 6s, however, was not — sales were down inside Q2, some 10 million units, for the first time in 13 years. This caused a stir with investors and analysts who now claim Apple’s unstoppable growth has now tanked. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Samsung and LG have both come out guns blazing in 2016 with the awesome Galaxy S7 range and LG G5.
More and more sources are chiming in on the subject of Apple’s 2017 iPhone and the reason is pretty simple, really: 2017 is the iPhone’s 10th birthday, so it stands to reason that Apple will do something special -- this means potentially no “S” update and perhaps even a new naming convention, something like iPhone X, for example.
Analysts are concerned, though, because more than ever Apple’s innerworkings are happening in the public domain. Previously, Apple leaks were like steaks in France -- extremely rare. But since about 2012/13, iPhone leaks have become more commonplace, as have leaked pictures and details about software updates and potential new features like 3D Touch, for example, inside last year’s iPhone 6s.
Apple’s new iPhone 7 is more of a polish-update than anything else; it's nothing special. In true Apple style, ALL the big changes are being saved for the 10th anniversary iPhone in 2017. Analysts are worried iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 users will hold off on the iPhone 7 and wait for the 2017 iPhone, which is tipped to feature BIG changes and a new OLED display.
Here’s what Apple blogger John Gruber had to say on the matter:
“I think next year’s phone, the 2017 model, the one that will come out in September of 2017. What I have heard, now this is not really from the rumor mill but just scuttlebutt that I’ve heard, is that it will be an all-new form factor.
And there have been some rumors, I guess, but what I’m saying is that I’ve heard this independently and it is completely getting rid of the chin and forehead of the phone. The entire face will be the display. And the Touch ID sensor will be somehow embedded in the display. The front-facing camera will somehow be embedded in the display. The speaker, everything. All the sensors will somehow be behind the display.”
“What I don’t know, and I have no idea, is whether that means that they’re 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… I don’t know.”
Solid number updates to iPhone usually introduce design changes, so this -- if true -- would be kind of unusual. But it's not everyday that something celebrates its 10th birthday, so it stands to reason that Apple would want to do something special.
Still, this is one of the first times where a lot of information is circulating about Apple’s plans for its future iPhones; those coming in 2017 and 2018. Big changes require big decisions and the movements of lots of money — and both of these things are hard to do undetected in today’s always-connected, 24/7 world.
Below is everything currently known about Apple’s future plans for its iPhone line beyond 2016.
Apple Places Orders For IRIS Scanner
Apple is apparently keen to expand the iPhone’s biometric security features beyond TouchID in 2017. According to Chinese sources Apple has already placed orders for IRIS scanners which will be used inside its 2017 iPhone 8 — or whatever the handset ends up being called.
“Xintec,” said the report, “is expected to enter mass production for iris-recognition chips in 2017, which will boost the backend house’s revenues for the year, the report cited market watchers as saying. New orders for iris-recognition sensors include those for the chips that will be embedded in the 2017 series of iPhone, the watchers were also quoted in the report.”
Earlier in the year Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed Apple was working on an IRIS-scanning solution that would enable users to authenticate themselves (and perhaps transactions) with their face and/or eyes. Apple also acquired Emotient in early 2016 and guess what they do? Yep: they make tech that can scan and recognise faces.
The Galaxy Note 7 already features an IRIS scanner but the actual utility of this additional level of security has been held in question since the handset landed — it doesn’t work quite as well as you’d imagine, basically.
Still, maybe Apple can come up with something a little slicker?
2017 iPhone Release Will Be The One Jony Ive Has Dreamt About For Years
This seems almost like a done deal now: 2016’s iPhone 7 will be a fairly underwhelming affair from a design perspective. Internally it will feature a lot of updates and tweaks, but the exterior will almost certainly resemble the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, meaning it is basically going to be an iPhone 6s 2.0. And that kind of sucks if it’s true.
So what’s the reasoning behind this? Quite simple, really: Apple is saving all the good stuff for 2017 — the iPhone’s 10th birthday. According to reports, 2017’s iPhone will be a dramatically redesigned affair, the likes of which Jony Ive has been dreaming about for years. If this does turn out to be true, we could also see a change in how the iPhone is named — could Apple do away with numbers? Potentially.
“For years, Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive has expressed a desire for the iPhone to appear like a single sheet of glass, according to people familiar with the matter,” WSJ reporters wrote. “The current design ideas for the 2017 iPhones are expected to push the handsets in that direction by eliminating much of the bezel around the display with the OLED screen.”
It all sounds very fancy and kind of well worth the wait if everything pans out as described above. However one big question remains: if this is the case, and iPhone sales stalled in 2016, how in the heck is Apple going to sell the iPhone 7 as a viable alternative to the iPhone 6s when EVERYBODY now knows it is saving all the BIG changes for 2017?
ALL-GLASS Design & No Home Button For 2017 iPhone
The iPhone 7s — or whatever it is eventually called — will feature an ALL-GLASS design and a curved OLED display. This is kind of a given at present. But one additional feature that might make an appearance is something that has been talked about for quite sometime now — Apple getting rid of the Home button.
For the longest time there have been reports about Apple implementing the Home key inside the display. Up to now though this has kind of been impossible. But with the advent of 3D Touch and new AMOLED display technology, getting the Home key built into the display is apparently a GO for 2017’s iPhone release.
“Apple’s 2017 iPhone will be able to create more complex tactile vibrations on the display because of a tiny, but high-performance motor equipped inside,” according to BGR. “The trackpad on Apple’s revamped MacBook is completely stationary and has no ‘click button.’ Instead, the MacBook features a system of well-designed sensors and vibrations to provide users with the tactile feedback they’re accustomed to. As anyone who has used a new MacBook can attest, the implementation is flawless, if not a bit surreal.”
This is essentially the technology that will allow Apple to do away with the need for a physical Home button. What this means for the overall design and look of the iPhone 7s is anybody’s guess, but it is likely the phone will look and function remarkably different to what came before. Whether Apple fans will actually appreciate this is another thing entirely, however, as we all remember how angry they were when Apple went an increased the display size.
Further details have emerged on August 9 via Nikkei Asian Report, which claims that Apple's manufacturing partner Foxconn is currently developing a glass iPhone casing. The informations allegedly comes from an insider with access to the Chinese production company; it's said Foxconn has been working on glass bodywork for the 2017 iPhone since 2015 and has gone through multiple design prototypes. The report adds that it expects the 2017 iPhone model to feature a glass frame, front, and back, for an entirely glass build, complete with an AMOLED display panel and a Touch ID Home key and fingerprint scanner embedded underneath the display.
More OLED Hints Emerge
A persistent and consistent rumour about the future of the iPhone line says Apple really wants to get OLED display technology into its phones ASAP, and there's been a lot of talk of it arriving as early as the iPhone 7s in 2017. As of May 23, more info has appeared online supporting the idea that 2017's Apple iPhone will indeed pack OLED tech; the word comes via Bloomberg, reporting that a firm that supplies equipment used in display production, Applied Materials, has seen these equipment orders quadruple inside Q1. The firm has made $700 million in machinery orders in that time, a figure closer to what the company would typically see in a year rather than just three months - the figure is up from 2015's $180 million for the same quarter. It's believed the firms behind the increased orders are likely Apple suppliers getting ready for an OLED push in 2017. Samsung, LG and Sharp (owned by prominent Apple supplier Foxconn) are all known to supply Apple with components and all three have revealed a push for higher volume OLED production. The machinery sold by Applied Materials is estimated to take around nine months to install - another indication that these purchases represent firms "tooling up" to produce OLED components for an iPhone in the later part of next year.
As of June 20, more evidence has appeared online relating to Apple's OLED ambitions. According to a report from tech site Nikkei, Samsung is investing an impressive $6.8 billion into its OLED production operations with the aim to boost its output by as much as 50%. At present the firm produces 300 million OLED panels per year but the investment is expected to boost this figure by a further 200 million. In part, the investment is thought to be due to increasing competition from rivals; Samsung is currently the world leader in OLED production and the firm creates panels for both its own devices and sale to third parties. Fellow-Korean rival LG is expected to invest $8.6 billion into its TV OLED and allegedly has plans for the smartphone space too. Analyst estimate Apple may need to source as many as 100 million OLED panels per year should it shift to OLED for the 2017 iPhone model. With Apple's adoption of OLED and the introduction of the fully flexible and folding Samsung Galaxy X also in 2017, it is expected to be a year that triggers a massive shift in the mobile space and resulting in HUGE demand for OLED panels going forward - from this perspective, both Samsung and LG investing massively in OLED production makes a lot of business sense.
ALL-GLASS iPhone 7s In The Pipeline For 2017
We've seen several recent reports from KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo, a man with an impeccable track record when it comes to accurate Apple and iPhone leaks and predictions, and he has repeatedly stated that 2016's iPhone 7 will be an incremental update - one that won't impress too many customers, he claims.
Next year's model, however, is a whole different ball-game, in fact the likely reason the iPhone 7 won't see major updates is because they're all being reserved for the 2017 model - no-one knows what it will be called yet, it is reasonable to assume iPhone 7s, however, Kuo's predictions suggest that the iPhone revamp will be a massive overhaul to such an extent that we can't rule out some kind of re-branding excercise. Not to mention the emergence of the iPhone SE and Apple's "Pro" brand which is already apparently superseding the old iPad Air and could come to a new dual-camera iPhone model this September.
Anyway, the 2017 iPhone, according to Kuo, will be made primarily from glass, including curved glass bodywork designed to replicate the shape of the iPhone 4s. This claim has been repeated several times, and now an industry insider has made comments which go some way to supporting the idea.
Catcher Technology is an Apple supplier, a firm which builds smartphone bodies and has made them for previous iPhone models where it has created the metal components, but now the company's chairman and CEO, Allen Horng, has commented on the glass body rumours. Nikkei reports that Horng said "as far as I know, only one model will adopt glass casing next year," in response to questions regarding the 2017 iPhone. This could mean that the contemporary iPhone Plus or iPhone Pro model will retain a metal build.
It also appears, according to these reports, that the all-glass iPhone model will have a rigid metal frame inside the glass casing - Horng implied that he is not worried about an all-glass iPhone having an impact on his business; presumably this means his firm will still make the metal interior even if it's not handling the glass. And it will still likely make the non-glass iPhone model for the same year.
Horng also added that a glass-built iPhone would need "advanced" technology for its construction and there would not be any cost savings versus a metal-built one in the current design.
A11 10NM CPU Now In Testing At TSMC
Apple is already prepping for the iPhone 7s. We know this. But now we're starting to get quite a bit of information through about the handset's core, internal specs. Today's leak concerns the next-generation of Apple's A-Series line of SoCs. According to reports the A11 chipset will be based on a 10nm process and will be built by Apple's long-standing partner, TSMC.
Here's the latest from 9to5Mac:
"Digitimes is reporting that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has begun to ‘tape out’ the A11 chip expected to power the 2017-model iPhone. Taping out is the point at which the initial design is finalized and ready to create the photomask that will be used for manufacture. There is, though, still some way to go before the chip makes it into production. The A11 is based on a 10-nanometer process, which TSMC is still working on. The company expects its 10nm process to be certified in the final quarter of this year, to deliver samples to Apple in the first quarter of 2017 and to begin production the following quarter."
Future Design Iterations For iPhone 7s & iPhone 8 Now In Testing
The idea of Apple switching to AMOLED panels in 2017/18 has gained more traction of late with even more sources chiming in with tales of the company cutting deals with Samsung for its iPhone 8 in 2018. LG and Samsung are investing heavily in their AMOLED production facilities for this very reason — Apple using the display tech will create a HUGE demand for the panels and a nice ROI for the two Korean companies.
We've heard a bit before from Kuo and others about Apple wanting to make the switch to OLED displays (AMOLED, specifically) instead of LCD, and before that has been predicted as coming as far ahead as 2018 (bear in mind this prediction was made a while ago, inside 2015) on something like the Apple iPhone 8. However, Kuo now believes Apple has brought its plans forward into 2017's model - there's no mention of which device precisely, but as we're getting the iPhone 7 in September 2016, it doesn't take a genius to figure out the 2017 model will likely be an S variant of it.
BUT, with that said, Apple surprised everyone with the iPhone SE launch in March 2016, so the firm is becoming a less predictable beast with hints of some new agenda. What's more, Kuo himself added that 2017 will see Apple "entirely revamp its iPhone lineup come 2017," according to a report from 9To5Mac. He goes on to reveal that Apple is deciding between using glass, ceramic and plastic for the 2017 iPhone, but believes it will ultimately decide on glass; "as plastic doesn’t offer thin and light form factor designs, and it would be not easy to precisely control the tolerance of ceramic," he says.
Three MAJOR Benefits of OLED Display
- OLEDs produce deeper blacks and have a wider gamut array, and because they’re not backlit they possess higher contrast ratios. In addition to this, refresh rates are WAY faster than what you’ll come across on LCD/LED setups. Viewing angles are also better, meaning you can pretty much see exactly what’s happening on the screen even when standing at 90 degrees.
- Plastic is lighter and more durable than glass. OLEDs are made from plastics and are therefore A LOT lighter and less prone to shattering than their LED/LCD counterparts. This is how Samsung and LG is able to make curved phones and HDTVs.
- OLED displays used to be pricy and this was because of the production costs associated with building them. This is why OLED TVs are insanely expensive these days. However, once new production capabilities are scaled up, something that is happening now, the cost of producing OLED displays will drop dramatically, meaning OLED TVs will be cheaper than LED ones by 2017/18. Of course it is hoped this cost saving will also transfer into smartphones.
Apple is also reportedly investing in AU Optronics with a view to turning the company into an AMOLED screen supplier for iPhone. This deal has not been confirmed as yet, though AUO’s share price jumped 5% once news got out about the potential Apple investment.
At present Apple only uses flexible OLED for its Apple Watch, with panels supplied by LG and Samsung's display arms. Business Korea's sources seem to think Apple will adopt OLED partly for the flexible properties; allowing for new form factors and the popularity of these features in the current market, but also due to perceived "weak points" for "colour saturation, accuracy, and brightness," with the currently used LCDs.
A curved display design also raises a lot of other questions relating to other rumours circulating about Apple's future iPhones. A big talking point at the moment is the idea that Apple will integrate iPhone controls and features (including the TouchID fingerprint scanner) into the display glass while ditching the traditional Home key button.
The upside of this is a much sleeker look with the display taking up most of the phone's design, but reports indicate it's going to take a lot of advanced technology and effort to put this together. While this sort of thing would pair quite well stylistically with curved display features, assuming both technology types are as difficult to implement as it's claimed, then implementing them together at the same time really does pose something of a head-scratcher. That said, if anyone can do it in terms of innovation and being able to throw a ton of money at the problem, it's probably Apple.
Samsung Display Exec Confirms Role In 2018 iPhone Display Production
According to reports dating November 24 2015, the 2018 iPhone will pack a Samsung-made OLED display. Such things are easy to dismiss as over-speculative hokum, but this time we're taking it seriously because it comes straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. An executive from Samsung Display (Samsung's descriptively titled display production and development arm) has made a statement claiming future iPhone devices will use Samsung OLED display panels. The news comes via the Korea Times:
"Samsung Display has recently renewed talks with Apple to supply its small-sized OLED displays for the next iPhones to be released in a few years, which I believe is around 2018," said the executive.
It would appear that the move, along with Samsung's renewed efforts in camera sensor and mobile processor production, represents Samsung making a bid to become as important in component production as it is in producing its own handsets. It seems likely that several consecutive years of less-than-satisfactory sales of its flagship devices compared to iPhone sales means Samsung sees more profit in supplying parts to phone brands that sell in large numbers.
"Samsung Display-manufactured OLED displays have so far been used in all Galaxy flagship smartphones… But demand for handsets will remain weak as time goes by because the handset industry will be reshaped further… Samsung Display needs to have a long-term contract with new and trustworthy major customers for OLED displays," they said.
HOWEVER, a report on December 8 2015 claims that Apple is actually looking at outsourcing its OLED production to Japan Display Inc (JDI). The word comes via Japanese publication Nikkan, which claims to have heard from sources that Apple displays for the iPhone 8 will be produced at the firm's Mobara plant. The revelation has prompted much discussion, understandably, and it's thought that as Apple already has Samsung produce its processor hardware it may be seeking to limit the number of components it buys from one of its main rivals.
The iPhone 7s To Feature BIG Design Changes; Not The iPhone 7
Alongside the rumour of a 2018 introduction of OLED, Ming-chi Kuo has suggested Apple would introduce a 5.8in iPhone variant, and it seems in-step with the rest of his predictions being brought forward into next year, this one too is being pegged for a 2017 arrival. This model is also believed to pack OLED display tech, but despite the larger display size it is claimed the body will be smaller than the current 5.5in iPhone 6S Plus model - meaning those bezels must be ultra thin! Apple allegedly intends to replace the 5.5in model with this 5.8in device, provided it can meet production targets for the larger AMOLED panels.
This will mean 2017's iPhone line-up will include at the very least both a 4.7in and 5.8in iPhone flagship, as well as the possibility of an additonal 4in iPhone SE (depending on how well that handset does this year, presumably). Kuo also adds that 2017's iPhones will support wireless charging and new biometrics (so perhaps an eye scanner or face recognition), but doesn't reveal any further details about the technology used.
Kuo also claims we will see an iPhone 4 style design with a curved glass display and curved glass body components (most fragile iPhone ever?!), however, the edging will be metal. Despite being based on the iPhone 4 language, Kuo insists that the new iPhone will feature a "completely new form factor design" which will be more comfortable to hold while also packing in narrower bezels.
However, many were expecting a big iPhone re-design this year, 2016, with the iPhone 7, and with good reason; Apple has typically operated its new handset designs on what's referred to as a "tick-tock" cycle, with the main number devices being the "tick" (iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 7) and seeing major design changes and new features, while the "tock" is the 'S' category phones (iPhone 5s, iPhone 6s) are generally incremental updates with the same design as their predecessor and a handful of smaller tweaks. Kuo's report goes against this by claiming that this year's iPhone 7 won't be such a big change after all, and it'll be 2017's iPhone 7s before we see a big overhaul.
The key difference here though, is that if Kuo's previous batch of info is anything to go by the next overhaul will be BIG, sounding like more-or-less a ground-up rebuild of the iPhone line. That's also where this allegedly iPhone 4 inspired design comes in, apparently implementing newer curved-glass production technologies to replicate the much-loved iPhone 4 bodyshape but entirely (or almost entirely, we wonder if there will still be some metal) from glass. As cool as all this sounds though, the idea of an all-glass iPhone 7s does sound like it will lead to a lot of breakages! As with Kuo's earlier rumours, the latest also reiterates the idea that the 2017 iPhone 7s will also mark Apple's move from LCD display over to OLED.
Like a lot of things Apple’s doing in 2016, the iPhone 7 — and everything it represents — will be very different. According to reports, Apple will release not two, but THREE new models in 2016 in the form of the iPhone 7, the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 7 Pro.
The latter of which will benefit for a new type of DSLR-grade dual-sensor camera and feature new connectivity features that will allow users to use it in a similar fashion to the iPad Pro, meaning keyboard and Apple Pencil support.
And this couldn’t have come at a better time, either. Apple’s iPhone sales declined in 2016 for the first time in over a decade. The iPhone SE will not fill the void either, with predicted sales of 15 million for the year. No doubt a lot of iPhone 6 users are waiting for the iPhone 7, just as a lot of iPhone 5 users did with the iPhone 5s.