Apple’s iPhone 8 isn’t supposed to arrive until much later in 2017, but that hasn’t stopped legions of fans from fervently speculating about it. It may or may not launch alongside the new 2017 iPhone models, currently known as the iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus, or it could instead end up being an incredible technical showcase phone released as an anniversary celebration at a later date.
For now, it’s all up in the air, but what we’re hearing about it keeps us interested. Very interested. Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the iPhone 8, or iPhone X, as it has also become known.
Design: USB Type-C, no more bezels or home button
The Wall Street Journal published a bombshell report in February: Apple will ditch the iPhone’s Lightning port in favor of USB Type-C, the industry standard connector for smartphones, laptops, and chargers. It isn’t clear from the report if Apple means to replace the iPhone’s Lightning port with a Type-C port, and one possible interpretation is that the Cupertino, California-based company will adopt Type-C for the phone’s wall charger and retain the Type-C plug on the iPhone 8 itself.
Either way, that seems highly unlikely. Apple has long eschewed standard USB chargers on iOS devices, preferring its own proprietary 30-pin connector and Lightning port. It has relaxed its rigidness recently, most visibly on its MacBook line, which features USB-C connectors. But Apple’s new Ultra Accessory Connector would seem to signal that the company has no plans to drop Lightning anytime soon.
The Wall Street Journal corroborated other rumblings about the iPhone 8’s display, home button, and more. The iPhone 8 will feature a curved OLED screen similar to those on Samsung’s Galaxy S7 devices. It will also do away with the physical home button. And it will launch alongside two other smartphones.
According to noted KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kou, the iPhone 8 could see the elimination of the iconic home button and Touch ID sensor in favor of “virtual buttons” at the bottom of the screen.
The screen size of the new iPhone has been the subject of some debate, but it now seems as though everyone is agreeing that it will sit at 5.8 inches. Previously, Nikkei Asian Review suggested that the display would instead be 5 inches, however the outlet, which is known for iPhone leaks, has since changed its tune in a revised report.
Kuo reports that the virtual buttons will take up part of the iPhone 8’s screen, a rumored 5.8-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 2,800 x 1,242 pixels — a figure now agreed upon by Nikkei. And he believes the phone “will come with other biometric technologies that replace the current fingerprint recognition technology.” Kuo notes the overall footprint would be comparable to the 4.7-inch TFT-LED iPhone, though with a measurably larger display size and battery life.
The Wall Street Journal said in mid-June that the iPhone 8 will be radically different. New information from sources speaking to Bloomberg also reiterate that the iPhone 8 may “appear like a single sheet of glass.” That would eliminate much of the bezel around the display as well as the home button. There are mockups of the possible design all over the internet.
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.
BGR is intimating that the top bezel will also be removed. That would be a tricky move, as the top bezel houses the ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, the front speaker, and the front-facing camera. However, the iPhone 8 may feature a touchscreen with embedded sensors.
A recent report from market research firm Cowen and Company suggests that the iPhone 8’s earpiece, FaceTime camera, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor will be embedded into the screen, allowing for a seamless edge-to-edge front panel. And it claims that Apple may switch to Synaptic’s optical-based fingerprint reader for the new Touch ID, citing it as “currently the only workable solution” for detecting a fingerprint through a smartphone screen.
A patent discovered by Apple Insider suggests that Apple has considered moving 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 iPhone 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.
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.”
Camera: A better dual camera and “revolutionary” 3D front camera
A new rumor suggests the iPhone 8 has a thing or two in common with Microsoft’s depth-sensing Kinect sensor. According to a report published by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the upcoming iPhone’s front camera boasts a “revolutionary” infrared sensor that can sense the three-dimensional space in front of it.
It’s said to be aimed at taking selfies. According to Kuo, the front sensor merges depth information with 2D images for features like facial recognition in tandem with Touch ID. It could be used to replace a video game character’s head with that of the user, or to generate a 3D selfie that would integrate seamlessly with virtual reality applications.
Apple is likely to eventually open the 3D scanning capabilities to third-party developers.
The technology was developed by PrimeSense, the company behind Microsoft’s Kinect. The infrared transmitter reportedly uses a technique known as vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser technology from Lumentum, which works by sending invisible IR light signals outward from the phone and then detecting the signals that bounce back off of objects.
It’s said to be expensive. According to an analysis by JPMorgan market researcher Rod Hall, the infrared sensor could add as much as $10 to $15 per module, lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 will be as much as $100 pricier than its predecessors.
The iPhone’s front camera isn’t the handset’s only highlight. It’ll boast dual vertical cameras, likely with functionality similar to the cameras on the existing iPhone 7 Plus. And the new iPhones will reportedly be able to shoot in portrait orientation 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 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.
Specs: A11 chip
Every year, Apple upgrades the processor in its new iPhone. The iPhone 8 will likely get the new A11 chip, which DigiTimes reports will use a 10nm manufacturing process. The chip should be even faster than the A10 Fusion processor, which has been heralded by critics as the best mobile phone processor.
If the iPhone 8 is announced alongside the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, it may share the same A11 chip as those new phones. And according to Chinese research firm Trendforce it’ll have plenty of internal storage: The iPhone 8’s said to come in two configurations, 64GB and 256GB. RAM remains a mystery.
Battery: Wireless charging
Apple has long been rumored to be working on wireless charging for a future version of the iPhone, and rumors suggest it will use its own self-built tech.
According to Reuters, Apple has at least five different groups working on wireless charging technology. And lending credence to the wireless charging rumors, Apple recently joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which promotes the Qi charging standard. It doesn’t necessarily mean the next iPhone will have wireless charging or that Apple will use the Qi standard, but it adds more weight to the rumors.
A new report by Mac Otakara claims the OLED 5-inch iPhone model will be the only one of these three to feature glass casing and wireless-charging capabilities — this goes against the grain of previous reports that suggested all devices will have wireless charging, so take the information with a dose of skepticism.
Mac Otakara suggests that wireless charging will feature a separate accessory, according to MacRumors, and will be contact-based — similar to the Apple Watch. The report also says Apple will not have a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter in the box, and the Lightning to USB Type-C cable will still be an optional purchase.
A separate report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed the iPhone 8 will have a more expensive logic board design, which would allow for longer battery life, according to MacRumors. The new logic-board design would allow for the OLED iPhone to have dimensions similar to a 4.7-inch iPhone, but it could offer comparable battery life to a 5.5-inch iPhone.
Kuo expects the device to have a 2,700mAh L-shaped two-cell battery pack. The OLED display could also allow the device to be more energy-efficient, meaning the device could have better battery life than previous 5.5-inch iPhones.
A previous report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, from MacRumors, said Apple will use wireless charging in all three of its upcoming iPhones this year. As wireless charging increases the internal temperature of the device, the iPhone 8 will have a 3D Touch module with “additional graphite sheet lamination” — this protects the phone from malfunctioning if it overheats.
“While we don’t expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone,” Kuo said.
The 3D Touch module could cost Apple $5 to produce per device — which adds to reports claiming the iPhone 8 will likely cost upwards of $1,000 due to more premium components and a massive redesign.
Energous CEO Steve Rizzone has hinted in the past that it has inked a deal with “one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world,” but an investor’s note from Copperfield Research suggested that Apple has no plans to use Energous’ WattUp true wireless charging solution.
Special powers: Iris scanner and facial recognition
Don’t look now, but Apple may be jumping on the iris sensor bandwagon. A new report from DigiTimes claims that Apple is planning on adding iris sensor technology in the iPhone 8.
Previously, analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company said the iPhone 8 may feature facial and gesture recognition powered by a laser sensor and an infrared sensor near the front-facing camera. And an older DigiTimes report citing “unnamed” industry sources reported that Apple’s is prepping some form of pupil-scanning tech for a debut on the iPhone 8 as early as 2018.
The report was otherwise light on detail, save that electronics manufacturers like Qualcomm, Truly Opto-Electronics, O-film Tech, and Beijing IrisKing are expected to ramp up production of the necessary silicon. But it’s not an outrageous report. Apple, no doubt pressured by rivals like Samsung, has been pursuing alternative forms of biometric identification for some time. It’s just a question of whether the tech will arrive in 2017 or 2018.
Well-respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported as recently as March that the iPhone 8 would introduce “recognition technology” like face and iris scanning alongside a curved, all-glass chassis and AMOLED screen. In the past several months, the company has made acquisitions that lend credence to those rumors. It purchased facial recognition firm Emotient earlier this year, and in September acquired real-time rendering firm Faceshift.
Apple’s patent filings, meanwhile, suggest a long-running effort to develop a reliable method of identifying facial features. Four years ago, the company was granted one patent, “Electronic Device Operation Adjustment Based on Face Detection,” that details a front-facing camera system that can recognize a user’s face. A second, “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” describes a facial recognition solution capable of identifying the individual features of a face even in poor lighting conditions. Both, intriguingly, mention accompanying software that automatically tailors the device’s settings and screens to individual, recognized users.
Dovetailing with those developments is Apple’s long-rumored desire to eliminate the iPhone’s iconic Touch ID home button. Apple Insider reported that the company is developing — and has several patents describing — a display that can recognize multiple fingerprints. But it reportedly won’t come to market until next year, as Apple engineers work to overcome the many “technical challenges” with the technology.
In early 2017, anonymous sources talking to Fast Company said Apple has been working with a company called Lumentum and may include a 3D-sensing camera or sensor on the iPhone 8/iPhone X. It may be used for facial recognition, rather than iris scanning, or for augmented reality applications.
The name: It may be the iPhone X
Despite being known as the iPhone 8 in many rumors, the phone may come alongside the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus in late 2017. This may confuse things for 2018, when an iPhone 8 would be more logical, if we follow Apple’s usual naming traditions. That’s why Apple may decide to use a different name for it, and the one being rumored now is the iPhone X. Cool, right? And one suitably fitting for all the next-generation technology that’s supposed to be packed inside.
This comes from anonymous sources speaking to Fast Company, where several other rumors about the phone are repeated, including that it will have a 5.8-inch OLED screen, without bezels, mounted in a body made of stainless steel. The glass back from older iPhone models may make a return, too. The familiar Home button may disappear, to be replaced by new touch technology under the screen, and even the volume and sleep/wake keys may be removed, ready for touch-sensitive panels instead.
It doesn’t stop there. Another piece of exciting new tech rumored for the iPhone X is a 3D-sensing camera, which may be used for facial recognition, or for augmented reality. Add in a bigger battery and a cool-sounding “monolithic” design, and the iPhone X sounds like the most technically exciting iPhone we’ve ever seen. However, it may all come at a steep price, with a tag in excess of $1,000 likely.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, none of the iPhone X’s rumored specification has been confirmed, and there’s a chance some of the features mentioned are for future iPhone models, and won’t all arrive on a single, amazing phone. We can still hope though.
Screen: OLED for the iPhone
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst from KGI Securities known for his often accurate insight and predictions about Apple’s upcoming products, says the 2017 iPhone will feature an OLED display that is flexible. This flexible display will also have a structural metal component to “avoid deforming the form factor of the flexible OLED display.”
According to 9to5Mac, Kuo said the 2017 OLED iPhone may also use a film sensor for a better 3D Touch user experience, as film sensors reportedly offer “higher sensitivity.”
Apple’s Touch ID technology could also be revamped to complement the bezel-less device, in that it may be replaced by a facial recognition system. But as there are a lot of technical challenges to the technology, the company may use a combination of fingerprint and facial recognition technology.
“Before Apple can fully replace the fingerprint system with facial recognition, a combination of the two steps of bio-recognition could be a valid solution for enhancing transactions security,” Kuo said.
It may have to fall to the two-step method, as one of the issues reportedly plaguing the iPhone 8 is OLED production. A report from Bloomberg revealed that the company which makes many of the machines responsible for fabricating OLED panels, 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 was 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.
However, LG and Japan Display are reportedly looking to enter production later on in the process. 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.”
If the iPhone 8 does come with an OLED screen, it’ll likely be expensive, possibly beyond $1,000. The Wall Street Journal reports that 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 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 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.”
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. This device may have evolved into the iPhone X, about which rumors began in early 2017.
Size and materials: Glass, ceramic, steel?
If you’re one of the few who thinks that the iPhone 6S Plus is too small for your probably huge hands, we’ve got good news for you. According to several reports, the iPhone 8 may feature a massive 5.8-inch screen. Of course, if the bezel is removed, the larger screen size may not mean an increase in body size, and the phone itself could have the same physical dimensions as the current 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus.
The first report came from the Motley Fool, which picked up on a note obtained from DigiTimes. The iPhone 8 would complement the already quite large 5.5-inch iPhone 7S Plus, which could debut at the same time. As for design, noted KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that Apple may experiment with either glass, ceramic, or plastic backs on the iPhone 8.
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 may switch out aluminum for stainless steel. The report, from DigiTimes, says that the iPhone 8 will come with a stainless steel frame. If true, it would mark a return to stainless steel for Apple, which used the material in its phone in the iPhone 4S. This rumor also showed up in early 2017, alongside talk the iPhone 8 maybe renamed the iPhone X.
Durability: 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. But rumor has it that Apple’s going to take it a step further with the next iPhones, ramping up the IP rating from IP67 to IP68 and putting it on par with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
The rumor comes from the Korea Herald, which cites “multiple sources.” Most people will hardly notice a difference, to be fair. The IP68-rating allows submersion up to about 5 feet for 30 minutes, a minor improvement over the 3.3 depth against which IP67-certified devices are protected.
Release date and Price: Probably September
Apple traditionally launches a new iPhone every year in September. So far, that seems likely to happen yet again in 2017. The iPhone 8, as it has become known, may be renamed the iPhone X, and act as a special anniversary edition of the phone. This means the iPhone 8 may not come until 2018, and the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus will arrive on their own in 2017.
Apple has reportedly asked manufacturers to start trial production earlier than usual — in the first quarter of 2017, according to DigiTimes. It’s unlikely the release date will be moved up earlier, but perhaps Apple is anticipating higher demand than usual.
We have no information on a specific launch or release date yet. The price? The iPhone 8/iPhone X may cost more than $1,000, due to the amount of new technology inside and mandatory high-end specifications. A 256GB iPhone 7 Plus is $970 already, so this isn’s a huge stretch.