The rumor mill is in full swing for Apple’s impending iPhone announcement.
The company’s phone releases have followed the same pattern since the release of the iPhone 3G in 2008: a new model one year, and a slightly modified version of that model — the “S” version — the following year. This year, we’re due for a new model. Apple is expected to announce it Sept. 7 at its keynote event.
Ahead of the announcement, the tech giant hasn’t said exactly what customers can expect from the new phones. But hints can be found from its Chinese suppliers, said MacRumors Editor In Chief Eric Slivka, and journalists sometimes get tips from Apple higher-ups.
No more headphone jack. The biggest rumor of this iPhone cycle is the alleged vanishing headphone jack. Slivka said this rumor has come from multiple sources, and MacRumors lists it as an “expected” change on its site. It’s still unclear what will replace it: The charging port could pull double duty, or people may have to switch to wireless headphones.
Neither option is particularly appealing to change-averse consumers. (We’ve only just recovered from having to buy new charging cables.) If Apple’s proprietary lightning port will also accommodate headphones, people will have to choose between charging their phone and listening to it. Wireless headphones generally have lower audio quality, need to be charged separately, and are easy to lose. Best case scenario for audiophiles with fancy wired headphones: plugging in using an adapter.
Pressure-sensitive home buttons. The iPhone 6S has a pressure-sensitive “force touch” screen that can tell how hard you’re pressing on it. The home button is expected to get this technology. Different levels of pressure on the home button could perform different functions, though no one’s sure what those might be yet. The button will also probably be flush with the rest of the screen, as opposed to slightly indented as it is on current models.
Cosmetic changes. The antenna bands that ran across the back of the phone on the 6 and 6S models are expected to now wrap around the sides. What looks like a second speaker will probably replace the headphone jack, balancing out the bottom of the phone. But Slivka said that second speaker will probably be cosmetic only: One hole would be punched through to serve as the microphone — the rest would be fake.
Otherwise, the new phones are expected to look pretty similar to recent models. Like in past years, there will be the same two screen sizes, and with the same naming conventions (the 7 and 7 Plus).
Better hardware. The cameras on all models will probably continue to improve. The Plus version, which is the larger of the two models, is expected to have a dual-lens camera for the first time, which will improve photo quality. The new models will also probably have the latest processor chip, making them a bit faster.
Improved water resistance. Some of Apple’s competitors have completely waterproof devices. Apple isn’t quite there yet, but each recent evolution of the iPhone has been slightly less likely to die when it touches water. Removing the headphone jack would take away one point of ingress for liquids, and Slivka said improved seals around and inside the phones could also help. Don’t expect to take the iPhone 7 on a swim, but Apple is probably working on it.
New colors. Reports of a “space black” or very dark blue iPhone began to circulate this year, but it’s unclear whether they’re going to be available on the 7 models. Space gray, one of the four colors currently available, may be a darker shade on the new phones, or there may be a fifth color choice added.
Better battery life. Apple uses the latest hardware in phones, so this year’s battery is probably better than last year’s. However, the phone’s battery demands will probably also increase, canceling out any battery improvements.
Wireless charging. A few early mockups of the new iPhones suggested they could be charged wirelessly, but more recent evidence suggests that feature was scrapped. Slivka said rumors of wireless charging for the iPhone have been going around for years, but it probably won’t happen until next year or 2018 at the earliest.
Higher-quality displays. The Samsung Galaxy uses an organic light-emitting diodes display (typically referred to as OLED). Apple has reportedly been working on implementing it for iPhones, but isn’t ready to make that change yet.
Smart Connectors. The iPad Pro uses a Smart Connector to wirelessly pair with keyboards and other accessories. Though early mockups showed what looked like Smart Connectors on the new iPhone, later versions didn’t have them.
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
2017 will be the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone. Many sources say Apple has something exciting in the works for the anniversary edition. Slivka said some of the features that didn’t make it into this year’s new models, like OLED displays, could be planned for that generation of phones.
Other possible changes: Biometric iris scanning to replace Touch ID, glass on both sides of the phone, and eliminating the Home button entirely. Jony Ive, who’s been heading up Apple’s design team for 20 years, has said for years that his ideal iPhone would be a single sheet of glass with nothing on it. It seems his dream phone is at least a few generations away.
Find Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy.