As we edge closer to the expected introduction of the iPhone 8, two big and interrelated questions have come to the fore.
First, has Apple figured out how to embed its Touch ID fingerprint scanner into the phone’s display? And second, can the company (and its suppliers) implement this new technology in time to deliver the 10th anniversary edition model on schedule in early September?
Opposing viewpoints are driving a blitz of rumors on this topic. In the optimist camp, there is Chinese site Economic Daily News (whose reports are often publicized by DigiTimes). EDN says Apple and its suppliers have resolved any potential Touch ID issues and are right where they want to be — preparing to ramp up production in June, with every intention of delivering millions of new iPhones in early September. (Since the debut of the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple has delivered all major introductions of its flagship product in September.)
And in the other, more crowded, corner — the naysayers. These include veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a handful of analyst firms, and the blog Mac Otakara, all of whom are reporting variations on one theme: Apple has been working to integrate this technology into the next iPhone; the process been more difficult than was anticipated; and, as a result, the usual September rollout is in doubt.
The theories about Apple’s potential contingency plans, including a delayed or phased release, are detailed below. For now, there’s one thing we feel very confident about: the iPhone updates made in March were not the main event for 2017. All the signs point to a major redesign coming later this year. And as we move ever closer to the introduction of the iPhone 8, we’ll be assembling the most significant rumors below.
Specs we might see on the iPhone 8
- Three new models including two incremental “S” upgrades plus an all-new iPhone 8
- Home button/Touch ID embedded in display or located on back
- New Touch ID featuring face or iris scanning
- Curved, edge-to-edge OLED display with True Tone technology, possibly with Ion-X glass
- Facial recognition via LG’s new 3D sensor technology
- AirPods come included
- Wireless charging
- Dual-lens camera, possibly in a vertical configuration and/or with AR capabilities
- Support for the Apple Pencil
- USB-C replacing Apple’s Lightning connector
- Enhanced water resistance
- Higher quality earpiece for louder, clearer audio
- Apple’s next-generation processor (the A10X or A11)
- Stainless steel and glass body
- Upgraded storage starting at 64GB and 3GB of RAM
- Intel or Qualcomm modem
- Priced between $850 and $1,099
The iPhone… when?
We’ve grown accustomed to seeing a new iPhone every fall. But an expanding chorus of sources is casting doubt on Apple’s ability to deliver this September. In recent weeks, there has been a steady stream of reports about manufacturing issues in Apple’s supply chain related to the “significant hardware upgrades” the company has planned for the iPhone 8.
These rumors are driving multiple theories. Some of the scenarios in play include a October or November launch, an announcement in September followed by “severe shortages” of product, and deliveries delayed until later in the fall. There’s also a credible story circulating that Apple will make a phased rollout — that is, a launch of the “S” series editions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in September, with the big iPhone 8 debut coming a month or two later.
It’s worth restating that that there are also reports that suggest that Apple is right on schedule. And, of course, officially, we have no idea when Apple will drop the iPhone 8. Could the company shock us with an introduction at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference in a few weeks? Unlikely — though it sounds like we could see new MacBooks and MacBook Pros and even a new iPad there.
The iPhone… what?
For now, we’re calling it the iPhone 8, though 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 does seem likely that the company will offer up an iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus — updated versions of the current models — as less expensive alternatives to the next generation flagship. For the 10th anniversary model itself, however, anything is possible. The iPhone 8 is the conservative bet but we’ve seen rumors about an iPhone 10; an iPhone X; and the offbeat iPhone Edition, seemingly inspired by the premium Apple Watch Edition.
Lots of potential changes to the display
After months of debate and conflicting reports, there appears to be one area of consensus: at least one new iPhone model will have an OLED display. (The iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus, according to the rumors, are more likely to stick with current LCD technology.)
The Wall Street Journal and Nikkei Asian Review are predicting that Apple will give the iPhone 8 a curved OLED panel manufactured by Samsung. Purported documentation published by /LEAKS appears to suggest that the display could be made of Ion-X glass, like the Apple Watch.
And it’s this new display technology — new for Apple, Samsung has been using it for years — that could be one of the major factors potentially pushing back the release of the iPhone. Bloomberg (and others) have published reports that Apple is testing a version of the iPhone 8 that features a screen that “covers almost the entire front of the device.” Which leads one to wonder…
What’s up with the home button?
The nature and location of the iPhone 8’s home button and optical fingerprint scanner is a hot topic. The latest buzz is that Apple could move it to the back of the phone, as shown in alleged render images leaked on Chinese site Weibo (via /LEAKS) and on Twitter by Apple leaker Sonny Dickson. Analyst firm CLSA has also gotten in on the action, suggesting that there is a “high chance” that Apple will locate the scanner on the back of the iPhone, according to its supply chain sources.
It’s also possible that Apple could ditch the home button altogether, following in the footsteps of Samsung with its Galaxy S8. But the most interesting scenario is that Apple has figured out some way to embed or integrate it directly into the display. Which brings us to…
Touch ID 2.0
Today, Apple’s Touch ID authentication protocol uses a fingerprint reader embedded in the home button. Over the past few months, there have been multiple reports that Apple has been working to integrate Touch ID into the iPhone 8’s new OLED display — and is running into big problems. According to analysts, the crux of the issue involves embedding a virtual home button and optical fingerprint sensor into the new full-screen OLED panel.
Economic Daily News reports (via MacRumors) that Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company says the company has “finalized a solution.” That noted, there are several interesting theories about what Apple might do if this manufacturing process doesn’t coalesce.
These range from relocating Touch ID to the back of the phone to eliminating Touch ID to, again, delaying the iPhone 8 launch altogether. But there’s also another possibility: that the phone could leverage an entirely new (for Apple) paradigm for authentication that’s rumored to be in development.
According to a report from The Korea Economic Daily, LG will provide 3D facial recognition technology for the iPhone 8. The article suggests that the new technology could be used for “biometric” identification. So it’s plausible that Apple could use this new capability, which would ostensibly use the iPhone 8’s new front lens array, to replace the fingerprint sensor as the primary interface for user authentication.
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 and 7 Plus. 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.
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).
JPMorgan has also postulated that the iPhone 8 will come with AirPods included. These Bluetooth-enabled headphones currently sell as a $159 accessory. 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…
This remains 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. A UBS analyst has theorized that the 64GB entry-level model would start at $850 — just like the new Samsung Galaxy S8+ — and that the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus would cost $649 and $749, respectively.
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.
USB-C vs. Lightning
Countering a Wall Street Journal report that Apple would go with a USB-C port for the iPhone 8, 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.
Reuters reports that there are multiple groups at Apple working on technology for an iPhone that supports wireless charging. And we are seeing more leaked schematic drawings that seem to suggest that wireless charging could be a real thing.
In the past, The Verge has reported that Apple has been staffing up on wireless-charging experts. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that Foxconn, one of Apple’s main manufacturing partners, is making wireless charging modules. Though Apple would likely make this feature available on the premium iPhone 8, MacRumors reports that Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that all new iPhone models — that would include the “S” series, presumably — will get it.
Apple could walk away from the Lightning port and not add a USB-C connection, of course, which would make the iPhone more resistant to water. On that note, the Korea Herald reports that the next iPhone will have a higher water resistance rating — IP68 compared with the current generation’s IP67, for those keeping score.
Vertical cameras and AR
Nearly every “leaked” image, including the one here published by OnLeaks, shows the iPhone 8 with two cameras in a vertical configuration; this one appears to show an LED flash in the middle. And if the iPhone does come with those LG 3D sensors, they would almost certainly also support augmented reality applications.
Apple may dump its 32GB model and offer a 64GB and 256GB model, according to TrendForce; the report also suggests that the company will boost the amount of RAM to 3GB. This incremental bump would follow the recent precedent of Apple ditching its dreaded entry-level model (formerly 16GB) when it released the iPhone 7.
And 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, which adjusts display settings for ambient lighting conditions, and which is currently featured 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 products including the iPhone. But the timeframe 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 the next generation, with the iPhone 9 featuring two variations with an OLED display — a 5.28-inch model and a 6.46-inch model.
We’ll continue to add new rumors and stories as they emerge. This story was last updated May 28, 2017.