Apple doesn't usually unveil its new iPhones until September, but the rumors are already circulating about what fans should expect from this year's model. The successor to the iPhone 7, which may be called the iPhone 7s or iPhone 8, could be a more noticeable departure from the current iPhone's design. This year's release will also mark 10 years since the original iPhone launched in 2007.
Here's a look at what's been reported about Apple's next iPhone so far.
Better screen technology
Apple may use an OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen for its next iPhone instead of an LCD display, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. These types of screens offer better contrast than LCD displays, and are often brighter. The blacks in OLED screens are also deeper than those of LCD displays, making colors pop more prominently.
Apple already uses OLED display technology for the Apple Watch, while other tech giants, like Samsung, have been using variants of OLED screens in their smartphones for years. It's unclear whether or not all new iPhone models will feature an OLED screen or if Apple will reserve them for its high-end variant, as a report from Nikkei Asian Review indicates.
A curved screen
One new iPhone model may feature a curved screen similar to that of Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and Nikkei Asian Review. This rounded model will likely be more expensive than the standard edition and may be 5.5-inches or larger, says Nikkei Asian Review, while other analysts point to a 5.8-inch screen for this premium version. Apple is said to have recently ordered enough flexible OLED for mass production of the next iPhone, as the Journal reports.
In May, a gadget leaker who has been accurate in the past shared a rendering of what the next iPhone might look like. However, he cautioned that this may not match the final result because Apple is testing multiple prototype designs.
Launch and pricing
Apple typically launches its new iPhones in September, but that could change this year, according to a report from Chinese news outlet Economic Daily News. The company's new smartphones may go on sale starting in October, although Apple is still likely to unveil them during an event in September.
Those hoping to snag Apple's top tier smartphone when it launches may have to shell out upwards of $1,000, reports Fast Company. That price tag will apply to the most expensive iPhone model (of three Apple is expected to launch later this year), which is said to have an OLED screen. The report didn't specify whether that price refers to entry level cost for the OLED iPhone 8, or the version with the most storage space.
Apple could add facial recognition to its upcoming iPhone, according to Cowen and Company's Timothy Arcuri. In a note, which Apple Insider published, Arcuri predicts Apple may place an infrared sensor next to the front-facing camera to enable the phone to recognize a user's face. Separately, Digitimes has reported that Apple plans to add an iris scanner to its next iPhone, although it's worth noting the website hasn't always been accurate about future Apple products in the past. Samsung introduced a similar feature on its ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, which included an iris scanner that allowed owners to unlock their phone just by looking at it.
Apple may also add 3D-sensing technology to its high-end next generation iPhone, which could be used for anything from facial recognition to allowing the camera to capture sharper photos, or for augmented reality, according to Fast Company.
A new name and three models to choose from
Apple traditionally releases its new iPhones on a tick-tock cycle, either giving them a title that includes just a number or a number paired with an "S." For its next iPhone, however, the company may break this habit by simply calling it iPhone X, as Loup Venture's Gene Munster predicts.
"Apple will likely break from its historical naming convention and call this iPhone something other than iPhone 7S or iPhone 8 because it will be the 10th anniversary iPhone," Munster writes. "Like they did with the 10th version of the Mac OS, it seems logical that they’ll call the next iPhone: iPhone X."
Not all predictions align with Munster's: multiple reports from Bloomberg and other outlets suggest Apple's refreshed lineup could include three new iPhones rather than two: a 4.7-inch iPhone 7s, 5.5-inch iPhone 7s Plus and totally revamped 5.8-inch OLED iPhone 8.
A new design with no home button
Apple hasn't significantly redesigned its iPhone since it unveiled the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014. That could change in 2017. The company reportedly plans to overhaul the next iPhone with a new design that includes an edge-to-edge glass screen and no home button, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor, meanwhile, could be built directly into the iPhone's screen.
But Apple may still be in the process of figuring out how to work the fingerprint sensor into the front of a home-button-less iPhone. The company is weighing three options, says Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri according to a Barron's report. These methods include using a different type of sensor that could be integrated into the screen, thinning the cover glass over the area that would include the sensor, or inserting a pinhole into the glass for fingerprint reading.
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with KGI Securities, offered an idea for how Apple may fill the space underneath the screen where the home button currently sits. The company could place virtual buttons in this area dedicated to specific tasks, Kuo said in a note published by Apple Insider. Kuo calls this the "function area," and it sounds similar to the capacitive buttons found on some Android phones like the Galaxy S7. While Samsung's phone has a physical home button, flat keys for browsing through currently open apps and navigating backward appear below the screen as needed.
Further changes could include a frame made of stainless steel and glass, according to Bloomberg.
Future iPhone owners may not have to plug their phones into a power cord to charge it. Apple is said to be testing wireless charging technology that could appear in iPhones as soon as 2017, according to reports from Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review. Wireless charging has existed in certain Android smartphones for years, but Apple could be exploring a method that makes it possible to power iPhones from a distance, Bloomberg reports. It's unclear how close that technology is to a commercial release, however.
No Lightning port
Apple may ditch the iPhone's Lightning port in favor of USB-C, according to The Wall Street Journal. This could more closely align Apple's next smartphone with its recent Mac laptops, which only include USB-C ports.