A new year means a new iPhone. And for 2017, it will be especially significant: It’s the 10th anniversary of Apple’s hugely influential device. There’s no official news yet, of course, but the rumor mill is already in high gear.
Expect the usual September launch window, and a naming scheme that will probably skew more towards iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — or maybe even iPhone X and X Plus — instead of 7S and 7S Plus, to emphasize what’s expected to be the first major redesign in 3 years.
Return of the headphone jack
This one’s for the folks who said before the launch of the iPhone 7 that they’d never upgrade their iPhone if Apple removed the headphone jack. We’d be shocked if it returned in the next iPhone, but headphone jack lovers can dream.
NFC beyond Apple payments
Although Apple’s last few iPhone models are equipped with NFC (near-field communication) to power the contactless Apple Pay system, it has has yet to enable the tap-to-pair feature found in other NFC-enabled phones: You can tap a headphone or speaker, for instance, to pair the Bluetooth on many Android phones. So long as Apple can guarantee security, it seems like this would be an easy addition. (2016 iPhones and Apple Watch models already incorporate the FeliCa system for tap-to-pay transit in Japan.)
USB Type-C connectivity and charging
Plenty of people would get upset if Apple switched from its Lightning port to a USB Type-C connection, which is gradually becoming the standard for other phones (and laptops, including Apple’s own line of MacBooks). But swapping out the rectangular USB-A connector on the iPhone charger — while leaving Lightning on the phone — would mean that Apple users could charge their iPhones from their new MacBooks without needing an adapter.
Faster processor, improved 3D graphics
Apple has consistently improved the iPhone’s graphics capabilities with each new iteration, and not surprisingly, we’ve come to expect a performance boost, and would be disappointed if we didn’t get one, though we’d sacrifice some power in favor of a big battery boost.
The A10 Fusion chip you see here powers the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The latest rumors have the iPhone 8 getting an A11 processor produced by Taiwanese giant TSMC that’s built on 10 nanometer-process technology. (Samsung will have a competing chip that’s also built on the 10nm process.)
The iPhone 7 Plus got a bump in RAM from 2GB to 3GB, but the iPhone 7 didn’t. Hopefully, the new iPhones will get a RAM bump.
Right now, if you want to charge your iPhone’s battery using inductive “wireless” charging, you have to buy a separate charging case and mat. For instance, Mophie’s Juice Pack Air battery cases for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Plenty of Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge and Sony Xperia Z4v, offer wireless charging, too.
With the Apple Watch charging via a magnetic inductive charger, an iPhone with the same technology seems more likely than ever. The catch? The Watch seems to use an Apple-specific charging method, rather than one that’s compatible with one of the two big standards: Qi or PMA (Power Matters Alliance).
Virtual home button behind screen
A lot of people love the iPhone’s physical home button, but the new iPhone 7/Plus version is touch only, with no physical “clickiness.” The rumor for 2017 is that the fingerprint scanner goes behind the iPhone’s screen, allowing a virtual on-screen home button (with 3D Touch) to handle the unlocking duties.
Bigger screen in same body
Killing the home button below the screen would allow a key design change, too: shrinking the bezels above and below the screen.
Apple grew the iPhone’s screen in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and those screen sizes have remained the same the last two years. The problem is the iPhone has a bigger bezel compared with some Android models that maximize screen size. Take the lineup above: Left to right, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S7 (5.2-inch screen); Galaxy S7 Edge (wraparound 5.5-inch screen); iPhone 6S Plus (5.5-inch); and Nexus 6P (5.7-inch). Both Samsung and Google/Huawei are either getting more screen real estate into a smaller body, or more screen into the same-size body.
Back when the iPhone 6 came out, there was chatter that it would sport a shatter-resistant sapphire screen, but that never materialized.
Naturally, the folks at Corning argue that its Gorilla Glass is just as strong — and a better option than sapphire. The company’s new Gorilla Glass 5 made its first appearance in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which had a little battery issue that led to its infamous recall.
The iPhone 7’s is even stronger than 2015’s reasonably tough iPhone 6S/6S Plus screens, but it’s not truly shatter-resistant like the Motorola Droid Turbo 2’s screen is (shown here, getting stomped on).
The iPhone’s camera keeps getting slightly better with each iteration. But there’s always room for improvement, and a better camera is one of the main upgrade features people are looking for when they shell out big bucks for a new iPhone. The iPhone 7 Plus got dual lenses that allow for more flexibility while shooting. But the iPhone 7’s camera lacked that second lens. You’d hope the iPhone 8 gets dual lenses, not just the 8 Plus.
There were rumors that the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus would get an OLED screen, which are more energy efficient and offer deeper black levels than LCD, but that didn’t materialize. Those rumors are percolating again for the iPhone 8 and there’s talk of the screen getting a Samsung-style wraparound curve as well.
Significantly better battery life
Apple manages to make each new iPhone slimmer, while equipping it with a faster processor and graphics chip to also improve on battery life. But the truth is, we’d trade a little of that slimness and power for better battery life — and so would a lot of other people.
The iPhone 7 has a 14 percent higher-capacity battery, but to get that slightly bigger battery in the phone Apple removed the headphone jack. One hopes a more efficient processor and OLED screen could squeeze out even more power.
Features the iPhone will never have, but we wish it did
Alas, we know the iPhone will never have a removable back that allows you to swap in a new battery and add your own microSD memory card (yes, those 64GB cards are pretty cheap now). But hey, we couldn’t resist mentioning it.