Could it be USB-C?
The rumor: Each new report about the iPhone 8’s features reinforces the ones before it, but the latest rumor from the Wall Street Journal is one we haven’t heard before. The WSJ says Apple will replace the iPhone Lightning port with a USB-C connector.
This is huge. Apple just did away with the iPhone’s headphone jack and included Lightning EarPods in the box instead of the 3.5mm earphones it has shipped with previous generations of iPhones. Now it appears that those Lightning earphones are already being phased out.
Plausible? Certainly. Apple has no qualms about ditching old technology, even its own. Remember the 30-pin connector that it sacrificed for the proprietary Lightning port? A move to USB-C would actually be a positive one, at least in terms of compatibility. USB-C is a standard that tech companies are quickly adopting, so the iPhone would finally play nice with peripherals and accessories that aren’t made or licensed by Apple. The new MacBooks are also all-in with USB-C, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the iPhone made the move.
USB-C? Not so fast
The rumor: Just a few days after The Wall Street Journal revealed new information about the forthcoming iPhone 8 (full rumor above), a prominent Apple analyst is denying the intel. KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo is refuting that the 2017 iPhone will replace the Lightning port for a USB-C connector. In fact, Apple is allegedly adding fast-charging capabilities to its proprietary Lightning connector for “type C power delivery” without having to change the port and cables.
According to Kuo, Apple doesn’t have enough incentive to use USB-C. First of all, USB-C takes up more space inside the iPhone, which would change the form factor. In addition, since USB-C is universal, switching to it would remove the MFi royalties that Apple gets from licensing its property Lightning technology to third-party iOS accessory-makers.
Plausible? Highly. Switching connectors is not a decision Apple usually takes lightly, so the benefits would have to drastically outweigh the current technology. And Lightning seems to be working for the iPhone and iPad, despite the fact that they’re incompatible with even the new MacBooks. Plus, Kuo is a reliable source when it comes from reports from the Apple’s assembly line.
However, we can’t totally dismiss the WSJ report. Perhaps Apple has considered switching to USB-C. It would make its iOS products more compatible with third-party accessories and peripherals, a benefit now that the iPad Pro is being advertised as a PC replacement. The switch to USB-C would certainly be more user-friendly, but it might also counter Apple’s closed ecosystem strategy, which doesn’t seem to be a drawback for iPhone and iPad sales.
Curved display or no curved display?
The rumor: Early reports about the iPhone 8’s OLED display indicated that Apple was aiming to make a curved screen. The WSJ reports that plan is still in the works, though Chinese research firm TrendForce said earlier in February that early prototypes weren’t up to Apple’s standards. Apparently that’s no longer the case: Apple “has ordered sufficient components to enable mass production,” the Journal’s sources said.
Apple is getting its curved OLED displays from Samsung, who started producing those displays for its own phones back in 2014 and is the only manufacturer who can make enough of the curved OLED panels to supply Apple.
The iPhone 8 is also reportedly ditching the physical home button, though it’s unclear if Apple is ready to make the move to iris recognition for phone unlocking or if the company will find a way to embed the Touch ID sensor in the display itself.
Plausible? A curved OLED display would be a significant departure in design for Apple and a compelling reason to snag the iPhone 8, which is rumored to be priced at north of $1,000. Apple was rumored to be running into constraints finding OLED display suppliers who can make enough panels to build the next-gen iPhone, but the WSJ is reliable when it comes to Apple rumors. Expect a curved OLED screen to set the iPhone 8 apart.
The rumor: The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus got a rear-facing camera overhaul, the 7 Plus with an extra lens for telephoto shots. Apple is turning its attention to the front-facing camera in the iPhone 8 with facial recognition, a 3D sensor, and infrared transmitter and receiver. The rumor comes from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and a research note from investment banking firm Cowen and Company published by Business Insider. Apple purchased the facial recognition startup RealFace earlier in February, making it even more likely that the company is experimenting with alternative biometric tools, including iris recognition. That could replace Touch ID as a phone unlocking mechanism.
The front-facing camera’s new features would have big implications for games. Players would no longer need avatars—instead, the new camera system would generate a three-dimensional selfie.
Kuo noted that Apple is planning to put a 3D sensor in the iPhone’s rear-facing camera next year, which would negate the need for a dual-lens system.
Plausible? This is the first time we’ve heard about Apple incorporating new laser technology and facial recognition, but it wouldn’t come out of nowhere. Apple acquired Primesense and their infrared sensor technology in 2013, and the company just recently integrated facial recognition software in Photos for iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. So it makes sense that the next evolution of this feature is for Apple to develop a camera with sensors that can perform facial recognition in real-time to create augmented reality experiences, similar to Snapchat’s selfie filters.
Stainless steel chassis?
The rumor: Apple is returning to a stainless steel chassis for the next iPhone with two glass panes on the front and the back, according to DigiTimes. In addition, Apple is moving to a new forging process for the metal bezel and frame that is expected to reduce manufacturing cost and time. The forging process will reportedly be 30 to 50 percent cheaper than the current unibody machine-precision process. The stainless steel frame will be provided by Foxconn and Jabil, the manufacturers who supplied the same part on the iPhone 4.
Plausible: Yes. This rumor corroborates an earlier report predicting the return of the glass iPhone. Not only that, but we’re also under the impression that Apple is looking to launch several models of the iPhone 8 with different prices and using different materials. And it makes sense that the higher-end iPhone 8 would rely on stainless steel to hold the front-and-back glass panels together, while a cheaper version uses aluminum—that’s the same pattern we see with the Apple Watch.
Folds like a book?
The rumor: You may be able to bend the next iPhone, similar to how you fold to close a book. Apple has just been granted a patent for a book-like iPhone design that used an OLED display that can fold in half.
Plausible? Just because Apple has the patent for this, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will become a real product. Besides, Apple is already running into issues with OLED display supply, so there may not be enough time or resources to incorporate a bendable, foldable display on the iPhone 8.
3 new models?
The rumor: Apple will launch three models of the iPhone 8 in 2017, according to a new report from KGI Securities analysts. One model will sport a 5.5-inch OLED screen and a dual camera. One will have a 5.5-inch LCD screen, also with a dual camera. The third will be a 4.7-inch iPhone with an LCD screen and a single camera system, much like the current iPhone 7 model.
Plausible? KGI Securities is usually spot-on when it comes to iPhone hardware predictions, and for a while these supply chain analysts have been predicting that Apple will switch to OLED displays in 2017. Apple has already been using OLED displays on the Apple Watch and the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, so using this type of display on the iPhone seems like a logical next step. Previously, Bloomberg reported that Apple is in talks with Sharp to be its OLED display supplier.
OLED offers a lot of benefits over LCD. Besides being more responsive, OLED gives Apple the option to create a bezel-less iPhone with a curved or bendable display, which would certainly boost the iPhone 8’s wow-factor. This time around, the iPhone 8 is rumored to be “revolutionary.”
Return to all-glass?
The rumor: Apple may take a page from its own book and release an iPhone 8 with a glass front and back, similar to the iPhone 4 and 4s. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will, of course, be larger than those models, which were 3.5 inches. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who always has deep insight into Apple’s supply chain, predicted that Apple will make lower-priced models with aluminum casing and more expensive versions with stainless steel. The glass would give the phone a glossy look, like the popular jet black iPhone 7, but be less prone to knicks and scratches than the brushed aluminum.
Plausible? Yes. It’s all about the sourcing: KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo is typically spot-on when it comes to Apple hardware changes. It’s possible that Apple is basing future design decisions on the success of the jet black iPhone 7, which is currently sold out through December. According to the KGI report, 30–35 percent of preorders were for the jet black model worldwide, and in China that percentage was higher—45–50 percent.
An OLED display at last?
The rumor: So far, Apple has held on to LCD displays, which isn’t a bad thing—the LCD display on the iPhone 7 is just as good as the competition’s OLED screens. But Apple is reportedly in talks with Sharp to be one of its main suppliers of OLED displays to use in next year’s iPhones. According to Bloomberg, Apple wants to diversify its OLED sourcing so it has multiple options. Sharp is investing $566 million in OLED production factories which will start churning out displays by next June.
Plausible? Yep. The future is OLED, because the technology is more flexible than LCD and would allow Apple to make the iPhone bezel razor-thin and move the home button to the display itself. There are other applications made possible by switching to OLED screens, and we’re sure Apple is exploring those for a future phone.