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iPhone 7: All the rumors about the specs, design and features of Apple's 2016 iPhone

  • Author:CNET
  • Source:CNET
  • Release Date:2016-06-29
iPhone 7: All the rumors about the specs, design and features of Apple's 2016 iPhone

Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference has now come and gone. The company's March event, used to introduce the 4-inch iPhone SE (and 9.7-inch iPad Pro), is but a distant memory. It would seem that all that remains between us and the debut of the iPhone 7 is a little more time.

In a TV interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer in early May, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the iPhone 7 will have a killer feature: "We are going to give you things that you can't live without, that you just don't know you need today." And yet multiple sources, including the Wall Street Journal, have reported that the next iPhone will not feature significantly different hardware like a curved OLED screen or display-embedded fingerprint reader.

So, we have some drama brewing, ladies and gentlemen.

Between the trove of rumors amassed over the past six months, the tidbits to have come out of WWDC, and the sky high expectations set by Cook, we are working hard to paint a sketch of Apple's next big thing. And we shall continue to do so in the space below.

According to Apple's traditional cadence, iPhone models always debut in the fall. That changed on March 21, 2016, with the introduction of the iPhone SE, a new model that combines the look of the iPhone 5S with the soul of the iPhone 6S. That noted, the iPhone SE is a relatively minor, mid-cycle update that brings little to the table in terms of design, features, or specs.

Given this, there remains a pervasive expectation that we'll see the next major iPhone update, right on schedule, in the fall of 2016.

For the past several years, Apple's iPhone updates have followed a predictable cycle: major design changes in even-numbered years, followed by "under the hood" tech upgrades that keep the same basic physical chassis in odd-numbered "S phone" years. For 2016, then, a total redesign is a near certainty -- possibly with some dramatic innovations.

However, the iPhone 7 may buck this trend. According to Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz, supply chain murmurs indicate that the iPhone 7 won't have "any must-have form factor changes," suggesting that we'll see only a few modest refinements and perhaps some newer internal components. In this vein, MacRumors has suggested that the iPhone 7 will have a design that's "very similar" to that of the iPhone 6 and 6S, though without the antenna bands that run across the current generation.

Clearly, Cook's May interview with Jim Cramer was meant to dispel this theory.

Apple may introduce a third variant. According to tech blog site Mobipicker, the company has already begun production of its 2016 iPhone lineup. The portfolio would include an iPhone 7, an iPhone 7 Plus -- and an iPhone 7 Pro or Plus Premium. Apple device makers Foxconn and Pegatron have reportedly bumped up staff to handle all three versions, reported Mobipicker. We shall see.

Given the regularity with which folks drop phones in toilets and other bodies of water, could Apple develop a water-resistant or waterproof chassis? (By the way, here's what to do when it inevitably happens to you.) Other manufacturers have already gone there, of course: Samsung with the Galaxy S5, Sony with its Z5 Premium and Motorola with its entry-level Moto G. Still, the fact that Samsung did not make the Galaxy S6 waterproof suggests that it's not a critical feature for most consumers.

In recent months, multiple sources (of varying reliability) have reported that the iPhone 7 will be waterproof and dustproof. Business Insider reports that Apple has filed for a new waterproofing-related patent. Titled "Electronic Device with Hidden Connector," the application suggests that ports could be covered with a "self-healing elastomer." According to the patent description, iPhone ports equipped with this technology would be covered with membranes, which could be penetrated by a headphone or USB connector, for example, and which would seal back up once the connector is withdrawn.

Building on this narrative, 9to5Mac reported that Apple is developing a new set of Bluetooth earphones that could be introduced simultaneously with the iPhone 7. The fruit of the company's acquisition of Beats Electronics, the new earphones, potentially called "AirPods," are rumored to be completely wireless, similar to the Motorola Hint.

One of the most active categories of iPhone predictions involves the home button. In June, analysts at Cowen and Company predicted that the iPhone 7 would have a "Force Touch" home button. According to Business Insider's coverage of the report, "Instead of a physical mechanism, Apple will use its 'Force Touch' technology and a motor inside the iPhone to provide the sensation that the button is being physically depressed." Replacing the traditional, slightly concave iPhone button, a new home button would sit flush with the front of the phone, and would capably convey the sensation of pressing a button -- without an actual button.

As CNET reported earlier, recent iPhone innovations -- specifically the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen and increasing always-on hands-free functionality of Siri -- have diminished the need for a physical home button altogether. Could Apple unveil an iPhone without a physical home button?

That would also allow the large top and bottom bezels to shrink, effectively allowing Apple to squeeze a larger screen into the same size body. The trick, of course, would be keeping the all-important Touch ID fingerprint sensor somehow integrated into the device.

9to5mac.com reports that in 2015 Apple filed a patent for a transparent fingerprint sensor embedded into a smartphone display. First published in May 2015, the patent application outlines three sensor technologies, including "ultrasonic imaging" that could be embedded into a display and deliver greater accuracy than the current iPhone's Touch ID capacitive sensor.


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