Apple’s latest iPhone was barely out of the gate when rumors began percolating about the company’s next new phone.
Although the iPhone 7 garnered mostly tepid reviews when it was released this summer, initial inventories sold out quickly, and the company had to scramble to meet demand.
That demand may have peaked, though, which may be why chasers of the next big thing are looking down the road.
“You can rest assured that next year being the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone, Apple will come out with something special,” said Wayne Lam, principal analyst for telecom electronics at IHS Markit.
“Whether it’s a completely new 10th anniversary model in conjunction with the regular iteration model of the iPhone 7, we’ll have to find out — but most likely, there will be drastic design innovation coming with the iPhones in 2017,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Historically, Apple likes to make a big deal out of decade-length anniversaries,” observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“Since 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, it’s easy to assume the company will use the opportunity to prove that it hasn’t lost a step, and continues to lead the industry in both design sophistication and delivering value to its customers,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Block of Glass and Aluminum
Anticipation for the next model may be higher because the iPhone 7 failed to tick off many items on the wish lists of Apple fans.
“My impression is they were holding back on the 7, so they could make a whiz-bang splash on the 10th anniversary,” said David McQueen, a research director at ABI Research.
The next iPhone will be Apple’s vision of the smartphone of the future, he added.
“Long term, what the iPhone will be is a block of glass and aluminum with as few buttons, bumps and holes as it can have,” McQueen told TechNewsWorld.
Apple may be taking a step toward that phone of the future with the display rumored for the next iPhone. It reportedly will be an OLED display that will occupy most of the front of the phone — or all of it, by wrapping over its sides.
The OLED part of that rumor is a solid bet, maintained IHS’ Lam.
“Apple’s move to OLED display is all but assured through our supply-side intelligence,” he said. “This opens up lots of design possibilities for them on next year’s groundbreaking iPhone design.”
OLED screens have better contrast, brightness and deeper blacks than LCD displays, and they’re also more flexible, which would allow Apple to create a curved phone with an edge-to-edge screen.
“I find the edge-to-edge display most credible,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told TechNewsWorld.
Embracing OLED technology will help Apple keep pace with its competitors.
“Samsung has been doing curved OLED screens for years, so it’s not a cutting-edge phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination,” noted Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.
“This is Apple just playing catch-up to other people,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The beauty of the edge-to-edge screen is not expected to be marred by a home button or fingerprint reader. Both will be built into the screen itself, rumor has it.
“I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of a display-enabled fingerprint reader,” Pund-IT’s King said. “That could simplify both the phone design and authentication processes.”
Some Apple watchers, including widely respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, believe there will be three iPhone models: two conventional models with 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays, and one with an edge-to-edge rounded screen.
All of the units will have glass bodies to facilitate wireless charging.
Apple’s wireless charging is expected to be truly wireless. Existing wireless chargers require a phone to be placed on the charger. Apple’s charger will charge a phone through the air for short distances.
“Wireless charging that requires no contact would be a technology innovation,” Technalysis’ O’Donnell said.
There are some drawbacks to charging devices through the air, he added. It’s very inefficient, so it’s not the greenest way to charge a phone.
Then there are possible safety issues.
“Power signals flying through the air could freak people out,” O’Donnell said.
Need for a Home Run
Many of the rumors about the next iPhone may be unfounded, suggested Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“The iPhone 8 rumors are all over the place,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The phone seems to have every item from everyone’s wish lists.
“It’s likely two or maybe three of these ideas will come to pass in the next iPhone, but none of them are groundbreaking innovations,” Krewell pointed out.
“They’re all very nice enhancements and will keep Apple’s iPhone competitive with phones from other vendors,” he added.
However, that may not be what the company needs with the next iPhone.
“With sales slipping and margins reportedly under pressure, it’s important for Apple to come out swinging with the iPhone 8. The company needs to prove that it’s still an elemental force in mobile innovation — not just one of many companies delivering quality products,” noted Pund-IT’s King.
“Apple is so profitable and so deeply embedded with millions of customers that the company could survive and even thrive if the iPhone 8 fails in the marketplace,” he added, “but the same might not be true of company executives tied to the new device. If the iPhone 8 fails to hit a home run, any number of execs could be headed for the showers.”