Everything we know about the next iPhone

It probably won’t look like this.
It probably won’t look like this.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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On Sept. 12, Apple will likely unveil its next iPhone. It’s a little over 10 years after it presented the original iPhone, revolutionized the way we communicate, and went on to sell over 1 billion of them.

But over the last few years, Apple’s designs and innovative streak with the iPhone has faltered somewhat, and many of its competitors have caught up to the company, offering features not found on iPhones, and designs that can stand up against Apple. So what does Apple have in store for its newest iPhone—and will it be enough to keep iPhone loyalists happy?

Rumors have been swirling pretty much since the moment the last iPhone was announced. With every iPhone release, we get drips and drabs of information about how they’ll work and what they look like, but it does seem like this year, with the myriad leaks over the last 12 months, we seem to know every trick up this iPhone’s sleeve before it’s even been released. Here’s everything we suspect so far:

The models

Since the introduction of the iPhone 3GS in 2009, Apple has released a new “numbered” model every other year, and an updated “S” model in the intervening years. And since the iPhone 6 in 2014, Apple has released two different-sized phones each year—a regular and a larger “Plus” model. Reports suggest, however, that Apple will deviate from this pattern next week and announce three models at once—two that are sized and shaped roughly like the current iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and a new flagship model with a screen about the size of a 7 Plus, but with a far smaller body. This model is expected to start at $1,000, making it the most expensive base-model iPhone in the product’s history.

The name

Early reports had suggested that the next three phones might be called the iPhone 7S, 7S Plus, and 8, but it now seems that Apple plans to ditch the S designation for this phone, and name the next phones, the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and the iPhone Edition. Other names, such as “iPhone Pro” and “iPhone X,” have been floated over the last year, but it seems the flagship phone will bear a similar moniker to the Apple Watch Edition. In the case of the watch, this name was used to denote the $10,000 gold version Apple sold at launch, but now refers to the ceramic model of the Apple Watch Series 2. In both cases, the “Edition” moniker refers to Apple’s top-end model, so applying the name to the $1,000 iPhone makes sense.

The design

The last three iPhone models have looked roughly the same, and it seems that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus won’t be wildly different from the 7 models. Leaks suggest that the two standard models will be pretty much identical to their predecessors, although they will apparently come with glass backs, instead of the aluminum ones the current models have.

The iPhone Edition, however, will be a completely new design for the iPhone, stretching a large 5.5-inch screen into a phone about the size of an iPhone 7. Much like the newest Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 lines, and the Essential Phone, it appears the Edition will have very narrow bezels—the pieces of casing around the phone’s screen—potentially making the phone look like it’s just one large piece of glass. The rear of the phone will also be made of glass, according to Bloomberg, so be prepared to cradle the Edition with care, or get a heavy-duty case.

At the top of the front of the Edition, the screen will wrap around a small cutout that houses the front-facing camera and earpiece. The top parts of the screen will display notifications, leaving the rest of the screen for viewing apps. It’s currently unclear whether the top notches will be able to be used for fullscreen apps, or if they’ll always show the status bar.

The massive OLED screen on the Edition will also feature another function that’s been found on Android phones, including OnePlus’s entire line of phones: Tapping the screen will wake up the display.

From here on, this guide will mainly outline what’s new with the iPhone Edition:

The cameras

The Edition will feature two rear cameras, but they’ll sit vertically on the phone, rather than horizontally, as they do on the 7 Plus. The new cameras will apparently be arranged this way to help perceive the world better for augmented reality apps, something that Apple showed off in its forthcoming mobile operating system during its developer conference in June. There isn’t any information on whether the cameras will be more powerful than those in the 7 Plus.

Apple’s front-facing cameras will be able to learn and detect faces to unlock the phone. There will also be an infrared sensor to detect faces in low light. Unlike other phones on the market with facial recognition—which can occasionally be fooled by a picture of a person—Apple’s cameras will be able to detect in three dimensions, picking up the contours of their owner’s face, meaning, unless someone makes a plaster cast or a 3D print of your face, it should be pretty safe.

No home button

Part of the reason Apple is integrating this 3D technology to the phones is because most reports are suggesting that the Edition won’t have a physical home button, meaning there will be no place for the TouchID fingerprint scanner thats’ been on every iPhone since the 5S. Face scanning ensures there’s still—theoretically—a secure way to use Apple Pay, validate app downloads, and unlock your phone without a fingerprint scanner.

The functions of the home button will now be assigned to an area near the bottom of the screen, and, thanks to the vibration engine Apple built to simulate the feel of pressing down a button (which it used on the fake home button on the iPhone 7), it shouldn’t feel particularly alien to press. It’s similar to what many Android phones, including Samsung’s latest phones, have employed, leaving more real estate on the front of the phone for a giant screen.

Rumors had suggested that Apple was trying to figure out how to integrate a fingerprint scanner into its screen (below the glass), but it now appears it wasn’t able to get the technology to work reliably enough to be rolled out in this year’s phones.

Wireless charging

The iPhone Edition won’t have true wireless charging (because that doesn’t really exist), but it will likely have inductive charging, like just about every flagship Android phone on the market today, Bloomberg reports. This means, rather like how the Apple Watch charges, iPhone owners will be able to plop their phone down on a pad to charge it, without having to fiddle with any cables. Given that Apple currently charges $79 for the fancy charging pad stand it sells for the Apple Watch, it’ll be interesting to see what charging options it includes with the $1,000 Edition.

The phone is still expected to have the same Lightning cable port that has shipped with every iPhone since the iPhone 5.

New operating system

As Apple showed off this summer, the next iteration of its mobile operating system, iOS 11, will debut alongside the new iPhone. It features a redesigned dock and notifications tray, Venmo-like payments through messages, and access to the files on your phone (and the cloud). Siri also got a new voice, and theoretically, a bit more useful.

When it’ll be out

Apple’s event this year is on Sept. 12. Traditionally, Apple begins accepting pre-orders for its new iPhones about a week after it announces them, and starts shipping them about a week after that. It’s looking like that will still be the case for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but there are apparently supply issues for components in the iPhone Edition that could delay sales, The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall).