If you saw the launch of the iPhone 6S last year and thought it was decent, but your old iPhone could probably hold up until Apple launches its next amazing new phone in 2016, we have some bad news. It seems increasingly likely that the next iPhone will look a lot like the iPhone 6S, which looks a lot like the iPhone 6.
According to multiple sources reportedly with access to those assembling Apple’s next phone, the iPhone 7 will have the same basic body shape as the last two iPhones. The only aesthetic differences, according to MacRumors, is that the rear-facing camera on the 7 won’t stick out from the phone as it does on the 6 and 6S, and the two lines across the back of the phone, which act as radio antennae, will be gone. Essentially, the next phone will look the same and be about the same thickness, according to a Weibo post surfaced last week by 9to5Mac.
Apple is apparently going to wait until 2017 before it launches an entirely refreshed device, shifting from a two-year product cycle to three years, according to Nikkei, which the news service attributes to a slowing market for smartphones, and “smartphone functions having little room left for major enhancements.” Last quarter, Apple posted its first quarterly decrease in the number of iPhones it sold since launching the device in 2007.
The move will likely come as a bit of a shock to anyone that signed up for the iPhone Upgrade Program that Apple launched in 2015 with the release of the 6S. The plan is a two-year rolling contract with Apple that allows customers to lease iPhones directly from Apple, and trade in their phones after a year for the latest model. Many signing up for the plan last year would have assumed they’d get their hands on an entirely new phone from Apple in 2016, given the company’s established product cycle. The company, which hasn’t disclosed how many people have signed on to the program, wasn’t immediately available to comment.
But this year’s flagship phone will still likely have a range of improvements. Reports suggest that Apple will finally increase the storage on the base model of the iPhone from 16 GB to 32 GB, and that the camera may have two lenses for capturing 3D images. There are even rumors that the phone will be waterproof. Battery life is expected to be about the same or a little better, and a more efficient processor is likely. But there are also rumors of more bad news: The next iPhone may do away with the headphone jack, favoring bluetooth headphones and ones that plug in through an adapter connected to the Lightning port. That means you may need to buy a new set of headphones to use the iPhone 7, or deal with an awkward bump sitting next to your phone in your pocket.
The other reason that Apple is producing a phone so structurally similar to its last two models, according to BGR, could be that the company is planning an overhaul for the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone that’s worth the wait. There are rumors that the 2017 iPhone will have no home button, could be made entirely of tempered glass, and have a fingerprint scanner embedded under the screen. This all essentially points to this year’s model just being a placeholder until the big reveal in 2017.
There’s no word yet on whether the 2016 iPhone, given that it’s likely to be more of an internal refresh than an entirely new phone, will stick to the naming structure of previous iPhones. Perhaps the new phone won’t be called the iPhone 7, instead it could keep the nomenclature of Apple’s most recent rehashed phone and be called the iPhone 6 SE. Or maybe it will be the 7, and the complete overhaul Apple has up its sleeve for 2017 will mirror the shouty minimalism of Apple’s more recent products and will simply be called PHONE.