Will Apple ditch its 16GB entry-level model with the iPhone 7?
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July 2, 2016 update: Chinese shopping site Weibo has posted prices for three iPhone 7 models, with storage tiers starting at 32GB — twice the capacity of the current entry-level iPhone models. In 2014, Apple doubled the top two tiers of the iPhone from 32GB and 64GB to 64GB and 128GB (and kept pricing the same). Earlier this year, analyst firm Trendforce predicted that the iPhone 7 would support 256GB of storage space, matching the iPad Pro and offering lots more room for apps and videos.
In addition, Apple has been awarded a US patent for a system that can force an iPhone into disabling video-recording functions at concert venues. The system uses infrared signals to send messages to your phone to tell it to shut down video recording. Apple’s patent illustration shows a phone at a concert with the words “recording disabled” on screen. It’s not known whether Apple plans to put the patent into use, and it’s highly unlikely that this technology will appear in iOS 10 or the iPhone 7.
IPHONE 7: ALL THE RUMORS ABOUT THE SPECS, DESIGN AND FEATURES OF APPLE’S 2016 IPHONE
Announcement and release dates
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.
The Moto 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 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.
iPhone 7: Most-wanted features (pictures)
With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) behind us, we have a clearer vision of what’s to come in iOS 10, the company’s new software for the iPhone (and iPad). There are plenty of new features: Siri, photos, maps, and especially the Messages app have all been upgraded. For now, iOS 10 is available only to developers; the official release is expected to come this fall, likely coinciding with the release of the forthcoming iPhone 7. (Click here for the complete scoop on iOS 10.)
The next generation of Apple’s mobile operating system includes increased 3D Touch integration, pickup-to-wakeup, in-notification responses, more detailed notifications, faster access to apps and widgets from the lock screen, and live video in notifications. Calling improvements will include an extension API for filtering out phone spam, and the addition of VoIP calling. Messages will support rich content (such as link expansion and video building), bigger emoji with predictions, an in-app camera, scalable text, invisible ink and handwriting and sketches. And Apple will roll out object and scene recognition for Photos, and using AI to cluster photos by relevance.
In June, Apple was awarded a US patent for a system that can force an iPhone into disabling video-recording functions at concert venues. The system uses infrared signals to send messages to your phone to tell it to shut down video recording. Apple’s patent illustration shows a phone at a concert with the words “recording disabled” on screen. It’s not known whether Apple plans to put the patent into use, and it’s highly unlikely that this technology will appear in iOS 10 or the iPhone 7.
The company also debuted a Siri software developer’s kit (SDK) that programmers will be able to use to integrate the voice assistant into their apps, enabling capabilities like in-app search, voice messaging controls, photo searches, and payments. Other forthcoming developers tools include a HomeKit app of its own, called Home, which provides control over devices and remote access, and an API for Messages, called iMessage apps.
Apple engineers are said to be working on beefier security measures for the iPhone.
Though security hasn’t often been a major focus of the iPhone rumor mill, one of the biggest Apple stories of 2016 involved Apple’s battle with the FBI over just that. The Financial Times reported that Apple is working on ways to encrypt data stored via its iCloud service, which could further frustrate law enforcement agencies in investigations. And according to the New York Times, Apple engineers are now working on new security measures to prevent iPhone-hacking.
One hopes that this development will bring security closer to the fore for both smartphone consumers and manufacturers. If nothing else, it’s an issue with all kinds of interesting ramifications for issues ranging from the iPhone’s user interface to its privacy settings.
There is a particularly durable rumor about a sapphire display, which would offer a higher degree of scratch and shatter-resistance than the current models’ Gorilla Glass. In fact, the higher-end Apple Watch models have sapphire displays — as well as OLED technology that provides best-in-class black levels, contrast and colors on a growing assortment of smartphones (including the Samsung Galaxy S7).
Real phones have real curves: Samsung’s bold S7 Edge (pictures)
In fact, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI Securities predicts that Apple may revamp its lineup of iPhones next year to include a new curved display. The new iPhone screen will be based on active matrix organic light-emitting diode, or AMOLED, which offer several advantages over the LCD (liquid crystal disply used in iPhones. OLED displays are thinner, lighter and more flexible than LCDs. They’re also more power efficient, giving you more bang out of a single battery charge. Earlier reports predicted that Apple would switch to OLED displays in 2018. Either way, this will likely debut on whatever model succeeds the iPhone 7.
Which connectivity standards will the iPhone 7 support? According to the Wall Street Journal, the iPhone 7 will have only one major hardware change: no more headphone jack. Sources told the publication that the Lightning port, currently used for data and charging, will also allow users to connect headphones somehow. Removing the headphone jack will let Apple make the phone thinner and improve its water resistance, according to the Journal’s sources.
More alleged photos of the iPhone 7 show a dual speaker and larger camera.
Earlier this year, Barclays analysts suggested that the iPhone 7 would omit a 3.5mm headphone jack and add a second speaker, powered by an amp manufactured by Cirrus Logic. In June, photos surfaced of a case with the standard audio jack missing, replaced by a second speaker grill. If true, it would mean that the next iPhone would be the first to offer stereo speakers. The Barclay’s analysts also countered recent rumors suggesting that the iPhone 7 would have dynamic noise cancellation, suggesting that it will use a digital codec instead.
For a moment, the prospect of a Smart Connector surfaced as a possibility, but that appears to have faded. So how about swapping out Lightning for USB Type-C? Despite its growing ubiquity as the standard for other smartphones, tablets and PCs, it feels unlikely. Yes, Apple made USB-C the only connector in its 2015 MacBook revamp, but the company has elsewhere doubled-down on Lightning in the past year, adding it to new Mac accessories, Beats speakers, the iPad Pro’s Pencil accessory and the new iPhone Smart Battery Case.
Many Apple products continue to use Lightning even though USB Type-C is included on the newest MacBook.
The iPhone SE, 6S, and 6S Plus all come equipped with NFC to enable the contactless Apple Pay system. But Apple has yet to support the tap-to-pair capability of other NFC-enabled smartphones, which allow a user to tap a headphone or speaker to pair via Bluetooth. There was chatter about the possibility of enhanced NFC support in iOS 9, but it did not come to pass. Will we see it in iOS 10?
The iPhones equipped with A9 processors — the SE, 6S and 6S Plus — are all red-hot performers, showing off the improved speed of their 64-bit dual-core processors. And as each successive iPhone generation is expected to deliver improved speed, we expect to see an A10 chip powering the iPhone 7.
Powering the device is a a proprietary 64-bit A9 chip processor that Apple says offers 70 percent computing performance (CPU) and 90 percent faster graphics performance (GPU).
Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
In 2014, Apple doubled the top two tiers of the iPhone from 32GB and 64GB to 64GB and 128GB, but kept pricing the same. (The entry-level model remained at 16GB.) The company kept the same capacities for its 2015 line and 2016’s SE model.
Now, an analyst firm has predicted that the iPhone 7 will support a whopping 256GB of storage space, matching the iPad Pro and offering lots more room for apps and videos. The firm, Trendforce, also predicts that the phone will get a memory boost to 3GB in the 5.5-inch model. That increase — up from 2GB with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus and 1GB in the 6 and 6 Plus — should make it easier to run multiple apps at the same time, to handle more operating system features and to accommodate more sophisticated apps.
In June, BGR reported that Chinese shopping site Weibo had posted prices for three iPhone 7 models, with storage tiers starting at 32GB; the current entry-level iPhone models start at 16GB. Though plausible, the specs posted show Apple offering different storage options for the various models (referred to as the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 7 Pro.)
Related to the waterproofing rumors summarized above, the Commercial Times (via DigiTimes), reports that the iPhone 7 will contain “new compound materials” that will help hide the antenna, which is currently housed in bands on the back of the phone.
According to multiple sources, including a CLSA Securities analyst, Intel will provide 30 to 40 percent of the iPhone 7’s modem supply — specifically, the Intel 7360 LTE, which supports 450 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload speeds.
Another story that has surfaced involves the possibility of the iPhone 7 — or perhaps the subsequent generation — supporting wireless charging. (Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz has predicted that Apple reserve this innovation for the iPhone 8.) The Verge reports that Apple has been staffing up on wireless charging experts, including a couple from wireless charging startup uBeam, and has hired more than a dozen overall in the last two years.
The alleged iPhone 7 case was leaked by French site nowhereelse.fr.
Screenshot by Daniel Van Boom/CNET
A rumor has surfaced involving an extra pair of speaker grilles being added to the top of the phone, and a larger camera hole. The French tech website Nowherelse.com bases this prediction on a promotional video, published by an Italian case manufacturer, purporting to show off the chassis for the upcoming 4.7-inch iPhone 7.
Will a dual-lens camera module find its way in to the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus?
Many sources reported that there would be a significant step up in quality with the iPhone 6S’s camera; a 10-megapixel camera and a two-lens DSLR-style camera were presented as two distinct possibilities. And though the 6S upped the standard iPhone’s game with a much improved front-facing camera, only the 6S Plus features optical image stability capabilities that deliver higher quality photos and video in low light environments.
In mid-March 2016, Taiwanese site Apple.club.tw posted what it says are images of a dual-camera module that it says will be included on the iPhone 7 Plus. Since then, a steady stream of sources have bolstered the dual lens rumor. If these rumors prove accurate, that dual camera will likely be included on the 5.5-inch-screen iPhone 7 Plus model or perhaps a special “Pro” edition, but probably not the standard 4.7-inch-screen iPhone 7.