If Apple follows the schedule it’s established over the past several years, we’ve got less than 15 days until the introduction of the next iPhone.
And if Cupertino sticks to its script for upgrades — big redesigns for even numbered years, internal specs updates for odd ones — we can likely expect something a bit less radical than the big-screen phablet makeover the iPhone got in 2014.
Of course, this is conjecture and educated guessing, based on past history. So with that caveat firmly in mind, we present here a curated collection of gossip, hearsay, and prognostications about Apple’s next big thing.
Announcement and release dates
Buzzfeed reported that Apple will launch the next iPhone (alongside new versions of the iPad andApple TV) sometime during the week of September 7, with September 9 being the most likely date. The timing would be consistent with that of previous years — including the iPhone 6 last year, which was announced on that day. That noted, multiple reports have also tagged September 18 as a possibility — though that would more likely be the availability date, not the announcement date.
Though we’re expecting to get our first real glimpse of the next generation of iPhones in a couple of weeks, we received a preview of sorts — from a software perspective, at least — at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference back on June 8 (see CNET’s comprehensive coverage).
Meanwhile, archrival Samsung has already drawn first blood. The Korean giant has already announced and released two rivals to the iPhone 6 Plus: the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, both of which offer 5.7-inch screens.
In 2014, Apple released the iPhone 6, which had a slightly larger profile and display than its predecessor, and the 6 Plus, which, equipped with its super-sized 5.5-inch display, marked the company’s first foray into “phablet” territory. In June, reports surfaced suggesting that the new iPhone could be slightly thicker than the previous models to accommodate a more enduring battery and, possibly, Force Touch.
KGI Securities has reported that the next iPhone will use the same 7000 series aluminum used in the Apple Watch Sport, and that the phone could be wider and taller than the iPhone 6 to account for the stronger aluminum design. A video posted by Unbox Therapy also suggested that the next iPhone case could be significantly stronger (and less bendy) than the previous model. On July 4, Engadget Japanpublished schematics showing a new design that was nominally larger than the current iPhone 6.
In the wake of the significant design changes that came with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, there is a consensus that Apple will focus primarily on internal enhancements with the coming generation, instead of bringing out dramatically different-looking handsets. That noted, there is a rumor that the lineup could expand to include three new models: the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and a “throwback” 4-inch device that some are referring to as the “iPhone 6C” or “iPhone mini.” Evan Blass, who has correctly predicted Apple moves in the past, supported this notion in his August 10 tweet stating that the “iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and 6c will all arrive concurrently.”
Other new aesthetic possibilities include novel colors (including pink) and perhaps even a 14-karat gold “Edition” model to match the high-end Apple Watch.
Apple unveiled iOS 9 at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. Though much of the news was peripheral to the iPhone — an update to Siri, enhancements to Apple Pay, new map functionality, and a new News app — there were also promises made about improvements in animation and scrolling on all iOS devices, and extended battery life on the iPhone. Apple says the operating system’s new low-power mode could extend battery life by three hours on some devices.
Developers were offered early access to a beta version of iOS back in June. In July, Apple made the beta available to the masses — the first time the company has offered the public a sneak preview of a major upgrade of its mobile operating system.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both come equipped with the A8, a 64-bit dual-core processor that delivers excellent performance. Though newer competitors such as the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6delivered superior scores in CNET’s benchmark testing, hands-on use revealed minimal differences among the three.
According to Bloomberg, sources report that Samsung will produce the main chip in the next iPhone model, which will presumably be the A9. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the A9 processor, paired with 2GB of RAM, will deliver a considerable bump in power and speed compared to the iPhone 6. In July, the DigiTimes reported that Samsung and TSMC had begun mass producing the A9 chips — enough to power 80 or 90 million iPhones.
Also in July, 9to5mac.com reported that the next iPhone will contain a Qualcomm processor, the ‘9X35′ Gobi chip, which will offer “significant performance improvements,” potentially doubling the current generation’s LTE network speeds.
Apple first included support for NFC in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and more recently in the Apple Watch. The increasing penetration of Apple Pay, which leverages the technology, is fueling rumors of an NFC upgrade; 9to5mac.com suggests that the next iPhone will include new NFC hardware that integrates a “secure element processor,” which could potentially eliminate the need for a separate chip dedicated to that task.
The iPhone 6’s battery life isn’t quite an Achilles’ heel, but, on an otherwise outstanding phone, it is one of the few elements that’s merely average. (The larger iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, delivers more impressive endurance). As mentioned above, however, we now know that iOS 9 features a new low-power mode that could boost the existing iPhone’s battery life by up to 3 hours; perhaps Apple can squeeze out even more efficiency in the 6S with some hardware tweaks.
Though some have mused that the next iPhone could include a USB-C cable for charging, another possibility is support for inductive charging — a feature found on the Apple Watch and an increasing number of other non-Apple smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
There is a particularly durable rumor about an iPhone with a sapphire display, which would offer a higher degree of scratch and shatter-resistance than the current models’ Gorilla Glass. (The higher-end Apple Watch models have sapphire crystals.)
That said, Corning has already announced a next-gen Gorilla Glass material it’s dubbed Project Phire. The company has stated that products incorporating Phire — which is said to deliver sapphire-like scratch resistance — will hit later this year. That would dovetail perfectly with the timing of new iPhones.
Meanwhile, the next iPhone could also borrow display technology from the Apple Watch: OLED. That would provide best-in-class black levels, contrast and colors found on a growing assortment of smartphones (including the Samsung Galaxy S6), rather than the LCD technology used on current iPhones’ Retina displays.
And — completing the trifecta of possible technology borrowed from the Apple Watch — the company could also choose to incorporate Force Touch to the iPhone’s screen, adding pressure sensitivity to the its interactive bag of tricks. This particular rumor continues to attract fervent attention online, withmultiple sources reporting confirmation from “people with knowledge.” That noted, the prospect of ForceTouch on the iPhone was neither confirmed nor mentioned by Apple during the blitz of iOS 9 information released at WWDC.
In August, Apple offered to replace iPhone 6 Pluses equipped with faulty iSight cameras; you can look up your serial number here to see if your phone is eligible for the free repair. Apple’s April 2015 acquisition of Israeli firm LinX Computational has fueled rumors of significant enhancements in camera technology coming with the next iPhone. Specific predictions include multiple apertures that can provide dSLR-quality photos packed into a tinier form factor that could ultimately allow for an even thinner handset.
Kevin Wong, chief executive at market intelligence firm IHS China, posits that Apple will increase the rear camera’s pixel count from 8 to 12 megapixels. If true, this could have implications for photo quality.
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