iPhone 7: New features rumor roundup

Here are the iPhone 7 features that Apple will likely unveil tomorrow.

We're getting closer to the unveiling of the new iPhone 7, and the rumor mill is in high gear, with leaks at an all-time high.

Regular readers will know that I don't pick up and report on every iPhone-related rumor and tidbit floating around the internet. It's all too easy for someone to whip up a fake photo or claim to be a "source familiar with the company" and make some outlandish claim (remember how in the run up to WWDC 2016 "sources" were claiming iMessage was coming to Android?).

See also: iOS 10 is still a mess, but at least it's a snappy, stable mess

So, what you are going to find here is a distillation of the rumors, with an added sprinkle of a few educated guesses based on an understanding of how Apple operates and its historical patterns.

What we know for certain

First off, here's what we know for certain -- nothing beyond when Apple plans to unveil it, which is set for Sept. 7. Beyond that, nothing. Zero. Zilch. Apple doesn't talk about product transitions until it makes them.

Well, that's a promising start, isn't it? I promise that it does get more exciting from here on in.

Naming

Right now, the favorite in terms of name for the new iPhone is the iPhone 7, with the larger model called the iPhone 7 Plus. This fits in well with the naming convention that Apple has been using since 2010.

Release date

Joining the supply chain dots is the iOS 10 release scheduled for this fall, and the fact that Apple has, since the iPhone 5, been unveiling a new iPhone on the first or second Tuesday or Wednesday of September, with the iPhone shipping the second or third Friday after the unveiling.

Given that this year's unveiling event falls on Wednesday, Sept. 7, this means that the iPhone 7 will likely be released on Friday, Sept. 16 or Sept. 23.

Since Apple normally wants the bulk of the new iPhone sales to go into a single quarter -- historically that quarter being Q1 -- it would make sense for the iPhone to be released nearer the end of the month.

The end of Apple's Q4 2016 falls on Sept. 24.

What are the expected big changes?

While the look of the iPhone 7 is expected to closely resemble that of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6, there will be some key changes.

These are expected to be:

  • A10 SoC silicon, with a CPU running at around 2.4GHz.
  • No more antenna bands on the rear of the chassis.
  • IPX7 water resistance -- not as good as what Samsung offers for the Galaxy S7, but a big improvement over the existing iPhone.
  • Storage tiers changed to 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. Goodbye 16GB variant.
  • The removal of the headphone jack, and the old headphones replaced with Lighting EarPods. This is likely to be a bit controversial, so I'm expecting Apple to wrap it up in a package of leaving the past behind and modernizing the smartphone. After all, the headphone jack has been around for decades, and it is both a mechanical failure point and a way for water, dust, and other schmoo to enter the iPhone.
  • It is widely anticipated that Apple will include a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter.
  • The addition of a second speaker, taking the spot of the headphone jack, and finally bringing true stereo output to the iPhone.
  • Swapping out the Home button for a touch-sensitive pad, likely featuring haptic feedback similar to the Force Click feature on the latest MacBooks.
  • Improved Touch ID sensor for faster, more reliable fingerprint recognition.
  • Upgraded True-Tone flash, powered by four LEDs.
  • Dual 12-megapixel cameras. One suited for wide-angle shots, the other zoom. This feature is expected to be only present on the Plus variant.
  • A recent parts leak also suggests that the iPhone 7 will sport an updated display and resolution bump, with the 4.7-inch display on the iPhone 7 going full 1080p (a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080), while the iPhone 7 Plus will go up to 2K (a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440).
  • There's also a good chance that the True Tone technology found on the iPad Pro (which is used to alter the color temperature of the display to match ambient light) will make it to the iPhone 7. Apple has a habit of testing new technologies on one device before rolling it out to other devices, so this is a real possibility.
  • New "dark black" and "piano black" color schemes, replacing "space gray".

What about the pricing?

I expect pricing to remain the same as for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. That means the iPhone 7 will start at $649/£539/AU$1079.

Will there be an iPhone 7 Pro?

It's an interesting idea, and it might help Apple bump up the average selling price of the iPhone. But what would you put into it to make it compelling and separate it from the rest of the pack? I can't think of anything that deems a whole new variant.

What about wireless charging?

While there have been a few rumors that Apple has been looking into this, there's nothing to suggest that it's going to happen with the iPhone 7. The technology to make it work on a smartphone with a metal chassis is still in its infancy (hence why other devices that use wireless charging feature a glass back), so while it would be nice, Apple isn't ready to cut the cord of the charger just yet.

Quick take on some of the other rumors

  • Four speakers, a-la iPad Pro: Probably not (takes too much space internally).
  • Virtual reality: Maybe, but I'm not seeing any other company really make any significant money from it.
  • Smart connector, a-la iPad Pro: Since I don't see Apple coming out with a keyboard for the iPhone, I find this unlikely.
  • Dual-SIM: Nope.
  • Better battery life: I fully expect battery life to be the same for the iPhone 7 as for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6.

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