It started with the infamous revelation that the new device would come without a headphone jack. Wait? What? Why? Then came a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over this great indignity foisted on consumers by Apple. Apple is essentially forcing new iPhone owners to use a dongle if they want to keep using their standard analog headphones.
Cascading downhill from the headphone jack bombshell came a series of smaller reveals about the next iPhone, which will likely, but not certainly, be called the iPhone 7. All in all, the new phone (based on what we now know) can't be said to be a massive reinvention of the iconic device. But it may pack just enough new features and component upgrades to tempt you to upgrade.
The iPhone 7 is likely to look slightly different from the iPhone 6s—but not much. The phone will almost certainly come in two sizes, probably the same 4.9-inch and 5.5-inch screen variants as in the iPhone 6 and 6s. The plastic antenna separation inlays at the top and bottom of the device are situated differently and are a little less prominent. One rumor says we may see a new deep-blue color option.
About that headphone jack, as with most tech advances it comes with the good and the bad. Apple has always been on the front edge of adopting new tech standards. It led the way in ditching floppy drives, 30-pin connectors, and embracing the USB-C port. The rest of the industry usually follows. So it shouldn't be too shocking that it's now moving to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack—the same jack used on the Sony Walkman back in the '80s!
The upside, we're told, is that the audio quality coming out of the Lightning port to the headphones will be of much higher quality than that delivered through the old analog jack. It could enable some impressive new noise cancellation technology, too.
On the other hand, as digital rights activist Cory Doctorow points out, the new all-digital audio stack in the iPhone may create an opportunity for the record labels to impose new DRM controls on some kinds of audio content. The "analog hole" created by the old 3.5mm jack was the only thing preventing them from doing so, from a technical point of view. Whether the content owners will actually seize on the opportunity is another question altogether.
The removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack creates more space both on the bottom of the phone and inside the shell. It's likely that Apple will use that space to add a second (presumably stereo) speaker.
The iPhone 7 will have a pressure-sensitive home button. The button, a new Bloomberg report says, will give the user a haptic buzz when pressed. It may also perform different tasks based on the force and duration of the downward press, similar to the "3D Touch" screen press feature on the iPhone 6.
Apple is facing serious competition from Samsung when it comes to the camera. For this reason we're likely to see a dual-lens camera on the back of the next iPhone. This information first came from in-the-know analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and was later revised to say that only the larger 5.5-inch Plus size of the new iPhone would get the dual lenses.
The two lenses would each take a photograph of the the subject, then the two images would be reconciled to create one higher-resolution image. This would reduce the grainy look you see when you zoom in on your photos, and it might reduce the graininess of images shot in low-light conditions. Overall, photos shot with a dual-lens camera would be noticeably sharper and more accurate.
However, the image files created may be larger, so storage on the phone becomes more of an issue. Also, the phone would need more RAM to handle the graphics processing of dual-lens images. And finally, the new iPhone is expected to offer far more onboard shooting and editing controls, which also require more processing power.
Every new iPhone gets a specs upgrade, so the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will have a more powerful processor than their predecessors, and will likely come with larger storage options. One rumor says that the larger "Plus" version of the phone will offer 3GB of RAM to handle increased photo processing chops.
A news report appeared today saying that Apple had originally planned to release three new phones—the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 7 "Pro," the Pro being basically an iPhone 7 Plus with a Smart Connector on the back and a dual-lens camera. Then, just months before launch, it decided to 86 the Pro version and give the "Plus" version the dual-lens camera. The decision was reportedly based on highly competitive conditions in the smartphone market.
The new iPhones will be waterproof, possibly to the IP68 rating of the new Samsung Note 7. This means that the phone will be dust-resistant and able to protect itself when submerged in a meter of water.
The next iPhone will likely be presented to the public for the first time at an Apple event this fall. A new Apple Watch (or two) will likely make an appearance.
The new $399 iPhone SE is reportedly selling better than expected, but we've heard nothing about an upgrade to that device—maybe next year.