If past is prologue, the earliest we’ll know for sure what Apple plans for the rumored iPhone 8 is early September. That’s the usual timeframe for the introduction of a new iPhone lineup, and there seems to be no reason why it should change this year.
The online chatter has coalesced on two distinct product lineups. The first will be the expected annual refresh of the current iPhones; thus the iPhone 7s and the iPhone 7s Plus. Perhaps there will be more than minor changes, although the physical differences between iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 required a second look to detect.
This doesn’t mean Apple won’t add some interesting stuff, such as the first iteration of wireless charging, or maybe they’ll be able to eke out more battery life with larger cells and perhaps more power efficient chips. So expect an A11 Fusion processor that will offer more amazing performance boosts. We may even see the first iteration of Apple’s home-built graphics.
Such improvements and enhancements to the camera and other components would make for a decent product upgrade. But the prospects are hardly getting any attention in light of the alleged star of the show, the iPhone 8.
Or will it be the iPhone X?
The reason for the latter name is that it’s supposed to be a 10th anniversary iPhone, and thus is expected to sport technologies that pave the way for the future of the product. The most prominent improvement is said to be an edge-to-edge OLED display, Apple’s first use of this display technology on an iPhone. But Apple isn’t the first to use a variation of OLED on a mobile handset, so there will no doubt be demonstrations as to why their solution is so much better than the competition.
The rest, such as a glass backing and other possible improvements, don’t seem altogether new. But the big question mark is the state of Touch ID. Apple’s fingerprint sensor is mission critical for unlocking your device, unlocking apps and accounts, and, of course, Apple Pay. It’s not something that Apple can eliminate without causing severe blowbacks, resulting in plenty of inconvenience for customers. I mean, wouldn’t millions of people refuse to buy one if it’s crippled in this fashion?
So why is there any doubt?
Well, Samsung! Samsung was not able to embed a fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S8 smartphones; they put it in the rear, making for an awkward reach at best. So there were stories that, if Samsung can’t solve a problem, Apple can’t either. So Touch ID will go on the rear, or be dispensed with altogether.
But I do not accept either possibility. The latter makes no sense whatever; the former? Well, Apple has been able to lick supposedly intractable problems before. Besides, it’s not as if the work began on the alleged iPhone 8 six months ago. The concepts for future products are drawn up several years in advance, so the nature of the problem was well known.
To make matters more confusing, there have been rumored prototypes and prototype artwork with and without Touch ID sensors. But it’s a sure thing that Apple tested different ways or resolving the problem before finding a solution.
But is there a solution?
There continue to be reports indicating that Apple has only a short time to get the iPhone 8 readied for production in order to meet fall, or at least holiday shipping deadlines. What is Apple to do?
Another theory has it that Apple will use facial recognition instead. But is that as flexible and secure? Samsung has facial recognition on the Galaxy S8, and it can be easily defeated with a photograph. That doesn’t mean Apple will encounter a similar problem.
The long and short is that Apple will probably release the mythical iPhone 8 with an embedded front-mounted fingerprint sensor, and that will be that. Will there be facial recognition? Perhaps, but it won’t be the primary biometric. It will, however, actually work. Take that Samsung!
And then there’s all that fear-mongering is about potential sales. The iPhone 6 was tremendously successful, a great way to upgrade to Apple’s first iteration of larger displays and a phablet model. The iPhone 6s was perceived to be a tepid upgrade, and sales did drop somewhat. The iPhone 7 appears to have done a little better or about the same, depending on the quarter and how you interpret sales figures and inventory levels.
And the potential impact of iPhone 8 rumors.
So add an iPhone 7s and its big brother, and an iPhone 8. Maybe the iPhone SE will get a refresh. Adding them all together, does that mean more record-breaking sales, or will it barely break even with last year?
There’s the theory that the smartphone market is heavily saturated, which is surely true except for developing countries, and that the iPhone is losing steam against Android, which may or may not be true depending on the country. But a decent percentage of people come to the iOS platform from Android, and there’s supposedly plenty of pent up demand from people with older handsets.
The critics will blame Apple for not having a cheaper iPhone, but I suppose a revised iPhone SE might help grab sales from those on a budget, or who prefer smaller handsets.
Honestly, I cannot even begin to predict sales. Industry analysts will speculate all over the place depending on their background and experience, and which clients they serve. You can take much of what they say, this early in the game, with a big container of salt.