There's a concern in some quarters that the iPhone is running out of steam and that the iPhone 7 isn't going to be that different, from a design point of view, to the existing iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus. As we get closer to the rumoured launch in September, more and more credible leaks come out pointing out the exact same thing. Apparently, being too samey is something that Apple is worried about too, to the point that that it may be saving its big innovation for a release next year.
It would be such a big change that Apple would even forgo the usual 'S' naming convention and jump straight to the iPhone 8 in 2017. That phone is said to iphone cables have an edge-to-edge display, with the camera, TouchID sensor and everything else integrated directly into the display. That would truly be something that we hadn't seen before, completely changing the way that smartphone works and looks. It could even mean that the phones get smaller while retaining the same size screens that they have today.
So, how likely is this? Well, it's always very hard to tell with Apple. When rumours of the iPhone SE first surfaced, everyone thought that Apple would release a plastic phone with components lagging a generation behind the iPhone 6S. However, what we got was a full metal model with up-to-date components, dramatically beating expectations and turning out one of my favourite phones of the year.
But even with the level of surprise that Apple can deliver, it does seem unlikely that the iPhone 7 will be the huge leap forward that we want. And, with iPhone sales levelling off for the first time, Apple may well need to do something more dramatic in the near future, making the prospect of the iPhone 8 appearing in 2017 quite likely.
What you need to know, quickly
Need the information fast - here's everything you need in a quick, bite-sized digest. Obviously, everything here is based on unconfirmed rumours, so things can change quickly, but the below is, at least, a quick view of how things stand at this point in time.
What is it?
Apple's brand new smartphone, complete with a new design and the successor to 2015's iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus
When is it out?
If Apple sticks to its normal release schedule, and it tends to, then we should see it late September 2016
The phones are likely to look very similar to the current model, but will have slightly bigger batteries, while a dual-lens camera looks set to appear on at least on model
iPhone 7 release date
If there's been one reliable thing about Apple's iPhone launches, it's that they happen just once a year. Given that the iPhone 6S was launched in September 2015, a year after the iPhone 6, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the iPhone 7 will come in September 2016.
The headphone socket saga
Apple was absolutely definitely set to kill off the headphone jack and force us all to move to Lightning headphones (or use an adaptor). But, in the fast-paced world of apple phone cases
rumours, Apple may now have had an about turn, as it looks likely that the iPhone 7 will have a headphone jack after all. According to leaked component photos shown on nowhereelse.fr, the new phone will have the headphone port. In many ways, this makes sense, as the iPhone 7 looks set to be similar in size to the iPhone 6S, rather than being super slim. In other words, space is not a constraint and, if you've got the room for a 3.5mm jack, why not fit one?
iPhone 7 component - headphone socket
There's a rumour that Apple will go wireless, with rumours that the company is now working on wireless AirPods. These Bluetooth powered headphones are said to be little bigger than the buds themselves. To me, if Apple is creating these, it feels as though they'll be an optional extra, as they would be too expensive to bundle.
When the iPhone 7 rumours started to appear, the one thing that seemed certain was that Apple was ready to introduce a brand new design. However, leaks have started to show that this most likely isn't the case. First, leaked photos, posted on nowhereelse.fr, show the iPhone 7 case for the first time. The image, which you can see below, shows the iPhone 7's chassis for the first time. It's a shot of a design document, taken by pointing a camera at a monitor, so the detail isn't very clear; however, from this image, we can see that the new phone looks similar to the existing iPhone 6/6S, except there are no antenna lines on the back breaking up the design. Instead, a thin antenna strip at the bottom is all that's needed: that certainly makes the new phone look neater.
Image 12 of 13iPhone 7 first leaked image of the chassis
Intriguingly, there's not enough space for dual cameras, with only a single hole in the case. Look a little closer and you'll see that the camera hole is considerably larger than on previous iPhone models. This seems to make it clear that we are getting a camera upgrade of sorts: perhaps a larger lens and sensor are in the works.
There's a secondary option, though, which is that Apple will have a THIRD model, called the iPhone 7 Pro. This model will have a dual-lens camera. We've even seen pictures of what the phone might look like, posted on Makotakara. Interestingly, the images seem to show that new model will also have the iPad Pro's Smart Connector, too, which raises the potential that the phone will be able to connect to, as yet unveiled peripherals.
Image 13 of 13iPhone 7 leaked photo with Smart Connector
It looks as though we're going to be stuck with LCD displays with the same size and resolution as today. That's a 4.7in model with a resolution of 1,334x720 and a 5.5in model with a resolution of 1,920x1,080. Now, the resolution doesn't bother me and the iPhone doesn't need more resolution: the displays really are sharp enough. However, a move to OLED would improve quality and help battery life.
Sadly, the iPhone 7 will definitely not get OLED. We're too far along and the supply chain has already kicked into gear in order to manufacture enough models for the September release date. But, we most likely won't have to wait until 2018 and the iPhone 8 for OLED, as Apple has apparently boosted its OLED plans and wants to release an iPhone (most likely the iPhone 7S) with an OLED display in 2017. According to Apple Insider, Apple is way ahead of schedule and the improved display technology should be with us a lot sooner than we expected.
Bigger battery incoming
One of the minor issues that Expert Reviews had with the iPhone 6S was that it had a smaller battery than the iPhone 6, which meant that it lasted less time from a single charge in our tests. Well, Apple has clearly taken complaints from users to heart and for the iPhone 7 it's upping the battery size. Leaked shots were featured on MacRumours allegedly show the new battery for the iPhone 7. You can clearly see in the image below that the battery is a 7.04watt-hour model, which is up from the 6.61watt-hour model on the iPhone 6S and similar to the 7.01watt-hour battery on the iPhone 6.
Given that the iPhone 7 is said to be Apple's thinnest phone yet, how has it found more room inside the case? Well, there's certainly some room saved by ditching the headphone socket and using the Lightning adaptor only. On top of that, continued miniaturisation of components, such as the processor, will leave more room inside the case. Finally, there's a good chance that Apple will have worked out how to save room with its 3D Touch components, too. It's hard to say what this will do for battery life: I'd expect at least the same as from the iPhone 6 (around 13hours in our video playback test), but you may see better performance due to a more efficient processor and OS.
iPhone 7 leaked battery
Dual-lens cameras are said to be coming to the phones, although whether it's all models or just the high-end 'Pro', we don't know. We've got an idea of what to expect, thanks to information from LinX, which Apple bought for $20m, according to the Wall Street Journal. This startup has been developing sensors that it says will bring SLR-like quality to smartphones. It has developed sensor arrays that use multiple sensors, alongside bespoke optics and image processing, to improve image quality.
Using multiple sensors means that LinX sensors can measure depth, which can help speed up auto-focus or simply let you focus the shot after you've taken it, as we've seen before with HTC's Duo camera. It's also possible for the cameras to phone holders scan objects in 3D and give accurate measurements for objects, too. We've seen similar technology inside the Dell Venue 8 7840 tablet, although it's measurement capabilities were a bit hit and miss.
LinX sensors also use a new clear pixel channel design, which the company says reduces crosstalk and helps reduce noise, all in a smaller package. The net result is a smaller camera that's smarter and produces cleaner and more detailed images: just the thing that Apple requires. For more information on the LinX technology, you can read this Scribd presentation.
It's hard to say so far in advance how much Apple will charge for the iPhone 7, but the company does tend to keep its prices stable. If we were to guess then, we'd say the entry level version (16GB at the moment, by possibly 32GB by the time the phone is released) will cost ￡539; the 64GB version will cost ￡619 and phone screen protector the 128GB version ￡699. Assuming there's an iPhone 7 Plus, expect the prices to be ￡619, ￡699 and ￡789 respectively.