We all know a iPhone redesign is coming. Apple’s pattern of numerical followed by ’S’ releases is well established and it means the iPhone 7 will see the first major redesign since the handsets went big with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But few will have expected the redesign to be as potentially radical as this…
Picked up by G For Games from the leaker’s nirvana which has been Weibo over recent years, it is claimed Apple is currently testing no less than five different iPhone 7 models – each of which is notably distinct.
Design #1 – Goodbye Lightning Port
Perhaps the model which would have most practical impact on customers is a prototype which sees Apple ditch the Lightning connector. In its place would be USB Type-C, a standard the company has already backed heavily by making it the only port on its new MacBook. With Android phones widely expected to also shift to Type-C in 2016 this would potentially unify smartphone charging standards. On the flip side it would also cause chaos for owners of Lightning port accessories and the port itself was only introduced in 2012.
Design #2 – Hello Wireless Charging
Tying in with growing rumours that Apple will ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack, is another iPhone 7 prototype which supports wireless charging. There’s no information on whether this will be compatible with existing wireless charging standards or if Apple has created its own. Given Apple’s reputation for “late but right” tech introductions, I doubt the company would launch anything if it weren’t able to offer similar charge speeds to wired charging (and this is something next generation versions of existing wireless standards are close to achieving).
Design #3 – Multi-Touch 3D Touch
Multi-touch wasn’t new when Apple introduced it with gestures like ‘pinch to zoom’ in the original iPhone, but it was the first time it had been used in a mobile device. Now Apple is allegedly testing integration of this technology with 3D Touch. How would this work? For example, think of a two finger simultaneous 3D Touch as a back button shortcut or three finger Force Touch to go back to the home screen.
But how practical is this? Personally I’m skeptical. I’m sure Apple is looking at how to expand 3D Touch functionality (right now it’s a great differentiator), but it already represents a major change and requires time to get customers and developers onside. Consequently, while I don’t doubt 3D Touch advancements are in testing, I can’t see Apple wanting to risk confusing customers after just one generation.
Design #4 – Dual cameras
Dual rear camera technology was once hotly rumoured for the iPhone 6S before Apple allegedly got cold feet and wanted to develop it further. As such it is very credible that this advance is now ready for the iPhone 7, especially since the iPhone 6S camera (while excellent) didn’t crush the competition as previous iPhones had done. What is the killer feature of having two cameras? The potential to offer optical zoom instead of the frankly useless digital zoom in cameras today
Camera Tip: you’ll get better results cropping a normal photo later than using digital zoom to take a shot
Design #5 – In-Display Fingerprint Recognition
Along with ditching the Lighting port, this would represent a massive change for Apple. In-display fingerprint recognition would allow the company to finally ditch the home button and drastically shrink the iPhone’s famously large bezels creating a more pocketable device. Certainly this would represent the best of both worlds (freeing up front space while keeping the unlock option accessible with the phone on a surface), but whether such technology is ready remains to be seen. That said, patents mean we know Apple is actively working on it.
What to Believe?
Right now my personal advice would be to treat each of these redesigns with caution. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is working on all five, but it is highly doubtful a single Super iPhone will be launched in 2016 containing them all. In fact it is already strongly rumoured that a much simpler change (moving to AMOLED displays) has been scrapped at this early stage.