Apple are notoriously secretive about new products, but based on some alleged leaked photos and some educated guesses from those in the know, we have a pretty good idea of what we can expect.
iPhone update: background
Apple have “refreshed” their smartphones annually since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007, usually in September in order to capitalise on Christmas sales.
They tend to use a “tick-tock” pattern, making minor upgrades one year, and major ones the next. The minor upgrades, the “tocks”, if you will, are usually outwardly identical to their predecessors with improved cameras and faster processors.
On the alternate “tick” year, the phone gets a ground-up redesign and bumps up a number. Last September we got the iPhone 6S, an improved version of the iPhone 6.
2016 is a “tick” year, so we can most likely expect a dramatically redesigned “iPhone 7”.
What kind of iPhone can we expect?
The smart money suggests Apple will release two phones, one with a 4.7” screen, the same as the iPhone 6 and 6S, (likely called the “iPhone 7”) and a larger 5.5” phone to replace the iPhone 6S+ (the “iPhone 7+”).
There’s a strong indication that they’ll finally scrap the measly 16GB of storage from the cheapest models, which really isn’t enough to cope with modern use as apps continue to get bigger and more complex.
32GB is the likely starting point, with the more expensive phones sporting 64GB and 128GB of storage, and the bigger 7+ topping out at a whopping 256GB (which is more than a lot of laptops have).
It’s unlikely we’ll see an upgrade of the cheaper, smaller iPhone SE, since it was only introduced in March.
What will the iPhone 7 look like?
Expect sleek and minimal. The ‘bezel’ (the frame around the screen) has been getting thinner and thinner with each generation and some are expecting it to disappear altogether, with the screen flowing elegantly up to the edge.
iPhones have also been getting slimmer, and we can expect this generation to be no different, with some experts even predicting a wafer-thin 3mm body.
It’s a fairly safe bet that Apple will produce the phone in the same “space black” colour they used on the recent Apple Watch, as well as the current iPhone’s “space grey” and gold.
There’s also been speculation that the iPhone 7 will ditch the “home” button, the circular button at the bottom of the screen, meaning the phone can be made thinner. Apple did something similar with the iPod back in the early 2000s, swapping the physical “click wheel” for a touch-sensitive version.
What else will be different?
It will certainly be faster and more powerful. Some rumours have speculated that it might include “lifi” technology, a faster version of Wi-Fi, though that is considered unlikely.
It’s also thought Apple could take advantage of developments in screen technology and switch to new “OLED” screens, which will give a much brighter, more detailed display.
You can expect an upgrade to the camera, though the one in the iPhone 6S is already pretty good. The iPhone 7 is likely to contain a “dual camera”, with two lenses, meaning more detailed photos and possibly even the ability to film in 3D.
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Ditching the headphone socket
You read that right. Most experts agree that Apple will finally sacrifice the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack in order to make the phone thinner and lighter.
On the surface this might seem ridiculous, and could well provoke a backlash; after all the 3.5mm jack has been around since the 60s, and is the standard for audio devices across the world, not to mention compatible with every pair of headphones you own.
Instead, Apple’s headphones will work through the “lightning” socket, normally used for charging and syncing.
Apple’s own headphones, including the trendy “Beats” range they purchased a few years ago, will be manufactured to fit.
Owners of practically any other pair of headphones are likely to need a special adaptor; whether that will be packaged with the phone remains to be seen.
Knowing Apple, it won’t be cheap to buy separately.
It’s a big step, but it’s worth remembering that Apple ditched floppy discs before any of their competitors, and later gambled that people would replace their CDs with digital files: they’ve generally been proven right.
Will I still be able to use my headphones/charger/accessories?
You’ll probably need a special adaptor for your headphones as discussed, however Apple are very unlikely to change the standard “lightning” cable port, which they only adopted a few years ago, so third-party docks, speakers and cables should be fine.
What won’t change?
The notoriously iffy iPhone battery life probably isn’t going to get much of an upgrade - battery technology has improved, but then brighter screens and faster processors use more power anyway.
Rumours of “wireless charging” are also likely to be untrue.
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How much will it cost?
Not cheap. Expect roughly £550 for the 32GB model, and up to £700 for the top-spec iPhone 7+. As usual, most mobile providers will offer deals with their contracts to get the price down.
Should I get a new one?
If your current phone is still going strong and meeting your needs, then probably not. There’s a new iPhone along every year, after all, and it’s unlikely the iPhone 7 will offer the revolutionary jump from your old handset that the first iPhone did. That missing headphone jack might also give you pause for thought, and it could be worth holding off to see how that works out.
That said, if you are in the market for a new phone (and you can afford it) Apple have consistently built cutting edge, desirable products, and there’s no reason to think the iPhone 7 will be any different.