Update

iPhone 8 rumors: Camera to get augmented reality capabilities similar to Snapchat filters

Rumors are already swirling about the “revolutionary” 2017 iPhone. Here’s all the latest.

iphone 7 plus black
Credit: Apple

We’d forgive the iPhone 7 for feeling a little underappreciated, since it seems like all anyone can talk about these days is the next iPhone. After all, 2017 marks the iPhone’s 10th birthday, so Apple is reportedly gearing up to make its anniversary edition extra special.

We’ll keep track of the latest rumors and how plausible they are, and we’ll put them in one spot (this one!) so you can pop on over whenever you want to read the latest.

If you passed on the iPhone 7 to wait for the iPhone 8—or the iPhone 7s or whatever name Apple decides to use—it sounds like the next phone could be the design refresh you were waiting for. Just don’t expect the headphone jack to return.

What’s the latest?

The rumor: Apple is going all-in on augmented reality, as the company ramps up developments that could be introduced in the forthcoming iPhone camera. Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is looking at AR as its “next big thing.” Although AR hardware like glasses could be a few years off, an iPhone equipped with these capabilities may be coming sooner than we think. According to Bloomberg, hundreds of Apple engineers are now dedicated to developing AR, including members of the iPhone camera team. 

What could AR on the iPhone look like? Bloomberg reports that iPhone users may be able to change the depth of a photo in post-editing or rotate the subject of the photo in 180-degrees. Furthermore, the iPhone camera could be able to overlay visual effects similar to Snapchat selfie filters.

Plausible? No one can deny Apple seems very interested in becoming a major player in popularizing augmented reality. Tim Cook has said so himself several times. However, it is not conclusive how Apple might integrate this emerging technology into the iPhone, or by creating new products for that matter.

It makes sense that Apple would use the iPhone as a vehicle to introduce AR. Snapchat and Pokémon Go have given us successful implementations of mobile AR, so something similar could be expected. But although Bloomberg is a reliable source, we also know that Apple is testing several iPhone models, so not all these features are guaranteed to come to fruition. Even Bloomberg makes it clear that Apple could decide to shelve the technology if it’s not ready.

More expensive 3D Touch sensor?

The rumor: The 3D Touch module on the forthcoming iPhone 8 with OLED display will cost $15 to manufacture, at least if you believe Digitimes, a 60 percent increase in cost. Previously, the 3D Touch sensor on the iPhone 7 cost closer to $9 to manufacture. This implies that Apple will have to mark up the price of the iPhone 8 in order to keep its typically high margins. The more-expensive 3D Touch module consists of a thin film touch sensor that will be overlaid onto the new AMOLED display. However, the report also mentions that TPK Holdings, the AMOLED display supplier, won’t supply the displays until the fourth quarter, corroborating earlier rumors that the iPhone 8 will be launched later than September.

Plausible? Digitimes is not the most reliable sources when it comes to new iPhones, but even if the details are a little shaky, the implication that the iPhone 8 will be more expensive is spot-on. Besides the new 3D Touch module, the iPhone 8’s rumored OLED display, virtual Home button, and 3D camera all point to a higher price tag. Could it cost over $1,000? Certainly the 256GB model might—especially considering the fact that the iPhone 7 Plus with 256GB went on sale for $979.

Is this what it could look like?

The rumor: We’ve all heard the rumors of an edge-to-edge OLED display (scroll down if you need to catch up), and now it’s easier to imagine what that would look like. Working off a report from Nikkei Asian Review, Benjamin Geskin created new renders for iDrop News. Click through to see more, showing what the phone would look like if the most popular rumors all come true. You’ll notice the top “forehead” is shorter, the bottom “chin” is nearly gone, the Home button’s fingerprint sensor is now embedded into the screen, and the screen stretches to the very side edges.

Plausible? Renders can be hit or miss, but this seems like a very plausible design, if the edge-to-edge rumor is true. Still, the final look reminds us a little bit of the Samsung Galaxy lineup! What we really can’t wait to find out is if Apple uses special materials for a high-end iPhone Edition, like it did with the Apple Watch Edition, and also what colors the new iPhone will sport.

An iPhone 7 Edition with a later release date?

The rumor: New reports have surfaced to corroborate earlier rumors that the iPhone 8 won’t be ready for the usual September launch date. Japanese news site Macotakara is reporting that the iPhone 8 will actually be called the “iPhone Edition,” and even though it will be announced in September alongside the new iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, it won’t actually be available until much later.

The cause for the delay? Apparently, STMicroelectronics, the new supplier of the iPhone’s 3D camera sensors needs more time to ramp up mass production. The 3D camera is expected to be a major new feature on the iPhone 8/Edition, will the potential to do facial recognition and augmented reality.

Plausible? It sounds like the iPhone 8/Edition will most likely be delayed, as several reports have claimed. First, it was the fingerprint sensor on the OLED display that was causing hiccups, and now it sounds like there are issues with the 3D camera, too. Before that, we heard that Apple was beginning production earlier this year, and now it turns out production won’t actually start until the fall. So, with all these rumors pointing to a delay, it seems like Apple is preparing us to have to wait a little longer for that revolutionary new iPhone.

Fingerprint sensor causing delays?

The rumor: Apple is working on a proprietary fingerprint sensor for the new OLED-equipped iPhone 8, which could delay production past the usual September launch date, according to Digitimes. Apple is reportedly developing this feature by combining technology from two of its acquisitions, sensor firm AuthenTec and glass identification company Privaris. Digitimes is reporting that the iPhone 8 will be launched in November this year.

Plausible? Not really. Since Apple is rumored to remove the physical Home button on the iPhone 8, it makes sense that the company is coming up with a creative way to replace Touch ID and retain biometric identification. This bit falls in line with recent rumors that Apple is also considering giving the iPhone 8 facial recognition and iris scanning technology.

However, it’s very unlikely that Cupertino will push back the iPhone launch date even by a few weeks. Plus, Digitimes doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to iPhone rumors. And considering that we’ve also heard rumors of Apple starting iPhone 8 production early, our best bet is still September.

USB-C? Not so fast

The rumor: Just a few days after The Wall Street Journal revealed new information about the forthcoming iPhone 8 (full rumor below), a prominent Apple analyst is denying the intel. KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo is refuting that the 2017 iPhone will replace the Lightning port for a USB-C connector. In fact, Apple is allegedly adding fast-charging capabilities to its proprietary Lightning connector for “type C power delivery” without having to change the port and cables.

According to Kuo, Apple doesn’t have enough incentive to use USB-C. First of all, USB-C takes up more space inside the iPhone, which would change the form factor. In addition, since USB-C is universal, switching to it would remove the MFi royalties that Apple gets from licensing its property Lightning technology to third-party iOS accessory-makers.

Plausible? Highly. Switching connectors is not a decision Apple usually takes lightly, so the benefits would have to drastically outweigh the current technology. And Lightning seems to be working for the iPhone and iPad, despite the fact that they’re incompatible with even the new MacBooks. Plus, Kuo is a reliable source when it comes from reports from the Apple’s assembly line.

However, we can’t totally dismiss the WSJ report. Perhaps Apple has considered switching to USB-C. It would make its iOS products more compatible with third-party accessories and peripherals, a benefit now that the iPad Pro is being advertised as a PC replacement. The switch to USB-C would certainly be more user-friendly, but it might also counter Apple’s closed ecosystem strategy, which doesn’t seem to be a drawback for iPhone and iPad sales.

Could it be USB-C?

The rumor: Each new report about the iPhone 8’s features reinforces the ones before it, but the latest rumor from the Wall Street Journal is one we haven’t heard before. The WSJ says Apple will replace the iPhone Lightning port with a USB-C connector.

This is huge. Apple just did away with the iPhone’s headphone jack and included Lightning EarPods in the box instead of the 3.5mm earphones it has shipped with previous generations of iPhones. Now it appears that those Lightning earphones are already being phased out.

Plausible? Certainly. Apple has no qualms about ditching old technology, even its own. Remember the 30-pin connector that it sacrificed for the proprietary Lightning port? A move to USB-C would actually be a positive one, at least in terms of compatibility. USB-C is a standard that tech companies are quickly adopting, so the iPhone would finally play nice with peripherals and accessories that aren’t made or licensed by Apple. The new MacBooks are also all-in with USB-C, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the iPhone made the move.

Curved display or no curved display?

The rumor: Early reports about the iPhone 8’s OLED display indicated that Apple was aiming to make a curved screen. The WSJ reports that plan is still in the works, though Chinese research firm TrendForce said earlier in February that early prototypes weren’t up to Apple’s standards. Apparently that’s no longer the case: Apple “has ordered sufficient components to enable mass production,” the Journal’s sources said.

Apple is getting its curved OLED displays from Samsung, who started producing those displays for its own phones back in 2014 and is the only manufacturer who can make enough of the curved OLED panels to supply Apple.

The iPhone 8 is also reportedly ditching the physical home button, though it’s unclear if Apple is ready to make the move to iris recognition for phone unlocking or if the company will find a way to embed the Touch ID sensor in the display itself.

Plausible? A curved OLED display would be a significant departure in design for Apple and a compelling reason to snag the iPhone 8, which is rumored to be priced at north of $1,000. Apple was rumored to be running into constraints finding OLED display suppliers who can make enough panels to build the next-gen iPhone, but the WSJ is reliable when it comes to Apple rumors. Expect a curved OLED screen to set the iPhone 8 apart.

Facial recognition?

The rumor: The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus got a rear-facing camera overhaul, the 7 Plus with an extra lens for telephoto shots. Apple is turning its attention to the front-facing camera in the iPhone 8 with facial recognition, a 3D sensor, and infrared transmitter and receiver. The rumor comes from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and a research note from investment banking firm Cowen and Company published by Business Insider. Apple purchased the facial recognition startup RealFace earlier in February, making it even more likely that the company is experimenting with alternative biometric tools, including iris recognition. That could replace Touch ID as a phone unlocking mechanism.

The front-facing camera’s new features would have big implications for games. Players would no longer need avatars—instead, the new camera system would generate a three-dimensional selfie.

Kuo noted that Apple is planning to put a 3D sensor in the iPhone’s rear-facing camera next year, which would negate the need for a dual-lens system.

Plausible? This is the first time we’ve heard about Apple incorporating new laser technology and facial recognition, but it wouldn’t come out of nowhere. Apple acquired Primesense and their infrared sensor technology in 2013, and the company just recently integrated facial recognition software in Photos for iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. So it makes sense that the next evolution of this feature is for Apple to develop a camera with sensors that can perform facial recognition in real-time to create augmented reality experiences, similar to Snapchat’s selfie filters.

A $1,000 iPhone?

The rumor: Apple is reportedly making a 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone with all the bells and whistles. According to Fast Company, this very-special iPhone could be called either the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X and will cost more than $1,000. The higher price tag is due to the fact that this new iPhone will boast an OLED display that will cost Apple twice as much as an LCD to manufacture.

The forthcoming iPhone 8/X will also be massive, measuring 5.8 inches, and come with a memory upgrade and a virtual Home button. In addition, Fast Company corroborates previous reports that Apple will release two less-fancy iPhones, the 7s and 7s Plus, with LCDs.

Plausible? Let’s just say that you should start saving up. Considering that Apple is planning to make the iPhone 8/X standout with a bunch of new features, we can definitely see it commanding a higher price tag. And costing more than $1,000 is actually not so ridiculous—the 256GB version of the iPhone 7 Plus is already $969. The iPhone 8/X will reportedly be bigger and have a more expensive OLED display, as well as more memory. So, it makes sense that it will be the most expensive iPhone ever made.

Stainless steel chassis?

The rumor: Apple is returning to a stainless steel chassis for the next iPhone with two glass panes on the front and the back, according to DigiTimes. In addition, Apple is moving to a new forging process for the metal bezel and frame that is expected to reduce manufacturing cost and time. The forging process will reportedly be 30 to 50 percent cheaper than the current unibody machine-precision process. The stainless steel frame will be provided by Foxconn and Jabil, the manufacturers who supplied the same part on the iPhone 4.

Plausible: Yes. This rumor corroborates an earlier report predicting the return of the glass iPhone. Not only that, but we’re also under the impression that Apple is looking to launch several models of the iPhone 8 with different prices and using different materials. And it makes sense that the higher-end iPhone 8 would rely on stainless steel to hold the front-and-back glass panels together, while a cheaper version uses aluminum—that’s the same pattern we see with the Apple Watch.

Curved OLED display?

The rumor: Apple’s revolutionary new iPhone 8 will sport a plastic OLED display that “curves all over,” according to a report published in the Korea Herald and picked up by 9to5Mac. The report corroborates the rumor that Apple will release three iPhone models next year, a premium model with curved OLED display and two with flat LCDs. Furthermore, Apple is hoping to incorporate new “sensing technology” in the curved display to help differentiate the iPhone 8 from other OLED smartphones. According to the Korea Herald, Apple has tapped Samsung Display to make an estimated 70 to 100 million plastic OLED units to use in the iPhone 8.

Plausible? If Apple is considering releasing an iPhone 8 with a curved display, then plastic OLED is the way to go, as glass OLED works best for flat displays. And now that we’ve seen Apple reserving certain features like a dual-camera for the more expensive iPhone models, we wouldn’t be surprised if the curved iPhone 8 comes at a premium, too. Next year, we could very well see an iPhone 7s and 7s Plus with LCDs, as well as a brand-new iPhone 8 with OLED. 

New red color?

The rumor: Reports that Apple has three new iPhones in the works for 2017: iterative iPhone 7s and 7s Plus updates and a completely redesigned all-glass iPhone 8. Conflicting rumors have different features in each phone, but here’s a new one: The 7s and 7s Plus will come in a brand new crimson color. According to Japanese Apple-centric site Macotakara, the S-model phones will be available in red in addition to the standard black, jet black, rose gold, gold, and silver.

Plausible? Could be. Macotakara has a decent track record with Apple product rumors, predicting the phase-out of the iPhone headphone jack ahead of the pack. The blog cites Taiwanese suppliers who also say the 7s and 7s Plus will look the same as the 7 and 7 Plus, though KGI Securities says the opposite: that each of the 2017 models will be all-glass and have wireless charging.

Wireless charging?

The rumor: We’re beginning to hear corroborations of earlier rumors. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is doubling-down on his prediction that the 2017 iPhone will have all-glass casing. According to Kuo, Apple is switching to glass in order to facilitate wireless charging. Even though some metal and plastic smartphones have wireless charging, using glass is faster and there are fewer frequency disruptions.

Good news: Kuo now expects Apple to put wireless charging in all of its 2017 iPhones, including the next-generation 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch versions of the 7 and 7 Plus. Apple could decide to limit the feature to its anticipated 5.8-inch bezel-less iPhone 8, but with the 7s and 7s Plus expected to be remade with all-glass casing, the addition of wireless charging might encourage more people to upgrade.

Kuo is counting on it. According to supply chain rumors, more iPhones are expected to be produced in the latter half of 2017 than ever before. Suppliers are reportedly getting ready to churn out 120-150 million iPhones, beating out the 110-120 million iPhone 6 models produced in late 2014.

Plausible? Yes. The addition of wireless charging was one of the first reliable rumors we heard about the forthcoming iPhone 8, and we’ll undoubtedly keep hearing about it until the device is released next year. If Apple is really committed to wireless charging, then switching to an all-glass casing also makes sense. It explains why Apple would choose to switch to glass in the first place. While the smaller iPhones might lack OLED due to production constraints, putting wireless charging in each model would go a long way toward making the next iPhone a must-buy.

Folds like a book?

The rumor: You may be able to bend the next iPhone, similar to how you fold to close a book. Apple has just been granted a patent for a book-like iPhone design that used an OLED display that can fold in half.

bendable foldable iphone patent apple USPTO

Plausible? Just because Apple has the patent for this, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will become a real product. Besides, Apple is already running into issues with OLED display supply, so there may not be enough time or resources to incorporate a bendable, foldable display on the iPhone 8.

3 new models?

The rumor: Apple will launch three models of the iPhone 8 in 2017, according to a new report from KGI Securities analysts. One model will sport a 5.5-inch OLED screen and a dual camera. One will have a 5.5-inch LCD screen, also with a dual camera. The third will be a 4.7-inch iPhone with an LCD screen and a single camera system, much like the current iPhone 7 model. 

Plausible? KGI Securities is usually spot-on when it comes to iPhone hardware predictions, and for a while these supply chain analysts have been predicting that Apple will switch to OLED displays in 2017. Apple has already been using OLED displays on the Apple Watch and the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, so using this type of display on the iPhone seems like a logical next step. Previously, Bloomberg reported that Apple is in talks with Sharp to be its OLED display supplier.

OLED offers a lot of benefits over LCD. Besides being more responsive, OLED gives Apple the option to create a bezel-less iPhone with a curved or bendable display, which would certainly boost the iPhone 8’s wow-factor. This time around, the iPhone 8 is rumored to be “revolutionary.”

Return to all-glass?

The rumor: Apple may take a page from its own book and release an iPhone 8 with a glass front and back, similar to the iPhone 4 and 4s. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will, of course, be larger than those models, which were 3.5 inches. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who always has deep insight into Apple’s supply chain, predicted that Apple will make lower-priced models with aluminum casing and more expensive versions with stainless steel. The glass would give the phone a glossy look, like the popular jet black iPhone 7, but be less prone to knicks and scratches than the brushed aluminum.

Plausible? Yes. It’s all about the sourcing: KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo is typically spot-on when it comes to Apple hardware changes. It’s possible that Apple is basing future design decisions on the success of the jet black iPhone 7, which is currently sold out through December. According to the KGI report, 30–35 percent of preorders were for the jet black model worldwide, and in China that percentage was higher—45–50 percent.

An OLED display at last?

The rumor: So far, Apple has held on to LCD displays, which isn’t a bad thing—the LCD display on the iPhone 7 is just as good as the competition’s OLED screens. But Apple is reportedly in talks with Sharp to be one of its main suppliers of OLED displays to use in next year’s iPhones. According to Bloomberg, Apple wants to diversify its OLED sourcing so it has multiple options. Sharp is investing $566 million in OLED production factories which will start churning out displays by next June.

Plausible? Yep. The future is OLED, because the technology is more flexible than LCD and would allow Apple to make the iPhone bezel razor-thin and move the home button to the display itself. There are other applications made possible by switching to OLED screens, and we’re sure Apple is exploring those for a future phone.

This story, "iPhone 8 rumors: Camera to get augmented reality capabilities similar to Snapchat filters" was originally published by Macworld.

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