To be sure, Apple’s upcoming iPhone 7 will be a solid and respectable upgrade, complete with faster internals and improved camera performance across the board. That said, users anticipating a radical rethinking of the iPhone’s design will likely be disappointed when Tim Cook and co. take the wraps off of Apple’s next-gen smartphone next month. According to a number of credible sources and various leaks that have emerged over the past few weeks, the iPhone 7 will, by and large, closely resemble the design of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6s models.
But for those willing to wait it out, Apple’s 2017 iPhone is shaping up to be an incredibly intriguing device. Echoing previous speculation from the rumor mill, a new report from Bloomberg relays that the iPhone 8 (Apple may skip the iPhone 7s nomenclature) will not ship with a mechanical home button.
“Apple is already at work on a major redesign of the iPhone for 2017,” the report claims. “[One] that focuses more heavily on the display by removing the Home button, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
Bloomberg doesn’t dive any deeper but previous sources have indicated that the home button on the iPhone 8 will be integrated into the display itself, will sit flush with the display, and will rest atop of a series of touch-sensitive sensors that will vibrate when pressed. In turn, the vibration will give users the illusion and sensation that the button can be depressed when it is, in fact, completely stationary. It may sound far-fetched, but Apple has already implemented a similar scheme on the trackpads used on its line of MacBooks.
Apple of course isn’t getting rid of the iPhone’s tried and true home button for no good reason. Reports of an embedded home button dovetail nicely with previous claims that the iPhone 8 will feature an edge to edge display. What’s more, there are also rumblings that Apple with the iPhone 8 will introduce a third iPhone model with a curved OLED display. At this point, though, it remains unclear if every iPhone 8 model will be graced with an edgeless display or if it will be a feature reserved solely for what will presumably be a Pro model.
As to the rumored edgeless display, it’s worth highlighting statements made by well-connected industry observer John Gruber this past May:
I think next year’s phone, the 2017 model, the one that will come out in September of 2017. What I have heard, now this is not really from the rumor mill but just scuttlebutt that I’ve heard, is that it will be an all-new form factor.
And there have been some rumors, I guess, but what I’m saying is that I’ve heard this independently and it is completely getting rid of the chin and forehead of the phone. The entire face will be the display. And the Touch ID sensor will be somehow embedded in the display. The front-facing camera will somehow be embedded in the display. The speaker, everything. All the sensors will somehow be behind the display.
What I don’t know, and I have no idea, is whether that means that they’re going to shrink the actual thing in your hand to fit the screen sizes we already have, or whether they’re going to grow the screens to fit the devices we’re already used to holding… I don’t know.
Interestingly, a report from Nikkei this past year claimed that Apple was initially hoping to roll out an OLED iPhone model in 2018 before deciding to accelerate their product roadmap in order to “offset a predicted stall in iPhone sales.”
As a final point of interest, you may be surprised to learn that one of Apple’s original iPhone prototypes from 2006 featured a curved display. As we covered previously, Apple ultimately abandoned the design due to prohibitive cost and design constraints.