We’re just a day away from Apple officially unveiling the iPhone 8 and iPhone X on stage in Cupertino. But rather than slowing down for the final stretch, the Apple leak machine kicked into overdrive this weekend. A leak of the iOS 11 final version — from Apple’s own servers, nonetheless — has provided a wealth of information to pick through, just 24 hours before the event makes everything official.
Among other things, we learned what the new iPhones will be called, that there’s a new Apple Watch coming, and how iOS will work without a Home Button. Oh yeah, Apple’s definitely killing the home button. It’s been a busy weekend.
It all started Friday evening, after a “rogue Apple employee” sent links to a working copy of the iOS 11 Gold Master to a handful of Apple blogs, including 9to5Mac and MacRumors. The Gold Master copy of iOS 11 is the one that will be released to the public, likely on Tuesday after the new iPhone reveals, so it’s littered with clues about the upcoming devices and changes. Developers and blogs have been digging through the GM all weekend, and have teased out the most important details since then.
We’re looking at the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X for the next generation of iPhone. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be incremental upgrades on the iPhone 7 — basically, the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus that we’ve been hearing about for months.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will both have LCD screens in a similar-style body to the iPhone 7. We’re expecting the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to have glass backs, inductive wireless charging, and all-new guts to handle iOS 11 better. They’ll both retain the Home Button, Touch ID sensor, and other features we’re used to from the iPhone 7.
The iPhone X will be the real game-changer. As the iOS 11 GM leaks proved for the 50th time, it’ll have virtually no bezel on any sides, letting Apple fit a 5.8-inch screen into a device barely bigger than the iPhone 7. There’s going to be no Home Button, a revamped “side button” replacing the lock button, and yes, an ugly notch in the top.
iPhone X details
The iOS 11 GM leaks went into detail about the iPhone X, good news for anyone who needed semi-official confirmation of leaks before tomorrow’s event. First, we learned almost for sure that Face ID is replacing Touch ID in the iPhone X. We saw a demo for how to set up Face ID, and the moving image strongly implies that the phone uses a 3D sensor to make a depth scan of your face for recognition purposes, rather than relying on image recognition like other systems. That should stop any unlocking tricks using a photo of the owner, although the overall security and ease of use remains a big question mark before tomorrow.
We also got a good look at the iPhone X’s notch thanks to references in the firmware. The notch cut-out at the top of the screen will house a few important sensors, as well as the front-facing camera and speaker grille. It looks like a bad design compromise no matter which way you cut it, but another weekend leak from a different source gave us a good idea of how Apple is mitigating it.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, a well-known Apple insider with sources in the supply chain, reports that the iPhone X will come in three colors, but all the variants will have a black front panel. That means the notch will always be black, which should let it blend in neatly with the OLED black of the two “ears” surrounding the notch. Presumably, the hope is that the notch won’t stand out, and will just blend into a continuous black status bar.
New status bar
The notch also means changes to the iOS status bar. We’ve got screenshots of how that will work, thanks to Guilherme Rambo, a developer who’s been working to interpret the iOS 11 GM leak. The left side of the status bar will now feature the time, while the right side displays Wi-Fi, cell signal, and battery life.
There isn’t enough status bar real estate to feature all of the notifications all the time, so Apple came up with an animation to switch between different icons. As you can see in the video above, a new indicator — like the phone being plugged into power — pushes its way into the status bar, simultaneously pushing the old icons off the screen.
Apple also seems to be doing away with the red, green, or blue bars that come across the top of the screen when you’re recording, on a phone call, or sharing your location. Those alerts now show up as a highlight around the time in the top-left ear. Screenshots from Steven Troughton-Smith show what it’ll look like in action.
A totally redesigned side button
On the iPhone X, the side button takes on a bunch of roles formerly fulfilled by the home button, since that’s vanishing. You will now press and hold the side button to activate Siri, and double-press to bring up Apple Pay and the Wallet. Those controls will actually be familiar to Apple Watch users, as it’s the same controls as you use on the Apple Watch with its side button.
Rumors were flying earlier this year that Apple was thinking about putting Touch ID in the side button, and that makes more sense when you consider the increased role it’s playing in the device’s navigation in iOS 11. It seems like Touch ID will be scrapped entirely in favor of Face ID on the iPhone X, but you can see a world in which the side button takes over the Home Button completely.
Speaking of the Home Button: its disappearance is forcing a change in iOS navigation, as you don’t have the anchor button to return home all the time. Instead, there’s a “dynamic navigation area” shown by a line along the bottom of the screen.
A11 chip and 3GB of RAM
Steve Troughton-Smith also uncovered a few more details about the iPhone X’s specs. According to him, the iPhone X and iPhoen 8 Plus will get 3GB of RAM, with just 2GB going in the iPhone 8. That’s more or less the same as the iPhone 7 generation: the smaller phone has 2GB, and the iPhone 7 Plus gets 3GB. It’s still far less than Android devices — new flagships are shipping with 6GB of RAM! — but it’s never seemed to bottleneck iPhone performance.
Troughton-Smith also says that the A11 chip that’ll be found inside all the phones will have a 4 + 2 core arrangement: four cores for general use, and two low-power cores for specific tasks and running the phone in a lower-power state. That should help make battery life tolerable, and allow more things to run in a screen-off state without sucking down too much power.
New camera details
The leak seems to show that the iPhone 8 and iPhone X will be getting the same (major!) camera upgrades this year. Portrait Lighting is a new software feature coming to all the new devices. It’ll let you simulate different lighting conditions in Portrait mode, presumably using the depth information from the camera to virtually change lighting. There’s also wildly enhanced video capture modes:
- 1080p HD at 240 fps 480 MB with 1080p HD at 240 fps
- 4K at 24 fps (Footer) 270 MB with 4K at 24 fps (film style) (HEVC Footer) 135 MB with 4K at 24 fps (film style)
- 4K at 60 fps (Footer) 450 MB with 4K at 60 fps (higher resolution, smoother) (HEVC Footer) 400 MB with 4K at 60 fps (higher resolution, smoother)
The iPhone X should have a depth-sensing camera on the front and will be loaded up with AR features, and Animoji might’ve been the first one we uncovered. It’s a feature that uses the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji that capture your expression and emotions and let you send them in emoji form. The iOS 11 code describes them as “‘custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions.”
The code reveals a bunch of built-in facial recognition features that power it, like “lower left brow,” “frown mouth left,” etc. — exactly the kind of thing Apple would open up to developers, and make it insanely easy to build AR features into apps.
The best part about any software leak is definitely the new wallpapers, and iOS 11 GM didn’t disappoint. 9to5 teased out all 16 new wallpapers that were hiding in the leak, and they’re as good as you’d expect. The rainbow wallpaper, harking back to Apple’s early days, is definitely going to be an instant classic. There’s also a new variant of the classic iPhone Earth pic, some colored flower wallpapers, and more variants on the simple black rainbow.
New Apple TV and new Apple Watch 3
There should be a new 4K Apple TV coming tomorrow, all the better to play all that 4K content you’ll be recording on your new iPhones. In order to play back the 4K video, the Apple TV will need some upgraded internals. That comes in the form of an A10X Fusion SoC, the same chip used in the new iPad Pros. That should make the new Apple TV crazy-fast for a set-top box, and hopefully ensure longevity for a good few years. It should also mean good things for the 4K Apple TV’s gaming chops.
Last but not least, there’s also a couple new details on the new Apple Watch. As expected, it looks like not much will change bar the addition of LTE. It looks like Apple has negotiated with carriers to get the Apple Watch 3 the same phone number as your iPhone, so you’ll just get calls on your wrist whenever you’re away from your phone. The extra cost will be added onto your cell plan, rather than requiring an entirely new line added, complete with separate number. From the sounds of things, you also won’t need a SIM card.
That removes most of the pain points with adding LTE to a watch — minimal extra cost, and no new numbers to deal with. It’s telling that Apple has enough clout among carriers to make such significant changes; hopefully, this is the first step towards killing SIM cards once and for all.