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Are Apple’s rumored new iPhone features Android ripoffs, or revolutionary?

Apple Touchless Control

After three consecutive years of iterative iPhone updates that included almost no design changes, Apple in 2017 released a completely redesigned iPhone. No, I’m not talking about the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which recycle Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus designs for the fourth consecutive year. I’m talking about the iPhone X, which is a completely reimagining of the iPhone.

Now that the wheel has been reinvented, however, Apple is expected in 2018 to once again release iterative iPhone updates. Things will get a bit more interesting this year if Apple does indeed release two additional new iPhone models alongside its iPhone X successor, but all three phones are expected to feature the same design as the current-generation iPhone X. But if we look a bit further down the road, the company may be working on new iPhone models that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before from Apple. I first discussed them on Wednesday, but I wanted to quickly revisit the topic following a wave of presumptive coverage from tech blogs.

Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Apple’s iPhone engineers are working on some pretty interesting things that could hit the market in the not-too-distant future. As I covered yesterday, touchless gesture control features are reportedly being developed for upcoming iPhones, and Apple is supposedly even testing a new iPhone design that is curved instead of flat, like every iPhone that has been released so far.

Now, it’s important to acknowledge that those are the only two facts pertaining to Apple’s future plans that were included in that Bloomberg report (facts is italicized because the report cites only one anonymous source for each of those claims). Everything else was background, filler, or speculation, like the notion that Apple might be considering a curved iPhone design in order to “differentiate design” in a “crowded marketplace.” Coverage on other sites also included no additional facts, only speculation.

There’s nothing wrong with speculation, of course, but a narrative developed on many sites that seems like it could be way off base. The basic idea presented in posts like this one from my favorite blog Gizmodo (other than BGR, of course) is that Apple’s touchless gesture control and curved screens aren’t novel new ideas. Instead, they’re similar to things that were done on Android phones years ago.

This may be true. Apple may be cooking up pointless touchless gesture controls like we’ve seen on earlier smartphones. Apple might also be toying with curved phone designs merely to “differentiate” its phones in a “crowded marketplace.” Does that really sound like Apple, though? Does the company ever really do silly things like just to be different? Would Apple release a curved phone to differentiate itself after seeing that no one liked Samsung’s curved phone in 2013 or LG’s curved phones in 2014 and 2015? That sounds… unlikely.

What am I getting at here? In a word, chill. Until more light is shed on the internal projects at Apple that Bloomberg revealed, we have absolutely no idea why Apple is working on these new iPhone features, or how they’ll tie in with other new iPhone features. As I mentioned in yesterday’s coverage, these two features may actually be releated. Apple has been working for years on all sorts of exciting new tech, including displays with 3D holographic capabilities.

What if Apple is developing touchless gesture support in order to allow people to interact with objects that appear as though they’re floating in front of the screen? What if Apple is testing curved iPhone designs so that the sensors reading these touchless controls can detect gestures performed so close to the display? We don’t know, and we won’t know anytime soon. Until we get more information, however, let’s try not to jump to any conclusions.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.