It's iPhone time of the year again! Apple will reportedly show off the eighth generation of its flagship device on September 9. If you believe the rumours, iPhone 6 will be one of the most dramatic updates to the iPhone line in quite some time.
Picture: Jim Cooke
Will it be bigger? Will it be faster? Will it be tougher? Will it float? We'll have to wait until the big reveal to know any of these answers for sure. But here's what we think we know for now.
What will it be called?
Usually this piece of the equation is pretty predictable. After the iPhone 4 came the iPhone 4S. Then came the iPhone 5 -- and then the 5S and the 5C. So it's only natural to assume that Apple's new device will be called the iPhone 6.
Complicating matters a bit, though, is the frequent assertion that Apple will simultaneously introduce two different sizes of iPhone for the first time ever. If that's the case, it seems plausible that the 4.7-inch version would take the iPhone 6 name, while some are speculating that the rumoured 5.5-inch device would borrow from the iPad and be called the iPhone Air. It's largely unclear whether the phones will be identical on the inside, but rumours abound that the larger iPhone 6 could enjoy better specs. Surely, both of them will be very pretty, though.
Be excited. If Apple sticks to its usual cycle, the new iPhone will see a complete hardware redesign. And because of the possibility of a new size -- among other things -- the difference could be drastic.
Most rumormongers agree that the iPhone case will get a complete overhaul. Leaked photos suggest that the new design be a throwback of sorts, borrowing the smooth, rounded contours of the original iPhone while tipping its hat to details from the current line, namely the lines on the top and bottom of the case. Sonny Dickson, the same guy who correctly leaked images of the iPhone 5C case, leaked several photos of the alleged iPhone 6 case:
Picture: via Sonny Dickson
Sonny's hardly the only one who got his hands on one of these cases either. Check out this 360-degree tour of the purported iPhone 6 body:
Flipping the phone over will supposedly reveal a more subtle design upgrade: sapphire glass. Sapphire glass could spell the end of the cracked iPhone screen. This transparent crystal is stronger than steel and harder than the Gorilla Glass that's on current iPhones. It's also more expensive, due to a more involved manufacturing process. However, Apple's latest earnings report reveals that it's investing heavily in a new sapphire manufacturing facility, so if the stuff isn't coming to the iPhone this year, it seems very likely that it will show up at some point in the not too distant future.
Other design details are a little bit murkier. Some say the new glass (sapphire or otherwise) will be curved, but we've been entertaining the curved iPhone rumour for a pretty long time without seeing any results. It seems very likely that the new iPhone will be thinner than the iPhone 5S and feature a slimmer bezel, which would make sense for navigating a larger screen. There are also reports that the sleep/wake button will be redesigned and relocated, perhaps to the same spot where it is on Samsung smartphones.
As for that 5.5-inch version? Expect it to feel very consistent with the 4.7-inch phone, assuming both exist. If nothing else, Apple's a huge fan of keeping its product lines consistent.
Where we could see some differences, though, is in the guts.
Theoretically, a bigger iPhone means more space for fun stuff. You can probably assume that a faster new A8 chip will be included in the mix, perhaps exclusively in the 5.5-inch model but likely in both. Newly revealed images of the purported logic board that will hold this chip hint at more exciting changes, too. According to several reports, the new logic board will boast much-anticipated near field communication (NFC) technology as well as a faster new 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip. An upgrade to the LTE modem is also possible.
The battery in the iPhone 6 will probably be bigger and more robust. The latest reports say the 5.5-inch device will come with a 2100mAh battery, which would mean a marked improvement over the iPhone 5S's 1560mAh. Other rumours say the bump will be smaller and the iPhone 6 will have a 1810mAh battery. Regardless, those rumours still put the iPhone battery behind the 2800mAh beast in Samsung's Galaxy S5.
Some of the other hardware updates are expected to be pretty incremental. In part because of the new photo features in iOS 8, most people believe that the camera will get some improvements, perhaps in the form of image stabilisation. Touch ID will certainly be included on the new iPhone line, and might even be slightly improved.
Other spec bumps seem a little less likely, but they're worth mentioning. Some think the iPhone 6 will offer wireless charging capabilities. New patents definitely suggest that Apple is thinking hard about this technology, too, but it seems like too big a leap for a company still hasn't even embraced NFC. Speaking of charging, scattered reports say that Apple is ditching the conventional headphone jack in favour of the Lightning plug. That also seems like a stretch, to be honest.
For the most part, we already know what iOS 8 looks like. Apple announced the new mobile operating system a couple months ago, and various Gizmodo writers (including this one) have been testing it out. It works pretty well!
While iOS 8 enjoys most of the same beautiful design features as iOS 7, the real differences lie beneath the hood. Apple is rolling out a new API called HealthKit with a corresponding Health app that will help you organise the data from the increasingly huge number of wearable devices on the market. It was also developed with the Mayo Clinic and could make doctors' jobs a little bit easier.
Otherwise, expect to see more useful options in the Camera app. Continuity will be improved as you'll now be able to switch seamless between Apple devices, without losing or needing to transfer your work, thanks to a new feature called Handoff. Notifications, Contacts, Mail, and Spotlight all get incremental improvements in iOS 8. And finally, an exciting new feature called Extensions will finally let apps talk to each other. Oh and keyboards. You can now use third party keyboards.
How much will it cost?
Price structure usually doesn't change much with updates to the iPhone line. However, because of the big, new screen, some expect Apple to add a new tier. That would bring the cost of the upper end, 5.5-inch iPhone up to $US300 (with contract) for the smallest model. and the mid-range, 4.7-inch iPhone would run for $US200.
The iPhone 5S would then presumably drop from its current starting price tag of $US200 down to $US100.
What about the other iPhones?
If Apple follows protocol, the other iPhones will just shift down the line. The iPhone 5S and 5C will see a nice price cut -- if the 5C continues to exist at all, given its reportedly sluggish sale while the rest of the phones will continue the process of being phased out.
The iPhone 4, as we've said before, will basically become obsolete since it won't run iOS 8, while the 4S will probably just run iOS 8 frustratingly slowly.
When will it be available?
Apple's track record also helps when trying to figure out timing. Last year, the iPhone 5S was announced on September 10 and hit shelves September 20. Expect a similar timeframe year, with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 hitting stores on September 19. The outlook for the 5.5-inch iPhone is slightly murkier. Last month, reports that manufacturing issues would delay the larger iPhone 6, however these kinds of reports are often sensationalized so the 5.5-inch device could come out on September 19 after all. That same rumour mill also suggests that only the 32GB and 64GB versions will be available at first.