Tuesday, 8 December 2015

iPhone 7: should you buy the iPhone 6S for Christmas or wait for the iPhone 7?

Dec 7, 2015

Apple says it has 'big plans' for the iPhone 7, but some customers won't be willing to wait that long

Page 1 of 13iPhone 7: should you buy the iPhone 6S for Christmas or wait for the iPhone 7?

The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models may have only recently reached the hands of customers, but according to KnowYourMobile.com, Apple has "big plans" for the iPhone 7.
But what if you're looking to get hold of a new iPhone right now? Is it worth holding on for the next model which is likely to come out in September 2016, or would it be better use Christmas as an opportunity to get your hands on Apple's current offering as soon as possible? 
Just what could the next iPhone do so differently to tempt iPhone users to wait it out?
No home button
Designer Hasan Kaymak put together a concept video for the iPhone 7 which features a number of tantalising ideas, including the notion that Apple might do away with the home button completely on its forthcoming model. This makes room for a completely edge-to-edge display, meaning that the phone will have no wasted space on its front face.
One of the most recent rumours - that Apple currently has five different prototype handsets undergoing scrutiny - suggests an iPhone with built-in fingerprint recognition software in the screen is currently being tested. The existence of such a phone supports the idea that Apple could do away with the home button and have an edge-to-edge screen.
Even thinner?
Apple's never-ending pursuit of thinner devices is expected to continue on the next iPhone. It is strongly rumoured that the iPhone 7 could ship without the industry-standard 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of using either the lightning port or a USB-Type C port for docking headphones to. The USB type-C rumour has been around for some time after Apple equipped it as the only port on the new Macbook, and an iPhone equipped with USB-C is rumoured to be a prototype handset, but some feel ditching from the lightning port introduced in 2012 would be a move too soon.
Getting rid of the headphone jack would be radical but isn't beyond Apple's capabilities. If the thickness of the iPhone isn't paramount to you, the revelations that the handset looks set to get even thinner probably won't be one of the aspects that could make you wait this Christmas and through into next year before upgrading.
Waterproof design
Several sites, including Apple Insider, note that the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have significantly greater water resistance than their predecessors, including a 0.3mm wider 'lip' around the frame and a silicone seal around the logic boards. Some tech experts believe that the changes may foreshadow a completely waterproof iPhone 7 in 2016.
New camera setup
One of the more exciting rumoured hardware updates is the introduction of a dual main camera. A dual camera does not mean front and rear facing apertures, but instead marks a large improvement in the functionality of the main camera, as it would introduce optical zoom and replace the fuzzy digital zoom currently offered. The new camera could also improve on the current 12 megapixel resolution currently available on the 6S. 
Wireless charging
Apple is behind the curve on this one, as Samsung, Sony and LG have already released phones that charge without needing to be plugged in, but patent applications published yesterday by the US Patent and Trademark Office indicate that the California-based technology company may finally be preparing to incorporate wireless charging into its next generation phones.
Previously, Apple phones haven't been able to recharge without being plugged in because, until recently, wireless charging devices couldn't power batteries through the iPhone's aluminium case.
Wireless-charging handsets from other companies have tended to be made of plastic so that power can reach their batteries.
But in July this year, Qualcomm unveiled a new wireless charger that works through metals, International Business Times reports, paving the way for Apple to be able to utilise the technology.
Apple's patent for 'Inductive Power Transfer Using Acoustic or Haptic Devices' appears to use a new metal coil which has a double function - in one mode the coil produces sound for the iPhone's speakers, and in another it can charge the phone wirelessly.
With many of Apple's rivals this Christmas selling smartphones capable of wireless charging, their advance towards the technology seems mistimed and maybe a little slow. If a phone capable of charging without cables is a necessity for you, an iPhone won't be on your Christmas list this year. However, the introduction of wirelessly charging iPhones seems inevitable at this point, and will likely happen soon.
Wraparound screen
On 29 September, Apple filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for what it calls "sidewall displays", International Business Times reports.
The image accompanying the patent shows a phone with a screen that stretches all the way around the device.
Apple says that the reason for the patent is that many mobile devices on the market have come to feature a very similar design which makes no use of their side or rear surfaces.
"A large majority of portable electronic devices have settled into a standard form factor," Apple says in its patent, "namely a flat planar form factor with a display on one side and an opaque housing that contains the electrical components covering the rear surface of the device.
"Unfortunately, this popular form factor leaves the sides and rear surfaces of the device unused or at best configured with buttons and switches with fixed location and functionality."
The patent says that there is "a need for an improved form factor for portable electronic devices which allows functionality to extend to more than one surface of the device."
So perhaps the company is paving the way for a new wraparound display.
Intel inside?
According to a report by VentureBeat, the next generation of Apple iPhones could be powered by an Intel chip. The report claims that the chip manufacturer Intel has a team of 1,000 workers trying to ensure that they seal the deal.
Nothing is signed yes, the site says, and it is possible that Apple may choose to use two suppliers for its chips rather than just one: "Apple may dual-source the LTE modems in its new iPhones from both Intel and Qualcomm. Today, Qualcomm’s 9X45 LTE chip is baked into all iPhone modems."
When mobile technology was in its infancy, Intel failed to adapt to the changing market and missed out on partnerships with some major manufacturers, so "This is a must-win for Intel," a source told VentureBeat.
If a partnership does come about, then sources say that Apple "could turn to Intel to build a new system-on-a-chip (SoC) in the future, which combines both the processor and LTE modem." This would help to save space and make the phone run faster.
More recently, a note from HSBC to Apple investors was reported by Apple Insider, claiming Samsung, responsible for '60-70' percent of current A9 processor production, could be axed as an Apple partner, and the chips could be manufactuered by TSMC exclusively.
Panic button
An Apple patent recently granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office has prompted speculation that the iPhone 7 might include a built-in "panic button". According to the patent, the fingerprint scanner, which serves as a home button, could be used to lock the device and transmit a warning signal to the emergency services. The phone's data would then be rendered inaccessible unless authorised by its owner. The Daily Mirror suggests that other features could also be included, such as switching on the camera and microphone to record who is using the phone. These recordings could then be sent to police to help them catch the thieves.
"The mobile device may be unlocked using a designated finger that activates a panic mode of operation, wherein personal data stored on the mobile device is not accessible or viewable to the user," says the patent application. "In other implementations, the user may register particular fingerprints to be associated with different modes of operation and activate the different modes based on the particular fingerprints."
iPhone owners can already remotely wipe their devices or track them through the Find My iPhone free app.
OLED or LCD screen?
There have been rumours that Apple was considering introducing an OLED screen for the new iPhone 7. ET News, a South Korean tech website, said it was looking to source the screens from Apple's smartphone rival Samsung, in time for the production of the next generation of iPhones, expected to be launched late next year.
The main difference between the LCD (liquid-crystal display) screens currently used for iPhones and their OLED counterparts is that LCD displays use a backlight to illuminate their pixels, while OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens create light on their own. Apple currently sources OLED screens from Samsung and LG for its Apple Watch range and the displays have garnered high praise from reviewers.
However, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks Apple will continue using LCD technology for at least three years and likely beyond. He says Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, is preparing to invest in advanced LCD production lines in China for mass production in 2018. On top of that, iPhone backlight supplier Minebea told investors earlier this month that it does not foresee a risk of LCD share loss to OLED in the high-end smartphone market in the next three years.
If true, the decision might disappoint some fans and critics. Last month, Curtis Moldrich at Alphr said Apple would be "crazy" not to use OLED screens. He suggests the "outdated" LCD panel is "one of the reasons they often look pale and washed out" in comparison to OLED-equipped smartphones. "The iPhone 7 will need to give consumers a significant step up in all areas of the user experience if it's to compete with forthcoming smartphones like the HTC M10 and Galaxy S7," said Moldrich. "An OLED screen will certainly help Apple fend off the competition."
Could iPhone 7 interface with the Apple car?
One of the more unusual rumours doing the rounds is that the iPhone 7 could give owners a preview of the forthcoming Apple car, and possibly even allow them to order one through an inbuilt app in the phone.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted heavily that he has great interest in his company developing a car, but most technology experts agree that even if such a project is in the works, it is deeply unlikely that it will be anywhere near ready to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 7.
As financial website LearnBonds.com notes: "The Apple Car, if the firm is indeed working on it, isn't going to hit the roads for a long time yet, and a September 2016 iPhone 7 release date isn't likely to bring news of the project from Apple, at least not with any clarity."
The site adds: "We're not going to be able to order the Apple Car off of the iPhone 7, or not unless we keep it for quite a few years."
Sapphire screen
Investment bank Piper Jaffray believes that Apple is likely to unveil a raft of major changes with the iPhone 7 including a much improved sapphire screen.
"A sapphire screen has long been rumoured for the iPhone," says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. "Since Apple now uses sapphire on the Apple Watch, it could make sense for them to adapt it to the phone. We note that Apple is using the stronger aluminium from the Apple Watch Sport for the iPhone 6S case."
So what advantages would such a screen offer? According to Forbes, "the increased hardness of sapphire is a major pull for handset makers", but what has long stood in the way of broad uptake of the material is the difficulty involved in its production, which so far has meant it has only featured in high-end luxury brand phones such as Vertu.
Sapphire also has a downside, says Forbes, which is that even though it is good at resisting scratches and scuffs, when it is broken "it tends to shatter not crack".
Faster, better, stronger
The iPhone 7 is rumoured to be fitted with a 'hexa-core' processor, which will make the phone significantly speedier than the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, a better camera that improves on the current generation's 12-megapixel lenses, and a stronger body to ensure that the phones do not bend, after some users reported that their iPhone 6 models would flex in their pockets.
So what will the iPhone 7 not do?
One improvement that most tech journalists believe is unlikely to happen is for Apple to significantly boost the iPhone 7's battery life.
Jonny Ive, Apple's chief design officer and to some the spiritual successor to Steve Jobs, has said many times that he doesn't believe a longer battery life is worth the "significant sacrifices" it would require in other areas.
Apple is also expected to phase out its 16GB model when the new iPhone comes out. The 16GB of storage offered in the entry level iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models is considered something of an anachronism in the contemporary world of high-end mobile phones. At 32GB, the smallest Samsung Galaxy S6 phones offer twice as much storage as Apple's cheapest flagship and still retail for a lower price.
Another common rumour rejected by MacWorld.com is the idea that Apple might change the new phone's power cable making the iPhone 7 draw power from a USB-C port, like the new 12-inch MacBook. "The change from 30-pin to Lightning is recent enough (and was painful enough for many users) that to switch again now would be highly controversial."
It is also highly unlikely that the phone will have a spring-out joystick on its home button and a 3-D screen, the site says.
Release date
There is no confirmed release date for the iPhone 7, but Apple's launch schedule for the past few years offers some clues. The first four generations of the iPhone were released in June or July, but then the 4S came out in October 2011. Since then, Apple has consistently released an iPhone or two iPhones in September each year. Tech critics predict that it will be around September again for the iPhone 7, possibly alongside the Apple Watch 2.
However, the latest rumours suggest there might also be a mid-2016 Apple launch – for the iPhone "mini". The phone is predicted to be a 4-inch model, the same size as the iPhone 5S, and to be marketed as a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 7. It has been variously dubbed the "iPhone 6C", the "iPhone 7C" and the "iPhone Mini". "It's been rumoured ever since the 5C launched, and it's fair to say many questions have been raised over its potential existence since – but the same can be said for the iPad Pro," says TechRadar. A supersized tablet from Apple was rumoured for years but it did eventually materialise, says the site, which reckons Apple is "playing a similar game with the iPhone 6C".
A launch of a smaller phone earlier in the year could tempt those who prefer Apple's four-inch handsets to wait it out, rather than make the leap to a 6S this Christmas.