We admit to getting a certain amount of glee out of those (frequent) moments when a long-established rumor is contradicted and has to be walked back with torturously-contorted rationalizations. Remember how sure everyone was (and mostly still are) about the idea that Apple will ditch the analog headphone jack in the "iPhone 7" (the one expected to appear this fall)? Oh that's so last week now. Not that it matters -- nobody in their right mind
would buy the iPhone 7, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
We here at the rumors desk also get a cookie every time there are pronouncements about how well an unannounced and months-away-from-production device will sell, and particularly when said product is announced to a "flop" well ahead of its public debut -- so readers can just imagine how sugary our diet has become with the various "reports" and rumors on offer this week. The collective "wisdom" that "knows" stuff about the forthcoming iPhone has apparently decided that the only reason it will be called "iPhone 7" is because "meh.com" has already been taken.
About that 'no-headphone' thing ... erm ...
The removal of the headphone jack
on the iPhone 7 has been "common knowledge" for months now. It will be done to allow Apple to make thinner phones (only the iPhone 7 is currently rumored not to be much thinner than the iPhone 6s), or because Apple wants everyone to move to either a pure-digital Lightning connection, or just wireless (even though Apple doesn't make Lightning headphones) forcing everyone to change their headphones and generally just steaming customers, because no reason, that's why.
Concept of iPhone 7 without headphone jack
Long debates have been had on various sites (including ours) about the pros and cons of this expected move. Only, hold on a minute: a new photo from Chinese site MyDrivers
, a frequent hotbed of parts leaks, has revealed a photo
of the alleged "iPhone 7" motherboard. Lo and behold, what's that gray thing at the top of the picture? Hint: it's a headphone jack. The photo is, as per tradition, dark and not sharp enough -- a sure sign that it is legit, at least in the rumor world.
latest 'leaked part' shows headphone jack at top
There are still other leaked parts pictures that suggest no headphone jack and instead genuine stereo speakers, so we'll have to see which theory wins out. That said, we're predicting that soon the usual suspects will begin saying something long the lines of "oh, did I say no headphone jack on the iPhone 7? I meant the iPhone 8, which will be out in time for Christmas 2017, because Apple is skipping the 'iPhone 7s,' I swear." To be fair, there has been a long-standing rumor largely promulgated by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that claims the iPhone 7 will essentially just be another iPhone 6s -- like the "iPhone 6ss" or something -- and it is the iPhone 8, coming in late 2017, that will sport an all-new design. You guys can wait, right?
While it would only be fair to point out that such a strategy might make sense if Apple can put in enough genuine improvements to the next iPhone to make upgrading more compelling despite a similar body design, other forces would suggest that if there's a year Apple wants to kick back and make relatively few changes to an iPhone model, this isn't the year to do it. Apple recently suffered the first quarterly drop in iPhone sales since it started selling the devices in 2007, and will see further drops in the June and September quarters. Putting out something the public considers "meh" as the next flagship iPhone would be disastrous.
To hear Ming-Chi tell it, though, the iPhone 7 "will not have many attractive selling points." While he has revised his estimates for iPhone SE sales up from 12 million (annual) to 18 million, he believes total iPhone shipments will drop to between 190 million and 205 million units, dropping an average of 15 percent compared to 2015, when Apple sold 232 million iPhones. This is all, of course, based on his idea that the "iPhone 7" will be a lightly-revised iPhone 6s in outward appearance, with some notable but not "killer" differentiations.
Ming-Chi believes the real
next-generation iPhone is being punted down the road a year, where there will be no "iPhone 7s" in the fall of 2017, but rather a leap straight to the fully-redesigned "iPhone 8" (names, as always, are subject to change). He has previously predicted that this "all-new-design" in late 2017 will take its cues from the iPhone 4 in terms of having an all-glass back -- one of the main criticisms of the device, as it makes the iPhone more prone to breakage when dropped -- and a new OLED-style screen, similar to what is used for the Apple Watch.
Other analysts, it must be noted, disagree. Long-time Wells Fargo tech analyst Maynard Um told his clients that the "iPhone 7" will mark a return to growth for Apple, potentially selling as many as 82.2 million units over the holidays this year -- a very optimistic prediction. This would be great news if it turns out to be true, following a June quarter where the company is likely to sell around 50 million iPhones (down from 61 million in the year-ago quarter) and then somewhere around 45 million units in the September quarter.
The source of that optimism for December may come from taking the various rumors about what the "iPhone 7" will include, and combining them all together -- which would make for a very significant update, even if the chassis stays primarily the same. There has been much speculation that at least one model of iPhone 7 (probably the Plus version) would sport a new dual-camera system that ensures better pictures through optical stabilization, as well as creating a limited "optical zoom" ability through intelligent processing of the comparative image. Dual cameras would also be useful for taking "VR" type photos.
In addition, some reports have claimed (as they do this time every year) that the next iPhone will be waterproof and dust-proof, will add the ability to charge wirelessly, will have a slightly higher-capacity battery
, remove the "camera bump" from the back of the device (though parts leaks thus far and suggested that no, that won't happen), a new more "flush" home button
that doesn't depress (if, indeed, it is not just incorporated right into the screen), and may expand the screen size by incorporating the home button and Touch ID technology into the display itself, though the latter suggestion may have to wait for the "iPhone 7s/iPhone 8" model.
A Design for Living
A recent schematic
floating around the rumor sites shows a body for the next iPhone that is all but identical to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, including the present thickness (Ming-Chi had previously predicted that the next iPhone would be as thin as the iPod touch, which is 6.1mm). The next iPhone is also variously claimed to have the aforementioned stereo speakers (though that was before this alleged new motherboard came out, and relies on Apple dropping the headphone jack), a Smart Connector as seen on the iPad Pro models to allow for an alternate way to charge the device.
It's worth pointing out that almost anyone with basic CAD skills could create a "schematic" based on current rumors, so we remain skeptical of this particular bit of "evidence." The whole waterproof thing also kind of relies heavily on a headphone jack not being there, as it is a port that would have to be "plugged" in some manner to rival the relative water-resistance of, for example, the Galaxy S7 smartphone from Samsung, which is rated to survive immersion for up to 30 minutes at a depth of five feet or less. The schematic also mentions a name change on the larger models to possibly the "iPhone Pro," and while we have no evidence to dispute it, this just makes us roll our eyes.
A few other analysts say they have reason to think that Apple sales will rebound in the last calendar quarter of the year (beyond the obvious increase that naturally comes it being the holiday season), but it's not because they are counting on striking new technologies or radical new features: it's because they can do math. Apple has blamed some of its recent drops on the fact that the iPhone 6 cycle was extraordinary, due to it being the first model with the larger display, which caused a stampede of pent-up demand that broke every record, including the most revenue and profit from a company in a single quarter. Ever.
If that is indeed the case, then sales of the "iPhone 7" -- almost regardless of which subset of the above-mentioned features it might have -- should do very well. Why? Because nearly all of the people who bought an iPhone 6 will be coming off-contract -- and contracts still make up the vast majority of iPhone sales in developed markets. As Cook pointed out, customer satisfaction with the iPhone is insanely high, as is user loyalty to the platform. Throw in yet more "switchers" from Android, thanks to new features or the iPhone SE, and it's beginning to look a like like Christmas will be the hap-happiest time of the year once again.
One last thing that may add to that holiday cheer: various websites and analysts are utterly convinced -- as they were with the dropping of the headphone jack -- that there will be an all-new Apple Watch 2 this fall
(having previously predicted it for last month). While it is true that Apple CEO Tim Cook said previously that the Watch would grow and improve over time, and while he also noted that the Watch is a "seasonal item" like the iPod -- meaning that 40 percent of yearly sales tend to happen in the December quarter -- he has not said anything about all-new hardware this year.
Apple will certainly need to do something
to further jazz up the product in time for Christmas, and it is quite possible that this could include changes ranging from a complete redesign (less likely, we think) to a "spec bump" that sticks more or less to the existing design and maybe adds a cellular radio (much more likely, we think). We, like many others, would love to see improvements in the processor, greater independence from the iPhone, longer battery life, and oh yes, a pink pony while we're at it -- all in a device that is half the current thickness and under $200, since we're just pulling out a wish list with no regard to physics. Get on that, Ive.
Speaking of making things waterproof ...
There is also the less-romantic possibility that Apple will opt to keep the hardware looking the same, more or less, and instead make other kinds of improvements -- some of the features mentioned above could be done through an improved watchOS release or a streamlined API for third-party apps, there's been some talk for a while about new case materials such as titanium, and of course there are more bands coming. On the latter point, it might be neat to see bands that can "do" more than just look good -- one company already incorporated extra battery into a band, and maybe some additional sensors could be added to a band for health and fitness.
One last area of speculation: following an appearance on CNBC's Mad Money
show this week, it has been suggested that Apple might be in the mood to make a "big" deal in order to quickly move into an all-new category quickly, by simply taking over an existing popular brand of something. Cook noted that Apple hadn't done any "big" deals in a while, but wouldn't rule them out, either.
We could easily see Apple buying out a company like Sonos, for example, and incorporating AirPlay, Siri and other technologies further into that company's already-popular lineup. We wouldn't be shocked if Apple bought out a fitness band company, either, to more directly compete with Fitbit for the top spot in the overall wearable market. It's all about opportunities, as Cook said, but while we wait to see what pans out in that area, we think Apple is following its own advice -- and buying back its stock like crazy just at the moment.