When will the iPhone 7 Plus come out in the UK, and what new features and design changes should we expect? Read on for the latest iPhone 7 Plus release date rumours, new features speculation and evidence, as well as mock-ups and leaked images of 2016's new iPhones as they emerge.
Latest updates: Colour options (29 July) | Smart Connector and Dual-camera lens (15 July) | New base storage option (8 July) | Price rumours (1 July) | 256GB model leaked (24 June) | Earpiece design rumours (24 June)
Note: The iPhone 7 Plus was not announced at WWDC 2016, but there was lots of news about iOS 10 and what that means for your current iPhone. Tune in to our WWDC live blog by clicking here.
In 2016, Apple is highly likely to launch its third Plus-branded iPhone (following 2014's 6 Plus and 2015's 6s Plus) with a 5.5in screen; this will probably be called the iPhone 7 Plus, although there's a slim chance it'll be called iPhone Pro. It'll arrive alongside the (4.7-inch) iPhone 7 later this year, and there's even a chance that a new 4in iPhone will be launched too - the follow-up to the iPhone SE. That'll only be six months old by then, however, so we expect Apple to just focus on the bigger iPhones.
Now: what will the iPhone 7 Plus look like, and what new features should we expect? What will be the differences between the iPhone 6s Plus and the iPhone 7 Plus, and between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus? How will Apple set the top-of-the-range iPhone 7 Plus apart from the rest of its iPhone range? And most importantly, when will the iPhone 7 Plus launch in the UK?
If you've been pondering these questions, you've come to the right place, because our iPhone 7 Plus release date rumour roundup gathers all the speculation about the new Plus-sized iPhone that Apple will launch in 2016: the iPhone 7 Plus's release date, design, specs and likely features, from wireless charging to a touchscreen display with built-in Touch ID. We'll also post any leaked photos of iPhone 7 Plus components we get hold of, and the coolest and most insightful iPhone 7 Plus concept illustrations and videos that designers come up with.
Bookmark this page for a regularly updated summary of all the iPhone 7 Plus information currently available.
If you're looking for information about the current iPhone range, by the way, read our iPhone buying guide 2016. (Or you can buy from Apple here.) And to peer even further into the future, see iPhone 8 and beyond: The future of smartphones.
New iPhone 7: podcast discussion
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast team discuss the prospects for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus - as well as the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the nature of smartphone leaks and the rumour mill in general - in episode 20. The section about future smartphones starts at 22:00.
There's a new episode of the UK Tech Podcast every Friday. Follow them on Twitter to hear whenever a new episode is available.
iPhone 7 Plus rumours: Summary
Our iPhone 7 Plus rumour roundup covers a lot of ground: an amazing range of clues and hints about the iPhone 7 Plus have already been dug up despite there being months until its launch. But for those who don't want all the detail, the following sums up our thoughts.
1) Apple will launch new iPhones in September 2016: probably two, conceivably three. As we expected, the iPhone 7 Plus didn't make an appearance at Apple's 21 March launch event - instead, Apple unveiled the 4-inch iPhone SE. We will almost certainly have to wait until autumn 2016 for a new 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, and September is the traditional month for an iPhone launch.
2) In autumn we expect to see a 4.7-inch phone (the iPhone 7), and a 5.5-inch model (the iPhone 7 Plus). It's unlikely that Apple will make another 4-inch iPhone so soon after the iPhone SE, but this cannot be ruled out entirely.
3) After the physically near-identical iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus, the iPhone 7 Plus should get a substantial physical redesign. It's too early to know what direction Apple will pick, but it's likely to be thinner than ever.
4) Battery life in the iPhone 7 Plus may be slightly improved, but Jony Ive's comments have made it plain that Apple doesn't consider a higher battery life to be worth significant sacrifices in other areas.
5) Higher screen resolution is possible but a long shot. Of the two iPhone 7 models the 4.7-inch unit is more likely to get a resolution bump - pushing it up to the same pixel density (401ppi) as the Plus model - but even that would remove one of Apple's differentiators between the two handsets. The most likely outcome is for the 7 and 7 Plus to have the same resolution ratings as the 6s and 6s Plus. A harder screen material would play well, on the other hand, whether Apple manages to resurrect the sapphire situation or goes with Corning's new Project Phire.
6) Please, Apple, please: it's time to phase out 16GB as the lowest storage offering. (This has now happened in the iPad Pro line, with the Pro 9.7 and Pro 12.9 both starting at 32GB.) 16GB is nowhere near enough in this day and age. We hope and expect the iPhone 7 Plus to start at 32GB, with further 64GB and 128GB options. One rumour suggests that, like the iPad Pro models, the 7 Plus may even go as high as 256GB. With current rumours, it seems that Apple will finally phase out its 16GB model and instead have the base model come with 32GB.
7) Remaining rumours: USB-C port? Unlikely. 3D screen: no. Curved display: probably not. Flexible display: nope. Edge-to-edge screen: yes, quite possibly. Wireless charging: quite possibly. Better waterproofing: a reasonable bet. No headphone jack: quite possibly.
iPhone 7 Plus launch date rumours: When is the iPhone 7 Plus coming out?
We'll begin by discussing the iPhone 7 Plus's likely release date.
Update, 17 June 2016: No hardware announcement was made at WWDC 2016, meaning we got no update on the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. We expect the phones to be kept a secret until autumn 2016. Read more about WWDC in our dedicated WWDC 2016 article.
Apple has only been releasing Plus-branded iPhones for the past two years, but the pattern is already very clear, and very simple: the company announces two iPhones at the same time, at a September press event, then gets them on sale a week to ten days later.
Just like in 2014 and 2015, we expect the iPhone 7 Plus to be unveiled alongside the iPhone 7 in September 2016. It's usually a Tuesday or Wednesday in early to mid-September, so at this point our money is on the 6th, 7th, 13th or 14th. (Over the past four years the iPhone event has been held on the 12th, 10th, 9th and 9th of September respectively.)
One slight complication that may impinge on this happy tradition: aside from the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus and the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, Apple introduced the 4in iPhone SE at an event in March 2016. (The iPhone 5s and 5c came out back in September 2013.)
If the company does release an 'iPhone 7 Mini', will it do so at the same launch event as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, or will it feel that this is too much for its designers and engineers to work on, or potentially overwhelming for the press and/or public? These are understood to be the reasons why we didn't get a new iPad Air along with the iPad Pro and iPad mini 4.
Following an earthquake in Taiwan, there were concerns that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be in lower than expected supply. The earthquake caused serious damage to Apple supplier TSMC's factories, and earlier in February it was reported that TSMC would be the sole manufacturer of the A10 chip for the iPhone 7 Plus.
But on 2 March, new reports suggested that TSMC is planning to double its production capabilities in order to keep up with demand for the iPhone 7's A10 chip.
Chinese website MyDrivers has suggested that the iPhone 7 Plus might actually be the iPhone Pro, carrying on with the new naming structure introduced with the iPad Pro in September, and a Japanese magazine has backed this up with its own prediction.
A Chinese site Weixin, have leaked the price in Chinese Yuan for the iPhone 7 product line.
They are as follows for the iPhone 7 Plus:
- 32GB: 6,088 yuan (£685)
- 128GB: 6,888 yuan (£777)
- 256GB: 7,888 yuan (£890)
Given that the exchange rate is constantly fluctuating and that these are rumoured prices, we can't quite say if this will be the price that the phones will be made available in the UK.
Furthermore, in the prices listed above, there is no 64GB model, which might suggest Apple will have its mid-range phone with 128GB. Again, take these rumours with a pinch of salt.
iPhone 7 Plus rumours: Design
What will the iPhone 7 Plus look like? Let's talk design rumours.
Update 27 May 2016: It seems as if Apple is having a tough time keeping a lid on iPhone 7 Plus leaks, as LetemSvetemApplem has obtained new iPhone 7 Plus schematics that, interestingly, include measurements. The schematics, if true, suggest that the iPhone 7 Plus will be the same width as the iPhone 6s Plus, measuring in at 7.3mm, and will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack.
While the dual-camera setup and Smart Connector are both clearly recognisable in the schematics, the most interesting thing about this leak is that the iPhone 7 Plus display doesn't seem to have top or bottom bezels. While Apple is rumoured to be working on an edge-to-edge display, possibly for the iPhone 8, we think it's more likely that the schematics contain a mistake or is simply fake.
Update 13 May 2016: Despite being more of an iPhone 7 rumour, rather than 7 Plus, it's still interesting to note that OnLeaks shared an image which looks to be the iPhone 7's schematics. In the picture (below), the leaked iPhone 7 has the exact same dimensions as the iPhone 6s, meaning we estimate the iPhone 7 Plus being 77.9mm wide and 158.2mm tall, with a potential thickness of 7.3mm.
On 12 July 2016, NWE shared a picture leak of an iPhone 7 and a seemingly larger iPhone 7 Plus which features a Smart Connector. There is no pictures of the headphone jack, but these leaked pictures come from a supposed 'reliable source'. Of course these are all rumours, so take these with a pinch of salt.
A Japanese magazine called Mac Fan has published supposed design schematics for the iPhone 7 Plus - which it's calling 'iPad Pro'. These suggest that the overall design and dimensions of the next big-screen iPhone will be similar to those of the 6s Plus, except that there won't be a headphone port and the rear camera will go dual-lens. Jump to the iPhone 7 Plus leaked images and concept illustrations section for more.
ETNews has suggested that Apple might utilise fan-out technology in order for it to pack more internals within a small space. Fan-out technology involves using a single chip to power multiple different digital modules. This could allow for greater space allocation within the iPhone's case, however might also compromise on the quality and interference of parts - such as the audio signal and processing.
The iPhone release schedule has been following a 24-month cycle for the past five years: an S-class update one year, which features internal upgrades (and at least one new 'killer feature') but an exterior that is essentially the same as last year's model; and then a full version number the following year, which is where we get the exterior redesign.
This is the way it went for 2010's iPhone 4, 2011's 4s, 2012's iPhone 5, 2013's 5s, 2014's iPhone 6 and 2015's 6s.
In other words, 2016 is very likely to see the launch of an iPhone 7 (and, going on the past few years, an accompanying iPhone 7 Plus) with a new design. It's likely to be at least a little bit thinner, whether or not that's actually beneficial at this point; the physical furniture around the screen may change, with a smaller bezel or no bezel at all; and the hardware buttons are all open to change too - we've heard lots of speculation that the Home button may finally reach the end of the line, with Touch ID duties devolved to the screen.
According to reports, Apple is busily working on the iPhone 7 Plus behind the scenes, and is testing a total of five different models of the device, and each is distinctly different from one another. The prototypes are enabling Apple to trial technology such as the USB-C port, wireless charging, multi-touch Force Touch, dual cameras, in-display fingerprint recognition and more. Read on to find out about each of these potential new features in more detail.
Reports that emerged in February 2016 which claim to be the first design leaks about the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus suggest that two of the changes Apple is making are small but significant. The first is that the camera, which could be a dual-camera set-up for the iPhone 7 Plus as we explain later in this article, will sit flush with the back of the iPhone rather than protrude as it does in the current iPhone models. The second is that the antenna bars, which are the white stripes that you see on the top and bottom of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus's rear, will be removed completely as shown in the image below.
These claims were made by a source trusted by MacRumors, so could well be accurate.
An additional report that emerged in February supports the idea that the iPhone 7 Plus's camera will sit flush on the back and that there will be no more antenna bars. It comes from Business Korea, which actually claims that it will be made with a ceramic back rather than the current aluminium. This would also support the claims that Apple is working on wireless charging, which currently doesn't work through the aluminium body as we explain in more detail later in this article. The rumour is shady at best, though, so we're taking it with a pinch of salt until we hear more.
Leaked images that appeared in early March seem to confirm earlier reports claiming Apple is ditching the 3.5mm jack in the iPhone 7 and removing the camera bump (kind of). The images, first posted by Nowhereelse, showcase renders of the iPhone 7 chassis allegedly taken at Catcher technologies, a case supplier for Apple.
Upon closer inspection, the claimed iPhone 7 chassis lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack and showcases a redesigned camera system. While it appears that the camera bump is still present, the chassis surrounding the camera looks like it's slightly raised - we're not quite sure why, but we imagine it should help protect the protruding camera lens.
The leaked image also seems to confirm rumours that the iPhone antenna lines are to be moved from the rear of the device to the top and bottom.
It's not the only leaked image that proves Apple is moving the antenna lines, as the most recent iPhone 7 Plus leak showcases a close-up of the smartphone chassis with a curved antenna along the edge. As with the above leak, Nowhereelse broke the news, although the source of the latest leak is a little bit harder to track. It could be that we're looking at a very well edited fan composite, but it could be a genuine prototype as we're still some way from the reported September 2016 launch.
Update 3 June 2016: There have been a few accessories by various manufacturers which suggests that there is a demand and supply of lightning port adaptors. Most recently, Axpro Technology who were at Computex 2016, showed off their new lightning to 3.5mm adaptor and headphones to the market. (We round up our pick of the best Lightning headphones in a separate article.)
There has been a lot of speculation around the headphone jack actually being kept. An image leak by French site Nowhereelse.fr shows the headphone jack in a component photo leak.
Rumours about the possibility that Apple is planning to make its iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7 thinner by ditching the headphone jack. Instead, headphones would need to be wireless or have a Lightning connector in order to be compatible with the new iPhone.
Mac Otakara and two Chines-language sites Anzhuo and Wei Feng are confident that Apple is indeed going to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack completely from its future iPhones, and two of those sites say that they have 'confirmed' the rumour with a supply chain source. And a Japanese magazine agrees with this prediction, as we discuss in the leaked images section.
Plus, on 20 January even more evidence arrived to suggest that the headphone jack port is on its way out. Code spotted in the iOS 9.3 beta 1.1 software release by Twitter user Chase Fromm reads "Headphones.have.%sinput.NO." which could well be a reference to the future removal of the port.
Apple has already made it possible for headphone makers to create headphones that work with the iPhone's Lightning port, so the idea doesn't seem completely unfeasible. Consumers certainly seem to believe that the rumours are true, and have gone as far as to create a petition asking Apple to reconsider. The petition has been signed by close to 300,000 people.
The removal of the headphone jack would mean that Apple needs to supply customers with new headphones, and according to the latest reports that's exactly what the company is working on behind the scenes right now. In fact, rumour has it that Apple is working on two new sets of headphones.
The first are Lightning EarPods, which we expect will be essentially the same as the current EarPods but will use a Lightning connector instead of a 3.5mm jack.
More interestingly, Apple is believed to be working on new AirPods, which will be completely wireless earphones that are so completely wireless that they don't even have a wire between the left and right earpiece. Apple has registered the AirPods trademark, too.
As well as removing the headphone jack, the latest rumours to hit the Internet suggest that the iPhone 7 could also drop the Lightning port, first introduced with the iPhone 5 back in 2012. While this may seem ridiculous at first, it could be possible. Recent leaks showcase what looks like a Smart Connector for the iPhone 7 - a feature specific to the iPad Pro range at present, providing a way to transfer charge and data between the iPad and connected accessories.
Mac Otakara claims that the above image, along with leaks earlier this year, could very well be the real deal. Along with the above images, component images have also leaked which supports the idea of a Smart Connector:
While many fans will welcome wireless charging, a feature already available on a myriad of Android devices, some may be disappointed at the removal of the port - either way, we'll have to wait until later this year to find out.
Update 29 July: We also expect the iPhone 7 Plus to come in Space Black, after Macotakara, a good source reported that a Space Black version is set to come out on the next iPhone.
On 20 July, ConceptsiPhone released a video showcasing the design and colours of the upcoming iPhone 7, which we can assume will also carry forward to the iPhone 7 Plus' design.
In the video on their YouTube channel we can see three different colours, Rose Gold, Silver and Space Grey. Although it should be noted that the Space Grey model showcased in the video looks darker than the Grey colour scheme that we're normally used to.
Let us know in the comments below which colour you would prefer to see.
iPhone 7 Plus design rumours: Buttonless design
In mid October 2015, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster (who is notorious for his perenially inaccurate Apple Television predictions) suggested that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus wouldn't have a Home button, relying instead on the new 3D Touch technology first seen in the iPhone 6s display.
"3D Touch may provide Apple with a way to eliminate the home button on the phone and use the additional space to make the screen bigger or the device smaller," he said. "One barrier to this could be Touch ID, which is integrated into the home button currently. Apple would need to move the Touch ID reader to potentially the side of the phone to remove the home button."
As we discuss in the next section, an Apple patent suggests that the company is investigating ways to build Touch ID into the screen itself, so Munster's theory doesn't seem implausible, but as demonstrated by his Apple television predictions, Munster isn't always right... and even he says that the odds of a buttonless iPhone 7 are only 50%.
iPhone 7 Plus design rumours: Touch ID built into the screen
In the continuing march of miniaturisation, one of the elements of the iPhone design that has proved resistant to shrinkage is the bezel below the screen - it can't get much smaller than it already is because it needs to house the Home button. Hence the recurring theory that Apple will ditch the Home button.
Technology that would facilitate such a development was recently announced by a biometric R&D company called Sonavation.
"Sonavation," the firm declares, "has reached an industry milestone by successfully developing and bonding an ultrasound biometric sensor which is compatible with Corning Gorilla Glass, providing a high-resolution 3D fingerprint image."
This would enable Apple (which is known to use Gorilla Glass in its iPhones, even if the supplier is apparently not permitted to say this publicly) to run the screen from the top to the bottom edge of the device, with no cut-out for the Home button. The Home button could in fact occupy the same position but appear only when needed, much like the software keyboard; and the technology for Touch ID would be bonded to the underside of the screen at the appropriate point.
Last year Apple filed a patent that appeared to back up the theory that it's looking into ideas like this. Patent application number 20150036065, for "a fingerprint sensor... incorporated in a display stack in an electronic device", was filed by a number of Apple's engineers in April 2014. Here are some of the accompanying illustrations:
We have some concerns: not least the idea of smudges and fingerprints on the screen affecting the accuracy of the Touch ID sensor. (The 6s and 6s Plus are much better at this, but Touch ID on the iPhone 5s was horribly prone to unreliability if the Home button got at all greasy.) Given how smudged an iPhone screen can get, this seems like it could be even worse, even before you factor in potential complications of embedding the sensor within the screen elements.
In other words, this still seems like a long shot.
iPhone 7 Plus design rumours: Curved wraparound screen
We're still in the realm of patents, and these developments could easily end up appearing in a shipped product several years down the line or not appearing at all - Apple, like most tech companies, routinely applies for more patents than it's ever going to use. But this one has actually been granted (it was applied for a few years back) so it could be reasonably close to reality.
Patent 9,146,590 refers to an "electronic device with wrap around display", and describes a curved screen that allows for more screen elements to be displayed without making the device significantly bigger. (Remember that the illustrations rarely represent what the designer has in mind. In theory the display could wrap entirely around the device, or at least extend over one edge like the Note Edge.)
While the patent talks about a "flexible display assembly", it's important to note that this isn't a patent for a bendable screen: the flexible portion of the display is attached to the interior surface of the curved transparent housing, which "provides a rigid support structure that prevents deformation".
iPhone 7 Plus design rumours: New screen materials
There are two main avenues of thought here.
The first is sapphire glass. Apple is already using sapphire in the display of the Apple Watch, and it's possible that the company is now ready to import this material into its smartphone line-up. Sapphire glass is more durable than Gorilla Glass, and could be an ideal material for the bigger display. But is it practical?
Apple backed a Sapphire plant in Arizona, run by GT Advanced Technologies, that could have been used to manufacture 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year. But that company has since been declared bankrupt and was unable to meet Apple's demands.
There could be a further twist, however. More recent reports suggest that long-term Apple supplier Foxconn is gearing up to build its own sapphire plant in Asia. Foxconn's planned plant in Taiwan will cost $2.6bn to set up, but could give it a huge advantage as companies jostle for a role in the production of the next iPhone.
Sapphire glass sounds nice, but don't write off Gorilla Glass (the material used on current iPhones) just yet.
Corning, which makes Gorilla Glass, has responded to the looming threat of Sapphire glass. It announced a new development at the start of February 2015: an ultra-hardened composite material known by the name Project Phire. Could this make an appearance in the iPhone 7 Plus?
At an investor meeting, James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, explained how the firm expects to beat sapphire: "We told you last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but didn't fare well when dropped. So we created a product that offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance that approaches sapphire."
Cnet has the full story.
NEW: But the latest iPhone 7 Plus display rumours say that Samsung could be making the display for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and that it would be a flexible OLED display. ET News says that Samsung is investing billions in new factories and equipment to keep up with Apple's display orders for its next iPhones.
A patent on the 17 May 2016 suggests that there might be an upcoming Apple device to feature no bezels. The image below by Marek Weidlich showcases what the iPhone might look like. Despite having an interesting design, we don't see it becoming a design feature present in the iPhone 7 Plus or the 7-product line due to how recent the patent was filed.
iPhone 7 Plus rumours: New features
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus brought 3D Touch and Live Photos to the party; the 5s brought Touch ID; and Siri arrived with the iPhone 4s. The iPhones in between might get full physical revamps, but they're less well known for their killer features.
But that's not to say that the iPhone 7 Plus won't get some cool new features. For one thing, it's sure to get at least one feature that is not available to any other iPhone - including the iPhone 7. For the iPhone 6s Plus, it was optical image stabilisation for video recording; for the iPhone 6 Plus, it was optical stabilisation for still images. Apple likes to make an effort to preserve its newest Plus model's status as flagship for the entire iPhone range, and one of the ways it does this is by giving the device every single feature it offers, and then adding one more on top.
(The Plus iPhones also get better tech specs in certain areas. See our iPhone 7 Plus tech specs section for more details.)
Here are the coolest new features - very often derived from intriguing patent activity - that could appear in the next generation of Apple phablet.
iPhone 7 Plus will be usable even if you're wearing gloves
A new patent application, published on 26 November 2015, offers hope to Apple users who are sick of taking their gloves off in order to use their iPhones.
Patent 20150338983, called Glove Touch Detection, describes an algorithm "for dynamically adjusting the conditions for identifying input patches as touching a touch sensitive device to detect gloved touches". It's pretty technically dense - as these things often are - but the broad idea is to draw a weighted average of the input signals derived from recent identified touches, and using this to adjust the threshold for future touches in such a way that gloved touches are detected.
The patent was applied for back on May 21, 2014, but the application process doesn't end here: it's currently (as of 27 November) listed as 'Ready for Examination', and there could remain years of deliberation before it is finally granted - if it is granted at all. We would therefore caution against expecting the fruits of this patent to appear in products any time soon. Quite aside from the delay, it's worth mentioning that Apple patents many inventions, and a lot of them never get used.
Our Android- and Windows-based readers, incidentally, may be yelling that glove detection is old news, and they are quite right. It's been on non-Apple smartphones for a few years now, such as the Nokia Lumia 920. (Of course, if you go back to the days of cheaper resistive touchscreens, glove detection was universal. It just meant you had to live with a far less responsive screen in every other respect.) But remember that patents apply to inventions, not to ideas, and so it is the method by which Apple aims to achieve this capability rather than the capability itself which is important here.
iPhone 7 Plus will be able to spit water out of its speakers
One of the most-read articles on Macworld is a tutorial discussing ways of drying out an iPhone that's got wet: it's a distressing, and distressingly common, thing to happen to a device that costs several hundred pounds and contains important, sensitive and possibly unrecoverable data.
For this reason readers and pundits frequently speculate on the possibility that future iPhones will be waterproof. Indeed, the most recent generation of iPhone models are the most waterproof yet; but we still wouldn't be pleased if the iPhone 6s fell in a paddling pool.
A patent published on 12 November suggests a radical new solution to the water logging issue: a mechanism whereby the iPhone can dry itself by pumping water - or other liquid - out through its speaker grills.
Patent application 20150326959, wonderfully, is called LIQUID EXPULSION FROM AN ORIFICE.
"The embodiments described herein are directed to an acoustic module that is configured to remove all or a portion of a liquid that has accumulated within a cavity of the acoustic modules," the patent's summary reads.
The concept is centred around modules within the speaker cavities that can be made more or less hydrophobic, depending on the charge applied to them: when liquid is detected, charges would be applied across the various modules in such a way that the liquid would be moved across the modules and ultimately expelled from the cavity.
We love the idea almost as much as the name of the patent, but as with most of the more interesting patents we hear about, it's unlikely to bear fruit in a real shipped product for a little while.
iPhone 7 Plus new features: Wireless charging
Wireless charging could finally be a reality this time around: it didn't arrive with the iPhone 6s as some had predicted, but was introduced to the Apple Watch as inductive charging.
As iMore's Rene Ritchie points out, inductive charging hasn't been practical for the iPhone in previous years because the technology available at the time didn't work through an aluminium backplate (the Apple Watch, which does offer wireless charging, has a ceramic back). But this could all be about to change in the near(ish) future. In July Qualcomm announced a wireless charging breakthrough that does work through metal. This came too late for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but the technology may appear in a subsequent generation.
Whatever the reasoning behind it, Apple is behind its rivals in this respect. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge both offer wireless charging, as does the Google Nexus 6 and the Motorola Droid Turbo, and the tech has been available in a handful of phones since around 2010. (Electric toothbrushes have had wireless charging since the 1990s.)
Indeed, there have been inductive charging cases available for the iPhone for some time, and nearly two years ago we were talking about the technology appearing in what we were then referring to as the iPad 5: iPad 5 patent: inductive Smart Cover contains battery.
NEW: Reports that Apple is working on wireless charging for its 2017 iPhone emerged at the end of January. Bloomberg says that the company is "exploring cutting-edge technologies that would allow iPhones and iPads to be powered from further away than the charging mats used with current smartphones."
Apple does have patents relating to wireless chargingof this kind, including wireless charging stations, near field magnetic resonance for wireless charging and more.
The artist Yasser Farahi, whose work appears lower down in the images and videos section, has come up with a mock-up advert for this feature:
iPhone 7 Plus new features: USB-C
According to G for Games, Apple is in the process of trialing USB-C for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. That's the connector found in Apple's new MacBook and is set to become the standard connector for all mobile devices in the future, replacing Apple's Lightning Connector as well as microUSB.
We think that USB-C will come to the iPhone eventually, but we also think Apple will be reluctant to introduce it just yet. After all, the move from the 30-pin connector to the Lightning connector on the iPhone didn't go down well with customers to begin with.
iPhone 7 Plus new features: Dynamic Home button
Apple has published a patent for a Home button that is sensitive to gestures: you'd be able to swipe across it, lean a thumb in one direction to scroll the screen of a game, and various similar actions.
As BusinessInsider puts it:
"The patent details an iOS home button capable of detecting various gestures along with the force of each touch. In other words, imagine Force Touch [see below], albeit applied to the home button as opposed to the device's display."
It sounds fun, and relatively practical. But plenty of pundits have been speculating about Apple doing away with the Home button entirely - as is the case on a number of Android smartphones - and installing Touch ID on the screen itself.
iPhone 7 Plus new features: iOS 10
iOS 10 has introduced a lot of new features. In fact, we often remark that the greatest steps forward in the iPhone experience come more often from free iOS updates than from costly hardware upgrades. (Of course, you need to have reasonably up-to-date hardware in order to be able to run the new software smoothly.)
The new release of iOS 10 is exciting and we expect to see it on the new iPhone 7 Plus in autumn 2016! To read more about the operating system, see our dedicated article: iOS 10 release date, new features & supported iPhones & iPads.
iPhone 7 Plus new features: Apple patents
Looking closer at Apple's patent portfolio, we can come up with some more new features that could well be on the cards for the iPhone 7 Plus. Face recognition could be used to unlock the device, or the entire display could function as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, eliminating the need for a Home button entirely and making room for a larger display.
Take a look at our Apple patent roundup for the coolest and weirdest features that Apple is investigating for future products.
iPhone 7 Plus rumours: Tech specs
What specifications can we expect from the iPhone 7 Plus? And how will its tech specs differ from those of the iPhone 7?
The past two generations of iPhone lead us to expect that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will have identical specs in most areas, with the following exceptions.
Screen size: obviously this is feasible because of the larger chassis.
Screen resolution: not just more pixels to account for the additional screen space - an actual higher pixel density.
Battery life: Apple is able to fit in a larger battery unit, and this more than makes up for the greater power demands imposed by the larger, higher-resolution screen. Battery life tends to be about two hours longer for the Plus models than for the 4.7-inch iPhones.
Let's look at the various specs in a bit more depth.
Every year, we wonder if Apple will fix those strange and old-fashioned storage options: removing the 16GB baseline option and starting at 32GB. (For the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, there is a curiously isolated 16GB model, a gap, and then the 64GB and 128GB models. Since 16GB is uncomfortably tight for a lot of customers, they get shunted up to a higher storage allocation than they would otherwise go for.)
We're hopeful that this will finally happen with the iPhone 7 generation, and we'd be glad to see the back of the 16GB storage tier, which we increasingly find unrealistically restrictive for the average user.
While it was originally a wish, it seems ever likely that most people's wish will become a reality. IHS Technology analysts suggest that the Apple supply chain has got rid of the 16GB model and instead replaced it with a 32GB base model. Suggesting that we might have a 64- 128- and 256GB model too! Recently a user on Weibo posted Chinese pricing for the models, suggesting that Apple will indeed drop its 16GB model. We predict that the 256GB model will be called the iPhone 7 Pro. Through the leaked pricing, the iPhone 7 Pro is $150 (~£110) more expensive.
This has been backed up more recently by a Wall Street Journal report which includes 'confirmation' that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will come with at least 32GB of storage, shunning the current 16GB base model. WSJ reporter Joanna Stern noted that "The new iPhones are expected to have more storage for those photos. Instead of 16GB as a starting point for the entry-level iPhone, the new starting point will be 32GB, according to a person familiar with Apple’s iPhone plans. Hallelujah! I’ve long said that keeping the 16GB iPhone was just a ploy for Apple to get people to buy the 64GB model—for $100 extra."
While the publication doesn't provide any evidence to back up its claim, The Wall Street Journal has a fairly accurate track record when it comes to Apple-related leaks and rumours so this one might just be true. And if it is, Hallelujah indeed.
But what about the options further up the price scale? According to the Chinese-language website MyDrivers, the iPhone 7 Plus will offer a top-tier 256GB storage option, while the vanilla iPhone 7 - and all other iPhone models on the market - will continue to top out at 128GB.
MyDrivers cites a source in the production supply chain as evidence for this prediction. Here's Google's best efforts at translating the relevant passages (with some slight edits):
"[A] message from the supply chain shows that Apple will launch [the] iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus… this year. The… screen size is still 4.7 / 5.5 inches, but the configuration will be improved. The most important thing is, exclusive [to the] iPhone 7 Plus, [a] 256GB capacity. This… in addition to the screen size and battery capacity… is the biggest difference [between the Plus model and] the iPhone 7."
Apple traditionally ensures there is at least some aspect of its flagship Plus-branded iPhone (other than the obvious, size differences) that sets it apart from the rest of the range: the iPhone 6s Plus is alone in offering optical image stabilisation for video, for example, while the 6 Plus was the first iPhone to add still-image optical stabilisation. MyDrivers, intriguingly, claims that the most expensive edition of the latest iPhone Plus (the 128GB iPhone 6s Plus, at present) is known as the 'Emperor Edition', and while that's not a term we're familiar with, there's something to be said for aspirational marketing.
If we have one reservation with this prediction, it's that it fixes the wrong problem: as we explain above, Apple's mobile storage offerings currently start too low, rather than not going up high enough. We've often complained that 16GB isn't enough to get by (you're constantly having to delete photos and apps) while the next tier up, 64GB, is more than most users would need. It's hard, meanwhile, to think of many users who would benefit in any practical sense from having a whopping 256GB of storage on a phone.
iPhone 7 Plus tech specs: Processor
It's a fairly safe bet that the iPhone 7 Plus will feature an Apple-designed A10 processor with specifications that the company chooses not to disclose. (Wait until iFixit does a teardown shortly after the launch if you want to know the clockspeed.)
We have heard a rumour about the A10's capabilities, but it's sourced from the social media site Weibo, and therefore shouldn't be taken as gospel. (If this is any measure of credibility, the Weibo user we're quoting has 1,688 fans. For comparison, we reported on a rumour that the iPhone 7 would have enhanced waterproofing based on a Weibo user who had 32,904 fans.)
Be healthily sceptical, then, when we tell you that the A10 processor in the iPhone 7 is predicted to have six cores - a huge leap after sticking with dual-core systems-on-a-chip from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Needless to say, this would create an absolute beast of a smartphone, but would Apple consider such gains worth the undoubted compromises and costs required? We can't say we're convinced.
This rumour comes via Cult of Mac. Incidentally, that site also reckons that Apple was already ordering supplies of the A10 on 5 November, 10 months ahead of the expected launch of the iPhone 7 Plus.
"Apple has placed LCD driver orders with Synaptics for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, indicating that the touch and display driver (TDDI) single-chip solutions its been developing in-house aren't quite ready for prime time," writes the site.
iPhone 7 Plus tech specs: RAM
Singularly reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the iPhone 7 Plus will come with a whopping 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM, according to AppleInsider. (The iPhone 7, however, will only get 2GB, just like the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.)
We weren't expecting an upgrade in this department just yet; three generations of iPhone (from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) came with 1GB of RAM, and this was only bumped to 2GB in autumn 2015. We expected at least one more generation with 2GB, and potentially two.
Kuo is right more often than he's wrong, however, and the idea of offering an additional differentiator for the Plus model seems like a sensible idea.
iPhone 7 Plus tech specs: LiFi
The latest rumour about the iPhone 7 Plus's specs relates to LiFi, a new wireless standard that boasts 100x faster download speeds than conventional WiFi connections. LiFi uses visible light communication (VLC) instead of radio waves like conventional WiFi routers.
Intrigued? Find out more about LiFi in our complete guide over at PC Advisor.
iPhone 7 Plus tech specs: Screen size and resolution
Screen size is easy to predict: 5.5 inches (measured diagonally) has worked out well for the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus, and we don't anticipate movement in this area for the time being. We can't see anything other than 5.5 inches for the 7 Plus, and an accompanying iPhone 7 with a 4.7-inch screen.
Screen resolution holds more potential for change, but we think it's more likely that the standard iPhone 7 will get a resolution bump to bring its pixel density in line with the Plus line. The two Plus models jointly hold the highest resolution (1920x1080) and pixel density (401 pixels per inch) of any smartphone that Apple has released.
Boringly, the most likely outcome is probably for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to have the same screen size and resolution as the 6s and 6s Plus: the 6s Plus is sharp enough that it doesn't need an upgrade, but having a higher pixel density is a useful differentiator between the standard and Plus iPhone models. If the iPhone 7 does get a bump to 401ppi, Apple will need to find another area where it can emphasise the iPhone 7 Plus's flagship credentials.
The iPhone 7 Plus could also feature a 3D display, according to Economic Daily News, which claims that Apple supply chain partner TPK is working on a project that relates to "naked eye 3D screen": a 3D screen that doesn't require glasses to see. But we don't think that's the sort of thing Apple would do at all.
Update 17 June 2016: According to a Weibo user, known for its close sources with Apple's supply-chain including Foxconn, the dual-lens camera is not quite ready yet. This means Apple is supposedly scrapping the idea for the time being, despite dual-lens cameras from other phone manufacturers already existing in the market today. As with all rumours, take this one with a pinch of salt.
It's possible that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus's cameras will see another bump in megapixel rating, after the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus went from 8Mp to 12Mp (rear-facing) and 1.2Mp to 5Mp (front-facing). But Apple doesn't tend to get involved in specs wars, generally preferring to change the way its iPhone cameras work rather than focusing on their megapixel ratings.
A patent published on 7 January 2016 suggests that Apple is investigating ways to add an optical zoom to the iPhone 7 Plus's camera. The patent, entitled 'Mobile Camera System' describes the use of "multiple cameras to provide optical zoom to a user". Essentially this means that there would be side-by-side cameras, potentially with different focul lengths, on the rear of the iPhone that would enable the optical zoom feature.
Similarly, respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that the iPhone 7 Plus, but not the iPhone 7, will come with a dual-camera on the rear that will feature optical image stabilisation as well as an impressive zoom, as a result of Apple's acquisition of LinX last year.
Plus, a second patent granted to Apple on 26 January describes a new camera module that could allow the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to be thinner assuming the headphone jack is removed. Currently, the iPhone's camera sticks out from the rest of the chassis, a design that surprised us because it's pretty frustrating and not very good-looking.
Then, at the end of February Apple's rivals took to MWC 2016 in Barcelona to show off their own dual-camera weilding smartphones, including the LG G5 and the Dual Pixel camera of the Samsung Galaxy S7 for low light photos, so analysts and Apple watchers will certainly be looking for something similar from Apple. See also: iPhone 6s vs Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6s vs LG G5.
MWC also gave a glimpse at dual-lens camera tech a lot like LinX's in action, to see how it would combine images from two lenses to create a photograph that is more sharp and detailed and add the ability to zoom in without losing the quality.
The new wave of dual-camera smartphones could inspire new 'killer apps' according to Morgan Stanley analyst Jasmine Lu. "Apple will likely account for 42% (or more) of total global dual-cam volume from 2017," she said. "We believe dual-cam not only helps narrow the image quality gap with SLR cameras but also allows developers to design new killer apps by leveraging in-depth analysis/mapping for 3D objects."
If a patent published in March 2015 (but applied for back in September 2011) is any indicator, this strategy could soon take the form of a new camera miniaturisation technology based on what Apple calls "a light splitter cube".
"The cube splits the incident light into first, second, and third color components that emerge from the cube through a first face, a second face, and a third face of the cube, respectively," the patent explains. "First, second, and third image sensors are provided, each being positioned to receive a respective one of the color components that emerge."
Above: two of the illustrations provided as part of the patent application.
As Business Insider points out, this isn't a wholly new development, but rather a miniaturisation of an existing system (used in video cameras, for instance) in order to make it suitable for an ultraportable device, such as a smartphone. If this does make an appearance in the iPhone 7 Plus, it could lead to improved colour and light capture and reduced blur when the device moves.
On the other hand, patent-based rumours should always be viewed with a certain degree of scepticism. A more reliable gauge of near-future camera upgrades - since Apple has spent $20m on it, and is therefore rather more commited to the idea - is its recent acquisition of a company called LinX, which makes 3D camera sensors.
LinX's cameras are tiny, but the company claims they are a match for digital SLR cameras in performance terms. And their depth-sensing capabilities make them ideal for facial recognition and 3D-scanning, as well as post-shot refocusing. The possibilities that this would open to developers - apps that translate 3D scans into plans for 3D printers, for instance - are highly appealing.
Finally, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has quoted a source who claims the next iPhones will have a two-lens system that could allow users to capture "DSLR-quality imagery".
Update, 6 May 2016: Recently, a user on Weibo leaked an image of the potential new battery of the iPhone 7 Plus. The image shows that the iPhone 7 will feature a 1735mAh battery, whilst the 7 Plus features a 2810mAh size. These are both slightly larger than the previous 6s models with 1715 and 2750mAh respectively.
We expect the iPhone 7 Plus to be slightly thinner and lighter than the current iPhone product line, but also have bigger and more capable batteries, due to fan-out technology. A method used to decrease the amount of chips and combine the processing of digital signals in one.
We predict that the iPhone 7 Plus will have a similar battery life to the iPhone 6s Plus: around 12 hours of 3G internet use, compared with 10 hours for the iPhone 6s (and presumably the iPhone 7).
Smartphone battery life is one of those things that everyone says is important, and once again Apple will hear many requests for improved battery life in the iPhone 7 Plus - but you do wonder how much of a compromise the average Apple fan would truly be willing to make in return. What if, in order to achieve a superb battery life, the new iPhones have to be twice the weight, or cost significantly more? What if the screen was less powerful or the processor scaled back? I contend that user interest would wane if Apple produced an iPhone with killer battery life but mediocre performance in other areas.
Mirroring these thoughts, Jony Ive discussed battery life briefly in an interview with the Financial Times' 'How to spend it' supplement, and gave hints that Apple too doesn't think high battery life justifies making compromises in other areas worth it.
"Talking of performance, when the issue of the frequent need to recharge the iPhone is raised, [Ive] answers that it's because it's so light and thin that we use it so much and therefore deplete the battery. With a bigger battery it would be heavier, more cumbersome, less 'compelling'."
Nevertheless, one rumour holds that Apple will take battery innovations it deployed in the 12-inch MacBook - whereby contoured, layered battery units are stacked inside the chassis in order to take up every possible inch of space - and apply them to the iPhone 7 generation. This could result in higher battery life without, one would hope, drastic compromises.
(Although the process would surely cost more, and add at least fractionally to the weight. Still, the physical design we expect for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus could allow for weight reductions that more than compensate for this. Indeed, thanks to the new battery technology, more radical changes to the overall design could be easier, because Apple's engineers would no longer need to base their work on a fixed battery shape.)
This is all according to Wired's write-up.
iPhone 7 Plus rumours: Leaked photos, videos, and concept illustrations
We can't wait to see what the iPhone 7 Plus looks like, but we won't know for sure until Apple reveals the new design - most likely in September 2016. Still, there are ways to get a sneak preview.
For one thing, there are sure to be leaks. Every year someone in the Apple hardware supply chain gives into temptation and posts a photo of a prototype or early production unit, and this spreads across the internet in short order. (There are usually a few hoax photos, too, and we've had a fair bit of practice at sifting the real from the fake.)
And then there are predictions. Legions of talented designers have already put their minds to work on coming up with iPhone 7 Plus concept images: artists' impressions of what the iPhone 7 Plus could look like. (See also: The 10 weirdest Apple concept art designs.)
But rest assured that whenever an interesting iPhone 7 Plus photo, concept illustration or video pops up, we'll post it here, along with our experienced and cynical thoughts on whether it's genuine, fake, spot-on or completely hare-brained.
Here are the latest images, photos and videos of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Update 24 June 2016: A rumour suggests that Apple has increased its earpiece cut-out size, making it bigger on both iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models. This also includes the company moving its ambient light sensor from left to the right size of the earpiece.
A Japanese magazine named Mac Fan has published detailed drawings of what it's calling the iPhone Pro, and appears to be the follow-up to the iPhone 6s Plus. (Other sites doing follow-up stories on Mac Fan's report have called it 'iPhone 7 Pro', but we can't see the numeral 7 anywhere in the original coverage. On the other hand, no one at Macworld can read Japanese, so we bow to others' expertise.)
Most obviously, the schematics show no headphone port, adding weight to an already widespread rumour that this component is on the way out (although, if Mac Fan is talking through its hat, it would make sense to follow popular wisdom, so don't take it as confirmation just yet).
Paradoxically, while the popular justification for the loss of the headphone port was that this would allow Apple to shave millimetres off the iPhone 7's thickness, the dimensions here are the same as on the 6s Plus. The iPhone Pro is labelled as measuring 7.3mm thick. I also don't understand why, having cleared space on the iPhone's bottom edge, a second left-hand speaker hasn't been added.
The last significant titbit concerns the cameras. Mac Fan reckons there will be dual cameras on the rear - a feature several Android phones have included, and something that can be both useful and fun (allowing post-shot refocusing and similar features). But oddly enough, we can't make out a front-facing camera; certainly not in its usual place. One can only assume this is an oversight, but it's rather confusing.
That's Mac Fan's take on the iPhone 7 Plus design, at any rate. What do you think?
iPhone 7 Plus leaked images
There are a few leaked images of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but so far they don't tell us much. There are a few tweaks to the positioning of some internal compontents but we can't really glean anything from them yet.
Both came from Apple.club.tw.
iPhone 7 concept videos
We'll post videos of the iPhone 7 Plus in this first section.
A design firm named DeepMind has created a concept video showing an iPhone 7-generation model (the plain 7, we think, although it only has five rows of icons plus the dock) running iOS 10 on a stunning edge-to-edge screen. It actually keeps the standard screen allocation most of the time, with the menu bar sitting across the top of the screen about an inch down from the top and what appears to be a blank bezel at the top and bottom of the device - but when called upon, these spring to life as extra screen area.
iPhone 7 Plus concept illustrations
We'll begin with this remarkable set of designs for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which take a key element of the Apple Watch design - the digital crown - and transplant it on to the side of the iPhone. It's out there, in terms of plausibility, but a fascinating imaginative leap.
A little radical for our taste, but what a great bit of lateral thinking! These renders are by ADR Studio. Visit their site to see more images along these lines.
NEW: A new iPhone 7 Plus concept emerged in early 2016 to show an edge-to-edge display on an iPhone 7 running iOS 10. Let's face it, the concept is a bit out-there and is unlikely to materialise from Apple within the next year, but it's nice to look at! Maybe we're getting a glimpse of the future.
An iPhone 7 Plus design concept created by Martin Hajek is based on the idea that the screen of the next iPhone will reach all the way to the edges, allowing the phone itself to be slightly smaller than the current iPhone 6 while accommodating the same amount of screen space.
There are lots more iPhone 7 Plus concept images on Hajek's site.
Finally, we've seen some beautiful concept renders from the artist Yasser Farahi.
Farahi has come up with a range of attractive new colour options: more varied than on the iPhone 6s generation, but more restrained and elegant than on the iPhone 5c. Here's the new 'wine' option, for instance:
Take a look at Farahi's website for more.