When will the new iPhone 8 be released in the UK, and how different will it be from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus? (Or will the next generation of Apple smartphones be called the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus?) And what tech specs and new features should we expect from Apple's new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus?
The iPhone 8 rumour mill is heating up, a month after the launch of the iPhone 7. Apple unveiled the new iPhone 7 alongside its bigger sibling the iPhone 7 Plus during a special event on 7 September, but we're already looking ahead to the next generation. In this article we round up all the rumours about the iPhone 8: the iPhone 8's UK release date (and onsale date), iPhone 8 UK price, iPhone 8 specs and new features. There's a lot to cover, so let's get started.
For advice on the current iPhone range, read our iPhone buying guide and best cheap iPhone deals UK. Or, if you'd like to look even further into the future (covering tech developments that come perilously close to the realms of science-fiction), read iPhone 9 and beyond: From graphene to motion charging.
Updated, 20 January 2017, with predictions that late 2017 will see the launch of an 'iPhone X'; on 16 Jan, to discuss a new Apple patent that hints at an edge-to-edge screen on the iPhone 8; on 10 Jan, with reports that the iPhone 8 will be made of stainless steel; on 6 Jan, to discuss cryptic comments that point to 15-foot wireless charging and a 5.8-inch screen; on 4 Jan, with reports of fast-charging tech and tap to wake coming to the iPhone 8; and on 20 Dec 2016, with reports of plastic screens and 'new sensing technologies' that could move Touch ID to the side of the iPhone 8.
iPhone 8 release date rumours UK | iPhone 8 specs: Release date
Some pundits predicted that the iPhone 7 would sell comparatively poorly because of its perceived lack of major new features and design changes. But, they said, everything would change in 2017, when the iPhone 8 blows everyone away with a wide and radical range of enhancements.
Pundits are increasingly predicting a big iPhone launch in 2017. Making predictions about the upcoming performance of Apple stock, analysts at Credit Suisse have forecast that the iPhone 8, to be released on the iPhone's 10-year anniversary in 2017 (skipping the 'S' generation in recognition of its major updates) will feature "significant innovations" such as a full-glass OLED screen, new and upgraded haptic feedback features, wireless charging and numerous major specs improvements including the camera and processor.
Kulbinder Garcha, one of the company's analysts, was sufficiently confident about the iPhone 8's performance to predict sales of 250 million units in fiscal 2018 (despite launching in the calendar year 2017, the iPhone 8's sales will be reported in 2018), compared to 215 million in 2017.
Garcha may be confident, but we're not so sure. Going three years between substantive updates to what remains by far its most profitable line in order to make a big launch match a big anniversary feels like a strange and risky strategy for Apple (we don't subscribe to Nikkei's theory that the company will follow a three-year cycle from now on), and with the Android sector pushing boundaries in a lot of ways this would inevitably result in accusations of stagnation - even more so than now.
Read next: Best place to buy an iPhone in the UK
But what happens after the blockbusting launch of the iPhone 8 (or Tenth Anniversary iPhone)? It might not get pretty, if some researchers are to be believed.
One analyst, Andrew Uerkwitz, has predicted that the 2017 iPhone refresh will be the company's "last growth hurrah", before spiralling into a "decade-long malaise" as the market turns increasingly to lower-cost and second-hand phones. "The risks to the company have never been greater," Uerkwitz said to MarketWatch.
Monness Crespi Hardt analyst James Cakmak echoed Uerkwitz's sentiments. "Apple won't have it easy again for a while, if ever," he said.
iPhone 8 release date rumours: Apple's release schedule
Before we think about new features you should expect in the iPhones of the future, let's talk about the likely release date schedule. Apple's latest batch of smartphones, the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, were released in the autumn of 2016. (Read more: iPhone 7 review and iPhone 7 Plus review.)
After that point it gets harder to predict. Based on the past few years of Apple launches, the generation after that logically ought to be an S update: the iPhone 7s and the iPhone 7s Plus, launched together in autumn 2017 (with the potential of an iPhone SE 2 in spring of 2017, or moved back to launch with them in the autumn). The iPhone 8 - as well as the iPhone 8 Plus - would then finally be unveiled in September 2018.
- Sept 2016: iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
- Mar 2017: iPhone SE 2
- Sept 2017: iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus
- Mar 2018: iPhone SE 3
- Sept 2018: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
But it may not be that simple.
iPhone 8 release date rumours: The end of the iPhone 'S' convention
It's possible that Apple won't continue the S generation strategy for much longer.
Many of us have pointed out that this 'tick-tock' system is a risky policy, tacitly acknowledging that iPhone generations alternate between major and minor updates - to be especially harsh, you could say worthwhile and superfluous updates. When the average user hears that the new iPhone hasn't even been considered worthy of a full version number upgrade, they'll be put off from spending money on the new offering. Not to mention that an S update is more confusing for buyers: iPhone 6 followed by iPhone 7 would have been clear and easy to understand; but it's less obvious which out of the iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus is the more advanced model.
On this principle, therefore, we could see the iPhone 7 in autumn 2016 and the iPhone 8 the year after. At this point, nobody knows - but as soon as we hear more, we'll update this article.
And in October 2016 a little extra weight was added to the 'iPhone 8 in 2017' theory. According to Business Insider, an Apple employee in Israel who solders components spoke to them about the next iPhone and referred to it as the iPhone 8 "unprompted in our conversation". The sourced added that the iPhone 8 would be "different" from the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, and have a better camera - neither of which are particularly out-there predictions.
Here's a leftfield prediction: Apple may not call its late-2017 smartphone the iPhone 7s or the iPhone 8, but the iPhone X.
Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen and Company, has sent out a research note to clients predicting among other things that the late-2017 iPhone update will be branded as iPhone X - X in this case evidently signifying the Roman numeral for 10, since the iPhone is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2017.
With iPhone version numbers getting alarmingly high, it would make sense for Apple to switch to a different branding convention at some point - distracting customers, one might say, from quite how many of these things Apple has cranked out without fundamentally changing what it's offering. But to rebrand its biggest seller would still be a bold, bold move.
Donald Trump spent much of his recent presidential campaign complaining about Apple and its offshore manufacturing operations, and promising he would make the company build its iPhones in the US. (The only major Apple product currently made on American shores is the Mac Pro.) Now, as President-Elect Trump, he's trying to make his promises a reality.
Speaking to the New York Times, Trump claimed to have spoken on the phone with Tim Cook - implying, indeed, that Cook initiated the call - and reached what sounds like a degree of understanding you might not expect from two men with such different temperaments and political leanings.
"I got a call from Tim Cook at Apple, and I said, 'Tim, you know one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that you go to, you're making your product right here.' He said, 'I understand that.'"
Read next: Where are Apple products made?
Apple has its reasons for building its smartphones in Asia, of course: labour costs are lower and there is, according to Cook, a shortage of relevant skills in the US. Moving manufacturing to America would lose Apple a lot of money. But Trump thinks he can sweeten the deal with tax cuts and changes to regulations.
"I said: 'I think we'll create the incentives for you, and I think you're going to do it. We're going for a very large tax cut for corporations, which you'll be happy about.' But we're going for big tax cuts, we have to get rid of regulations, regulations are making it impossible. Whether you're liberal or conservative, I mean I could sit down and show you regulations that anybody would agree are ridiculous. It's gotten to be a free-for-all. And companies can't, they can't even start up, they can't expand, they're choking."
What Trump does not claim - and past behaviour suggests he'd be singing it from the rooftops - is that Cook actually agreed to any of this, even in principle. He may understand where Trump is coming from, and Trump may have given him the hard sell, but it would be a huge step if Apple actually does move any kind of significant proportion of its device manufacture to the US.
Foxconn's US expansion
There was another twist in this tale when it emerged on 7 December that iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is indeed pondering an expansion of its (currently relatively small-scale) US operations, in a move that is apparently expected to involve $7bn of investment and create 50,000 jobs.
Strangely, nobody involved made much of a deal about this. But eagle-eyed journalists spotted that paperwork being shown off to publicise SoftBank's US investment deal (which Donald Trump has made a huge song and dance about) also featured Foxconn's logo, and appeared to suggest that the second figure in each pair of numbers referred to that company.
(Picture credit: CNBC)
Foxconn has since confirmed that it is in talks about expanding its US operations, although it has declined to comment on the figures given. "While the scope of the potential investment has not been determined, we will announce the details of any plans following the completion of direct discussions between our leadership and the relevant US officials," the firm said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Other Apple products made in the US
Apple does build some products in the US, if rarely, and only in the cases of far lower-volume products than the iPhone. It has made a lot out of its US Mac Pro assembly, for instance, but this is a niche product made in comparatively low numbers.
In January 2017 - a couple of weeks ahead of Trump's inauguration - Apple applied to expand the use of a manufacturing facility it owns in Mesa, Arizona. Rather than iPhones or even recognisable consumer products, it was widely reported that Apple would be building data server cabinets for its own internal use, but the firm has since denied this, claiming it will only be using the facility as a hub for receiving, configuring and distributing servers rather than manufacturing any new product.
Now, what new features and tech developments can we expect in the next few generations of Apple smartphone?
iPhone 8 release date rumours UK | iPhone 8 specs: Design
iPhones are that lethal combination of expensive and fragile that results in so much consumer heartache. The result is that each iPhone owner has to make their own deal with the devil: either wrapping it in a robust case, thereby masking the handsome design that they paid all that money for in the first place, or risk pavement damage every time they take the thing out of a pocket. But design changes may mean this is not the case in the future.
Here are the design changes we expect in the iPhone 8.
Read next: How to repair a cracked iPhone screen
The year 2017 (June the 29th, to be precise) marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and some suggest that Apple will want to come up with a real blockbuster of a redesign to celebrate.
Noted tech blogger Robert Scoble has posted an exhaustive list of predictions for next year's iPhone, and he expects big things. "It's the 10th anniversary of the iPhone," he writes. "It's the first product introduction in Apple's new amazing headquarters. It's a big f**king deal and will change this industry deeply." (Those are Scoble's asterisks.)
Design-wise, he expects that the iPhone 8 "will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen (I have several sources confirming this). You pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it."
He also says to expect "battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone". But the range of features Scoble is expecting is overwhelming. You really need to read the post for yourself.
Scoble isn't the only one predicting a big redesign for 2017. French site nowhereelse.fr has shared a leaked image (below), which appears to showcase the exact dimensions of the iPhone 7. These dimensions are identical to the ones found on the iPhone 6s, measuring 67.12mm wide and 138.3mm tall. Through this image, it would appear that there also won't be any change to the camera (there have been rumours about a dual camera system as you'll discover later in this article). The image has the OnLeaks stamp on it, and OnLeaks has been reliable with Apple leaks in the past.
9to5Mac has got hold of a report from the ever-quotable and usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities - a report that predicts, based on the popularity of the scratch-prone Jet Black iPhone 7, that the iPhone 8 will have a (more scratch-resistant) glass front and back.
"If Apple does follow through with what KGI suggests, an all glass design could extend the glossy finish to all colours of the iPhone lineup depending on how Apple handles the design," 9to5mac says.
DigiTimes (a Chinese-language website), predicts that the chassis of the iPhone 8 will be made of stainless steel and supplied by Jabil rather than the more usual manufacturing partner Foxconn, citing anonymous sources in the Asian /supply chain.
This would be something of a surprise, given Apple's clear recent preference for aluminium; the iPhone 4s had steel bands around a glass body, but it's been all aluminium ever since. And we're given to understand that the engineering method will be different this time: whereas the iPhone 4s was milled, the iPhone 7 metalwork will be forged, a technique that offers greater strength.
iPhone 8 design: New colour options
There have been various rumours about new colour finishes, focusing on two possibilities: dark blue, and red.
According to a report from Macotakara, the iPhone 7 will come in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold and a new Deep Blue. This seems entirely possible. Samsung offers blue flagship phones that seem to be among the more popular options, so Apple might decide to follow Samsung's lead.
Following the reports from Mac Otakara, designer Martin Hajek has published some gorgeous concept images of the Deep Blue iPhone 7. See more over on Martin's website.
(Shortly after the Deep Blue rumours emerged, a second colour rumour came to light on the same blog. Macotakara now said that Space Black would be introduced instead of Deep Blue to replace the current Space Grey option. And while the names were different - black and Jet Black, in fact - Apple did indeed replace Space Grey with black colour options. Does this leave Deep Blue for the next generation?)
More recently, Macotakara has been reporting a new colour rumour, predicting that the 2017 iPhones will be available in red.
iPhone 8 design: Apple Watch-style Digital Crown
Some of the more out-there concept illustrators have considered the idea of Apple giving the iPhone 7 a rotating control, like the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch. But the rest of us thought it was a crazy idea. But it might just be so crazy that it actually happens, if a new Apple patent is anything to go by.
The patent, spotted like so many of these things by Patently Apple, is illustrated with images of an iPad but is described in sufficiently broad terms that it could easily apply to an iPhone too.
The patent suggests that the rotating control could to adjust volume, resize text and various other functions, and all of this makes a certain sense; but does anyone honestly think it's something Apple would really do with its elegant clean iPhone? Our strong suspicion is that this is one of those patents Apple and other tech companies periodically take out in order to mislead rivals and cover moonshot concepts that are extremely unlikely to lead anywhere.
Apple has been awarded a patent that covers the embedding of light sensors within the layers of a display, leading to speculation that the firm intends to remove the bezels from its next iPhone.
Indeed, the patent - US Patent 9,466,653 - specifically describes the tiresome current necessity for bezels in the background section:
"In a typical device, a light sensor is laterally displaced from an active display region of the display along a front face of the device. Additional space is therefore provided in common devices at the top, bottom, or side of the active display area to accommodate the light sensor."
Instead, the patent proposes to integrate the sensor within the display:
"The light sensor is a display-integrated light sensor that is integrated into the layers of the display. The light sensor may [be] interposed between the cover layer and another layer of the display such as the touch-sensitive layer, the light-generating layers, or another display layer."
This is Fig. 11 of the patent's illustrations, showing "a display-integrated light sensor attached to a thin-film transistor layer of a bottom emission organic light-emitting diode display".
In January 2017 yet another patent was added to the pile of evidence that Apple plans to give the iPhone 8 an edge-to-edge screen. Patent 9,543,364, granted on 10 January, covers "Electronic devices having displays with openings" and various means by which Apple would be able to hide cameras, sensors and controls behind the screen and still allow the user to access them. This in turn would allow Apple to expand the screen outwards to cover the full face of the device, since it wouldn't need to leave space around the edge for those various apertures and controls.
Of course, another hardware element that's currently built into the bezel at the bottom of the iPhone is the Home button. Which leads to our next section...
iPhone 8 design: No more physical home button (and Touch ID built into the display)
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster (a well-known industry pundit, but one who has come in for a fair amount of ribbing after regularly predicting that Apple would launch a television), suggested the iPhone 7 wouldn't have a Home button, thanks to the new 3D Touch technology introduced with the iPhone 6s. He felt that the new tech provides Apple with a way to eliminate the home button, instead using the additional space to make the screen bigger or the device smaller.
The issue with Munster's theory is that the Touch ID would need to move, as it is currently situated beneath the home button on Apple's iPhones and iPads. However, as we discuss below, Apple has been investigating ways to build the Touch ID sensor into the screen itself.
Munster's speculation about the iPhone 7 didn't prove to be true, but may yet happen on the iPhone 8.
In the continuing march of miniaturisation, one of the elements of the iPhone design that's 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. Which is why a recurring theory is that Apple will extend the screen down past the Home button, or even incorporate the Touch ID sensor that lives in the recent iPhones' Home button into the touchscreen.
Technology that would facilitate such a development was recently announced by a biometric R&D company called Sonavation. The tech 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 vertically edge-to-edge, with no cut-out for the Home button. The Home button could 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 and published recently. Here are some of the accompanying illustrations (although you should bear in mind that patent images are almost universally ugly, and shouldn't bear much resemblance to what the finished design would look like):
The illustration in Fig. 1 above appears to show an iPhone that still has a Home button, and therefore doesn't increase the amount of screen area - what would be the point of that, you might wonder. But remember that this is to illustrate the concept, not to show what it would look like in practice.
An update to this rumour: Apple has been granted a patent - a different one - that also appears to refer to a Touch ID fingerprint sensor that can work through a screen.
Patent 9,460,332 describes a "Capacitive fingerprint sensor including an electrostatic lens": more intriguingly for our purposes, it states that "one or more other device components, such as a display stack and/or a touchscreen may be interposed between the contact surface of dielectric structure 202 and array 206 of capacitive sensing elements".
Korea Herald cites "a source familiar with the matter" when reporting that Apple is exploring "new sensing technologies" that could substantially change the way Touch ID works.
"The upcoming iPhone may use new sensing technology," explains the site's source, "which enables the phone to respond when users touch any side of the device. But Apple may not adopt this technology."
The source doesn't specify whether the new sensors are connected to Touch ID, but it seems likely: all the talk of removing bezels and physical Home buttons and expanding the screen is going to necessitate finding a new location for the fingerprint scanner. If the iPhone becomes able to sense and analyse fingerprints on any edge, that would even remove the need for a specific Touch ID 'action' - you'd just need to pick the phone up.
iPhone 8 design: Changes to Home button
Some rumours suggest Apple is working on keeping the Home button and adding more features to it. There are two patents that have sparked these rumours, so they're both something Apple has at least considered.
The first is a dynamic home button that is sensitive to gestures: you'd be able to swipe across it, or lean a thumb in one direction to scroll the screen of a game, for example, that way.
The second is pretty far out there. Essentially the concept is this: the Home button on the iPhone would be able to 'pop up' on a little spring and turn into a sort of mini-joystick for playing games. There are plenty of iOS games that would benefit from a hardware controller (this explains the enduring popularity of Bluetooth gaming controller accessories) and this sounds like a lot of fun.
But gamers remain only one section of the iPhone's audience, and it seems like a risky idea to potentially compromise the resilience of everyone's iPhone Home button (which has famously been very prone to breakage in the past) for a feature that would benefit only some users.
iPhone 8 design: A larger, longer earpiece
While this may not be the most exciting rumour to hit the internet, the latest rumours suggest that the next iPhone is to feature a longer earpiece cutout. The rumour, first covered by Mac Otakara, states that in addition to a longer earpiece cutout, Apple is moving the ambient light sensor from the left-hand side to the right-hand side. The source is apparently manufacturers of LCD protective films on Alibaba.com that are apparently no lonoger receiving orders related to the upcoming iPhone.
While the rumour is unconfirmed and should be taken with a pinch of salt, but if true, it could mean that the iPhone 8 may not be compatible with iPhone 7 cases and screen protectors, even if the design is broadly the same.
iPhone 8 design: Curved wraparound screen
According to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has often correctly predicted upcoming Apple products - the analyst think a forthcoming iPhone could feature a curved 5.8in AMOLED screen. If this rumour is to be true, there would be an understandable shift from Apple to get rid of the headphone jack and produce a smartphone which is immediately distinguishable over its competitors.
We're into the realm of patents here, which we would generally warn readers means we're talking about developments that 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 far 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 essentially it 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".
Samsung Display could be set to make flexible OLED displays for the iPhone 8. The rumour stems from claims that Samsung is reaching out to display tech companies in South Korea that they're hoping will lend a hand with building the displays, as the order from Apple will be huge. Samsung may even be intending to invest billions in an new factory in which it'll manufacture the displays.
At present, iPhones use LCD displays, but the Apple Watch uses a flexible OLED so it's certainly possible that Apple intends to bring the tech to the iPhone. We're not talking flexible in the same way as the patent above, though. It'll simply mean that the screen could curve around the design of the iPhone 8 more accurately, hinting further at an edge-to-edge display. It'll also likely be used to improve 3D Touch.
The Korea Herald report we linked to earlier also discusses the screen, and the site's "source familiar with the matter" predicts that the iPhone 8 will have a display that is curved and OLED - both rumours that we've heard before - and made of plastic, which is a new one to us.
"The OLED versions of the new iPhone will all have curved screens as Apple ordered only plastic OLED - not glass - from Samsung Display," reports the source. "Samsung is capable of supplying a little less than 100 million units of curved OLED displays to Apple."
iPhone 8 design: Sapphire
iPhone screens are already far tougher than your average piece of glass (they're made of a proprietary material called Gorilla Glass), but they do sometimes crack or even shatter when dropped. Sapphire screens would be more resistant still, and Apple is already using sapphire in the display of the Apple Watch: it's possible that the company is now ready to import this material into its smartphone line-up.
Rumoured plans to rely on an Apple-backed sapphire plant in Arizona (which had the capacity to manufacture 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year) fell through. But more recent reports suggest that long-term Apple supplier Foxconn is gearing up to build its own sapphire plant in Taiwan at a cost of $2.6bn.
In August 2016, it was reported by Patently Apple that Apple filed patents for a curved glass iPhone with virtual buttons on the sides. If accurate, this could be somwhat like the rumoured OLED bar on the expected new MacBook Pro, but time will tell.
The patent images also show a curved glass screen similar to that which we have now seen made popular by Samsung's Galaxy S6 edge and S7 edge. This has helped to fuel the rumours that Apple is planning a major redesign for the iPhone 8 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone.
Either way, it'll have to be signifcantly different to Samsung's efforts to avoid Apple being accused of plagiarism. Then again, most smartphones of the past decade have aped the original iPhone, so we're sure that wouldn't prove problematic for Apple - particularly since these patents show its legal right to product the devices in this way.
iPhone 8 design: Project Phire
Corning, the company that makes Gorilla Glass, responded to the looming threat of sapphire glass in early 2015 with the announcement of an ultra-hardened composite material codenamed Project Phire.
James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, told investors: "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."
Apple never discusses the materials it uses for iPhone screens, but it's great news for consumers that suppliers are jousting to provide the best and most durable screen glass.
Read more about Project Phire here.
iPhone 8 design: Graphene
Sapphire glass is already being used on the non-Sport models of the Apple Watch, and Project Phire appears to be in a reasonably advanced state of development, but we're getting closer to the realms of science-fiction.
Graphite, the material used in standard pencils, is made up of stacks of sheets of carbon, each one only a single atom thick. This is why it's so good for writing: the layers naturally slide off on to the paper.
But graphene is a different matter. Graphene is what you get if you're clever enough to isolate one of the layers in graphite, leaving you with a substance that's effectively two-dimensional. It's the thinnest substance known to man, about a million times thinner than a human hair, and for that matter quite possibly the strongest (it's 100 times stronger than steel) and a phenomenally good electrical conductor - 1,000 times better than copper. Oh, and it's virtually transparent, too.
All of which makes graphene an exciting prospect for tech manufacturers. Most obviously, it would make for a tremendously durable coating material for the screen (and would lend itself to bendable displays, too) or indeed any part of the device; but it could really appear in almost any of the sections of this article. Graphene would be a superior replacement for silicon in processor chips, or could be used to make more efficient batteries and solar cells. It's marvellous stuff.
We're also pleased to report that graphene is British - sort of. It was discovered by the Soviet-born physicist Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, where it continues to be studied. (Entertainingly, Geim is the only scientist so far to be awarded both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel prize.)
If you'd like to read more about graphene, I strongly recommend the New Yorker's article on the subject.
iPhone 8 design: Viscoelastic material
Let's move on from the screen and talk about new durable materials for the rest of the iPhone.
How about a bit of drop-resistance? Based on patent activity, Apple is devising a viscoelastic material that would absorb impacts. The material would cover Apple devices and make them survive drops far better. The patent could make sense in all of Apple's mobile devices and laptops, but the iPhone is the obvious area to begin.
iPhone 8 design: Flexible iPhone
In January 2015 Apple was awarded a patent that suggests that the company is investigating the idea of a flexible iPhone (and we're not talking about the Bendgate kind).
The patent suggests that, by making the iPhone flexible, Apple could unlock a new range of controls: the user could open an app by bending the device in a particular way, for example, or use the flexibility to control a game. It's an intriguing if seemingly far-fetched concept.
Additionally, a flexible iPhone flexible ought to be more resistant to impacts and therefore more durable. But we'll discuss a key element in the idea of a flexible iPhone - a screen that can bend without breaking - in the screen tech section.
iPhone 8 release date rumours UK | iPhone 8 specs: New features
iPhone 8 new features: Fast Charging
According to Forbes citing infamous Apple leaker Sonny Dickson, the iPhone 8 could be the first entry in the iPhone series to feature fast charging technology. More specifically, Forbes claims that there will be a new "Tristar 3, Hydra" chip that manages the charging port. "In normal people words... [it] will include fast charging,", Dickson claims.
However, it's worth noting that if fast charging tech is included in the upcoming iPhone, it may not be compatible with existing fast charging standards as the tech isn't being produced by Qualcomm, which provides "Quick Charge" for Android devices. Will it happen? We assume so. It has been a feature long-requested by users, and is one readily available on most if not all of Apple's Android-based competitors.
iPhone 8 new features: Tap to wake
According to Forbes, one of the three (yes, three) variants of iPhone 8 will feature 'tap to wake' technology that has been available for budget Android users for quite some time. While the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus (sporting the same design as the 6/7) will miss out on the technology, the all-new iPhone 8 should get the 'tap to wake' treatment. This strikes us as a little odd as it's a feature available on budget Android smartphones, so why wouldn't it be on Apple's flagship? Also, Forbes source claims that it's "currently on the roadmap" for the iPhone 8 only, so there's still a chance this may change before release later this year.
iPhone 8 new features: Smart connector
Could the iPhone 8 get a smart connector, like those used on the 9.7in and 12.9in iPad Pro collection? Of course, as with any rumour/leak it's best to take it with a pinch of salt but according to a report from Mac Otakara, a forthcoming iPhone will feature a smart connector.
Mac Otakara claims "the possibility is great" that earlier leaked images are "the real thing", and even went on to claim that the next iPhone could be as thin as 6.1mm, although there was no source provided for this information.
More recently, Logitech (or Logi?) has launched the Logi Base, the first accessory to utilise the iPad Pro smart connector for charging capabilities. As first reported by AppleInsider, the Base uses magnets to easily line up the iPad Pro with the charger, providing users with something close to wireless charging. It also means that you can pick up the iPad and walk away without needing to unplug it. While it's specific to the iPad Pro, it gives you an idea about what a smart connector on an iPhone could be used for.
Wireless charging didn't arrive with the iPhone 7 as some had predicted (it has also been predicted for previous iPhone models stretching back some years), even though Apple has been offering the feature for a while now in the form of the Apple Watch's 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, but the Apple Watch can offer wireless charging because it has a ceramic back.
In July 2015 Qualcomm announced a wireless charging breakthrough that does work through metal. This was obviously too late for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus which appeared only two months later, and didn't make it into the iPhone 7 either. But the technology may appear in the iPhone 8 generation. And the iPhone 8 may have a glass back in any case.
Indeed, Foxconn - one of the large manufacturing firms that builds iPhones for Apple - is reported to be testing wireless charging modules that will be included in some or all of the 2017 iPhones (it would make a neat point of differentiation for the iPhone 8 Plus) if the tests prove satisfactory. The questions at this point relate to yield rate and profitability: Foxconn is exploring the practicality of producing large batches of the component to a satisfactory standard.
In November 2016, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted in one of his Apple Insight research notes that Apple will bring wireless charging capabilities to the autumn 2017 iPhone handsets, thanks to the all-glass design, but warned that the firm may bundle the wireless charger with more expensive models only. The firm envisions a wireless pad for charging the phones, somewhat like the inductive charger that comes with the Apple Watch.
Perhaps the iPhone 8 Plus will offer wireless charging out of the box, while iPhone 8 buyers will need to purchase the charging pad separately (in this scenario, obviously the phones would need to be chargeable via conventional means too); or it might be the lower storage capacity units that miss out on the bundled wireless charger. That's another accessory to put on your shopping list, then.
Business Insider offers slightly more detail of Ming-Chi Kuo's predictions, clarifying that Pegatron is expected to be "the exclusive supplier of the wireless charger".
Wireless charging sounds amazing, but we should stress that at the moment inductive charging has a very short range; so you wouldn't be able to just sit at your desk and have your iPhone (in your pocket) charge from the plug several feet away. Rather, you'd place the device on a wired mat. Convenient, but not quite as space-age as it might have sounded when we talked about 'wireless charging'.
We say that inductive charging is disappointingly short range, but Bloomberg reckons Apple is working on longer-range wireless charging, potentially charging at a distance of about 1 metre using near-field magnetic resonance. And while this seems more of a long shot, some cryptic comments from the CEO of a charging company suggest Apple may be planning something even more ambitious.
Steve Rizzone, CEO of Energous, spoke to The Verge before CES 2017 and dropped some clanking great hints about the exclusive and secret "key strategic partnership" that the company signed a couple of years back and which has delayed the launch of its wireless charging tech... which has a range of 15 feet.
"That 'key' partner is suspected to be Apple," observes The Verge, "and Energous - though declining to state its partner's name - is certainly happy to fuel the speculation. Rizzone says the partnership is with 'one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world. I cannot tell you who it is, but I can virtual guarantee that you have products from this company on your person, sitting on your desk, or at home.'"
If you can't wait until the iPhone 8 to start charging your iPhone wirelessly, read How to wirelessly charge your iPhone.
In December 2014, USPTO awarded Apple a patent relating to a "personal computing device control using face detection and recognition".
Current iPhones and iPads can be unlocked using just your fingerprint, thanks to the Touch ID sensor. But with this patent, future iPhones and other devices could be unlocked using facial recognition: effectively, your face becomes your password.
More recently, DigiTimes has predicted - citing that old favourite, "industry sources" - that Apple is likely to launch iPhones equipped with iris-recognition technology in 2018, which should line up with the iPhone 8's launch.
This rumour was reiterated at the end of August when Digitimes reported that Taiwan-based Xintec is expected to provide iris scanners to Apple for the iPhone launching in 2017, and that this would help boost the company's revenues significantly next year.
Once this technology becomes widespread - and you should expect other firms to launch phones with the feature before Apple, with DigiTimes predicting that Samsung for one will get there in the second half of 2016 - you'll be able to unlock your iPhone by scanning your eye. Is that really more convenient than scanning a fingerprint, though? It's more excitingly futuristic, admittedly.
In the Facebook post by Robert Scoble we mentioned earlier, one of the more surprising and detailed predictions concerns augmented reality and VR. "Really amazing VR/AR/mixed reality is coming to a phone, and coming by the end of 2017," Scoble writes. "Apple's entrance into this new world is like when IBM came into the personal computing world. It is that important."
He discusses the impact that a mixed-reality iPhone could have on the market, and predicts: "You'll look through the glass in mixed reality modes (think of a new kind of Pokemon game) either in the headset, or in your hand. Apple's purchase of Metaio is going to prove very key. I won't be shocked to learn that Peter Meier, CTO there, is in charge of the next iPhone strategy and has been for years."
Scoble isn't the only pundit predicting that Apple - and the iPhone in particular - are about to plunge into the world of augmented reality. Business Insider claims that the company is already working on ways to integrate AR elements into the iPhone's Camera app.
"By adding AR technology into the iPhone's camera software, Apple wants consumers to be able to point the phone at a real-world object and have it be recognised, according to Kris Kolo, director of the VR/AR Association and a board member of Flyby Media, an AR startup that was acquired by Apple earlier this year," writes the site.
Business Insider further predicts that the iPhone's camera app will be able to recognise "and manipulate" faces in augmented reality.
And we've spotted a recent Apple patent application that appears to back up all this speculation. Patent 9,488,488, for 'Augmented reality maps', describes the use of a mobile device to view live video of whatever is in front of the user, and to then superimpose images related to nearby places of interest on top of the video.
"A user points a handheld communication device to capture and display a real-time video stream. The handheld communication device detects geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the image capture device. The user sends a search request to a server for nearby points of interest. ... The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with data related to each point of interest. The user then selects a point of interest to visit. The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with a directional map to a selected point of interest in response to the user input."
Read more: Apple VR and augmented reality rumours
iPhone 8 release date rumours UK | iPhone 8 specs: Specs
It's hard to predict precise specs this far in advance, but it's possible to draw some broad conclusions about where Apple is headed. Let's start with...
A report by the Wall Street Journal prophesies that Apple has big things up its sleeve for the next iPhone's screen, after turning out smartphones with lower resolutions than their rivals for some years.
(If you compare the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7, for example, you'll see that Apple managed only a 760 x 1334 resolution on its 4.7-inch screen, in comparison to the 1440 x 2560 5.1-inch screen that Samsung had to offer. Comparison possibly isn't the right word to use when the difference is as pronounced as that.)
The iPhone 8 will sit in Samsung's shadows no longer, according to the WSJ, which says Apple has asked suppliers to "submit prototype screens with better resolution than ones from Samsung". If this is true - and if the suppliers are able to match Apple's stipulation without pushing up price, weight or dimension, or reducing battery life or fire safety, to a degree that Apple finds unacceptable - then this would imply more than a tripling of the pixel count from one iPhone generation to the next.
iPhone 8 specs: Screen size
What's more, word is that screens are getting bigger in 2017.
In November 2016, Barclays Research - via MacRumors - released a report predicting that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus would have 5-inch and 5.8-inch screens respectively, compared to the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The analysts based the prediction on the testimony of sources within Apple's Asian supply chain.
It's still early days, though: the analysts warned that the design "didn't sound 100% locked down", so Apple may yet change its mind.
In January 2017 this theory was backed up by a source in Asia. DigiTimes predicts that Apple will launch a 5.8-inch iPhone in the second half of 2017, citing anonymous sources in the Taiwanese supply chain.
"Apple will launch 4.7-, 5.5- and 5.8-inch new iPhone models in the second half of 2017," the site writes, "with TFT-LCD panels to be used in the former two models and AMOLED for the 5.8-inch one."
There remains some confusion, however, about whether that 5.8-inch measurement will take into account the extra space provided by the screen's predicted curved edges. Indeed, it's possible that this 5.8-inch phone's chassis will be the same size as that of current Plus models, gaining 0.3 inches of diagonal screen size through the curved edges and the lack of bottom bezel and Home button.
If you're wondering how Apple will fit in that extra screen real estate - will the phones be bulkier than the current handsets? - then fear not. It's understood that the larger screens will fit in bodies with the same dimensions as the current generation of phones, thanks to a bezel-free design.
This has been on the cards for a while. On 5 March 2015, indeed, Apple filed a patent that would allow for a bezel-free device. An image render and concept by Marek Weidlich shows us what the iPhone might look like if it were to have no bezels. The conceptual idea looks great and would show that Apple is still innovating in the smartphone space.
Similarly, according to a Wall Street Journal source, the iPhone 8 may feature an edgeless display - but what is that, exactly? According to the publication, Apple is to redesign the iPhone for the 10th anniversary and that the changes "could include an edge-to-edge organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen" without a physical Home button. John Gruber also commented on the upcoming redesign, claiming that Apple is to remove the bezels surrounding the display, providing users with an iPhone that looks almost like a sheet of glass.
If Apple kills off the bezel, it will need to find a new place to put the Home button. On which topic, it's believed that Apple is investigating including the fingerprint scanner into the display of a smartphone or tablet. In fact, Apple filed a patent describing a Touch ID display back in January 2013.
This technology means that you could place your finger on the display to scan it, instead of the Home Button. We're not sure if this technology was an original variation to the Home Button scanner found on the iPhone 5s, or if it'll be combined with the Haptics & Tactile technology to remove the Home Button on a future iPhone and replace it with a virtual onscreen button.
This broadly fits in with earlier predictions. Some while back Nikkei predicted that autumn 2017 will see a massive triple iPhone launch, and that the flagship model of this trio will feature a curved OLED screen that curves down over the sides. This is something we've already seen on rival devices, such as Samsung's S7 Edge and Note 7; it enables more screen space to be squeezed on to a device without making it any bigger, and you can also have notifications designed to be seen or activated on the edge of the screen.
"There will be a 4.7-inch model, another that will be 5.5-inches and a premium handset that will be either 5.5-inches or larger equipped with a screen bent on the two sides," said Nikkei's source, who was said to be "familiar with Apple's plans".
A company named Applied Materials, which already works with Apple, has dropped strong hints about ramping display demand from the company heading towards 2017, and this has been taken as evidence for the iPhone 8 incorporating an OLED screen.
"Applied Materials reported an almost fourfold leap in orders for equipment to make displays, an early sign producers are retooling their manufacturing to meet Apple's demand for a new kind of organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen," reports Bloomberg.
This appeared to be confirmed on 29 October 2016 by Tai Jeng-wu, the president of Sharp, which makes smartphone displays for Apple.
Tai, who was speaking to students at his old university, said: "The iPhone has been evolving and now it is switching from LTPS [low-temperature poly-silicon] to OLED panels. We don't know whether Apple's OLED iPhones will be a hit, but if Apple doesn't walk down this path and transform itself, there will be no innovation. It is a crisis but it is also an opportunity."
The OLED iPhone rumour has been knocking around for a while; in December 2015 it was predicted that OLED would come to the iPhone line in 2018 as a result of a partnership between Apple and Japan Display.
Talking of Japan Display... that company uses a new technology that it calls "full active LCD", and some pundits believe that only one of the new iPhones next year will get OLED, while the other(s) have screens based on full-active LCD.
The technology, which Japan Display describes as using "a new high-density wiring layout and new processing and module assembly technologies" is capable of making the bottom bezel of an iPhone "as narrow as the other three sides".
Japan Display aims to start mass production by the end of March, 2017, according to Fool.com - in time for the iPhone 8 launch, then.
As everyone knows, the iPhones contain proprietary processor chips that you won't find in other smartphones: there's an A9 in the iPhone 6s, and we should get an A10 chip in the iPhone 7, for example. But while these are made to Apple's own design and specifications, several other companies are involved: they contain technology licensed from ARM, and are manufactured, at present, by Samsung and TSMC. But that could change by the time 2018 comes around.
Intel has declared its intention of expanding its smartphone business, and is hot favourite to displace TSMC from the iPhone contract, according to the Nikkei Asian Review - an aim that may be more feasible thanks to the company's recently announced partnership with ARM. TSMC's ties with ARM have given it a competitive edge when it comes to securing the contract in the past.
"Intel is definitely the most formidable challenger for TSMC," said an anonymous chip-industry executive. "There is no rivalry between Apple and Intel so it's really likely that Apple could shift some orders there. The move is also in line with Washington's policy to encourage US companies to make more products at home."
iPhone 8 specs: Camera
The iPhone is one of the most widely used cameras in the world. What's in store for this vital element of the iPhone of the future?
Lucky iPhone owners of the future may get their hands on a feature currently offered only by premium video cameras.
In March 2015 Apple was granted a patent for a "digital camera with light splitter". Its project is to create a light splitter system (which for now exists only in high-end video camera) small enough to fit in an iPhone.
In essence, a light splitter system consists of a cube that splits received light into three colours: red, green and blue. The cube provides three image sensors, each of which receives one colour component. In recent iPhones, the camera system is such that its pixels capture the three component colours which end up occupying only a single image sensor; this means that they can fill only one third of the image sensor and colours are not as accurate as they could be.
The light splitter system would be a big coup for Apple. Its iPhone would be able to capture high-quality pictures with more precise colours, especially at night.
Apple seems to be keen to improve the camera capabilities of its iOS devices, and one patent published by USPTO in May 2014 suggests we could soon see iPhones that are able to capture "Super-resolution" photos thanks to optical image stabilisation, which is already a feature of the iPhone 6 Plus.
The patent describes a system that takes a series of photographs at slightly different angles and stitches them together to create a 'super resolution' photograph.
Apple doesn't suggest a device would capture every photo this way. Instead, the user would have the option to turn super-resolution mode on, much like HDR and Panorama modes.
Several rumours suggest that Apple plans to introduce a feature like this with an iPhone in the near future, with reports pointing to a 'DSLR-quality' capability that would represent the biggest camera jump in iPhone upgrade history.
iPhone 8 specs: Battery life
One rumour holds that Apple will take the battery developments 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 use these to squeeze more battery volume inside the iPhone.
(According to Wired's write-up, Apple actually claims to adjust its battery contours on a machine-by-machine basis, by photographing the inside of the chassis and modifying the battery stack to fit all the tiny imperfections - which, if it's true, is amazing.)
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 8 - but you do wonder how much of a compromise the average Apple fan would be willing to make in return. What if, in order to achieve a superb battery life, the iPhone 8 was twice the weight, or cost significantly more? What if the screen was less powerful or the processor scaled back?
Mirroring these thoughts somewhat, Jony Ive discussed battery life briefly in an interview with the Financial Times' 'How to spend it' supplement recently. And he gave fairly heavy hints that Apple doesn't think battery life is a high enough priority to make 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'."
In December 2015 Apple gave its critics an early Christmas present by unveiling a battery pack for the iPhone 6 and 6s that is, without wishing to be unpleasant and apologies for the language, pretty gosh-darn ugly. (To be fair, we've not yet got our hands on a review sample, so we may be won over by its feel, performance, usability and so on.)
In a single surprising step the company put its famed sense of taste and design nous in doubt (coming after the suspect decision to put the charge port for the Magic Mouse 2 on its bottom), and simultaneously reminded everyone that iPhone battery life is generally felt to be subpar.
Is this a tacit acknowledgement that battery life is a problem for the iPhone range? Can we therefore expect the iPhone 8 to see improvements in this department as Apple looks for a more full-time and less bulky solution to the issue?
We might (battery technology is improving all the time), but this probably isn't the mea culpa some iPhone users were looking for. When discussing the new case, Tim Cook emphasised that it wasn't for everyone (at £80 you'd hope not), and that he felt that even those who did need the case would only use it in relatively extreme scenarios when power wouldn't be available for a long time: when hiking, for example.
I would agree that Apple is aware that battery life is a concern for a lot of its customers, but it knew that long before it released its battery pack. And battery life remains a question of compromises, such that increasing it always necessitates either making a device thicker, heavier or more expensive, or choosing not to make it thinner, lighter or cheaper when you could have done.
I still believe that most people would rather have a thin, relatively cheap iPhone than a fat, more expensive iPhone with an extra two hours of battery life. And now anyone who would be willing to make that compromise now has an officially sanctioned alternative: spend the extra money, make your phone fatter and uglier, and get the battery pack.
In a crazy sort of way, the ugliness of the battery pack almost makes sense as a demonstration of what drastically improved battery life actually looks like. "You want twice the battery life? Even if that means your iPhone has a massive lump on the back? Yeah, DIDN'T THINK SO."
iPhone 8 specs: LiFi
A boring but important rumour about the iPhone 8'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 8 release date & new features: Macworld poll - What do you want from your future iPhone?
It's your turn. Which of these ideas appeals to you, or are you looking for something else entirely? Have you say in our poll.