It's iPhone time of the year again! Apple will reportedly show off the eighth generation of its flagship device today. If you believe the rumors, iPhone 6 will be one of the most dramatic updates to the iPhone line in quite some time.
Will it be bigger? Will it be faster? Will it be tougher? Will it float? We'll have to wait until the big reveal to know any of these answers for sure. And you can follow the play-by-play on our Liveblog—from the actual event this year. Here's what we think we know for now.
Usually this piece of the equation is pretty predictable. After the iPhone 4 came the iPhone 4S. Then came the iPhone 5—and then the 5S and the 5C. So it's only natural to assume that Apple's new device will be called the iPhone 6.
Complicating matters a bit, though, is the frequent assertion that Apple will simultaneously introduce two different sizes of iPhone for the first time ever. If that's the case, it seems plausible that the 4.7-inch version would take the iPhone 6 name—and some leaked documents appear to confirm this—while some are speculating that the rumored 5.5-inch device would borrow from the iPad and be called the iPhone Air. More recent rumors suggest that it will be called the iPhone 6L which sounds a little silly but also makes sense. It's largely unclear whether the phones will be identical on the inside, but rumors abound that the larger iPhone 6 could enjoy better specs.
Surely, both of them will be very pretty, though. Or sort of pretty or just plain awful, depending on your tastes.
Be excited. If Apple sticks to its usual cycle, the new iPhone will see a complete hardware redesign. And because of the possibility of a new size—among other things—the difference could be drastic.
Confirming what the rumormongers agreed upon, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal report that the iPhone case will get a complete overhaul. Leaked photos suggest that the new design be a throwback of sorts, borrowing the smooth, rounded contours of the original iPhone while tipping its hat to details from the current line, namely the lines on the top and bottom of the case. Sonny Dickson, the same guy who correctly leaked images of the iPhone 5C case, leaked several photos of the alleged iPhone 6 case:
Image via Sonny Dickson
Mid-way through August, Sonny released more photos of the purported 5.5-inch iPhone backplate, including a close up of the camera holes. Honestly, it looks like a more banged up version of all the other chassis we've seen in photos:
Sonny's hardly the only one who got his hands on one of these cases either. Check out this 360-degree tour of the purported iPhone 6 body from custom iPhone shop Feld & Volk:
Feld & Volk also released clear images of what they say is a fully assembled iPhone 6. The glass is curved at the edges and the lines on the chassis are so nice and smooth there's a chance you won't get that dreaded iPhone ghost on your overpriced selvedge jeans:
Flipping the phone over will supposedly reveal a more subtle design upgrade: sapphire glass. Sapphire glass could spell the end of the cracked iPhone screen. This transparent crystal is stronger than steel and harder than the Gorilla Glass that's on current iPhones. It's also more expensive, due to a more involved manufacturing process. However, Apple's latest earnings report reveals that it's investing heavily in a new sapphire manufacturing facility, so if the stuff isn't coming to the iPhone this year, it seems very likely that it'll show up at some point in the not too distant future. To boot, The Times reports that a new wearable computer (a.k.a. the iWatch) will feature a sapphire screen.
Other design details are a little bit murkier. Some say the new glass (sapphire or otherwise) will be curved, but we've been entertaining the curved iPhone rumor for a pretty long time without seeing any results. It seems very likely that the new iPhone will be thinner than the iPhone 5S and feature a slimmer bezel, which would make sense for navigating a larger screen. Some supposedly leaked parts suggest that the new iPhone will also feature a mesh cover on the speaker and a rubber seal to keep out dirty.
A video emerged just days before the iPhone event showing what appears to be an iPhone 6 compared to an iPhone 5S. The comparison showed a slimmer, rounder device with a large screen. It's unclear if the phone in the video is an iPhone, but it certainly (maybe) could be.
There are also reports and leaked documents that the sleep/wake button will be redesigned and relocated, perhaps to the same spot where it is on Samsung smartphones. The Times's sources say that an update to iOS 8 will also offer a one-handed typing option, so users can navigate the larger screen more easily.
As for that 5.5-inch version? Expect it to feel very consistent with the 4.7-inch phone, assuming both exist. If nothing else, Apple's a huge fan of keeping its product lines consistent.
Where we could see some differences, though, is in the guts.
Theoretically, a bigger iPhone means more space for fun stuff. A few days before the September 9 event, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that the new iPhone will feature much-anticipated near field communication (NFC) technology that will be used to connect with the iWatch and play a role in mobile payments. In brief, this would enable Apple to offer touch-to-pay functionality in both devices. A leaked schematic early in the month seemed to confirm the existence of an NFC chip. A couple weeks later, sources with knowledge of Apple's plans to enter the mobile payments market said that the technology would be included in the iPhone 6, seemingly confirming an earlier report on a patent that detailed how the backend architecture of the device's e-wallet.
You can probably assume that a faster new A8 chip will be included in the mix, perhaps exclusively in the 5.5-inch model but likely in both. The device will reportedly keep the 1GB of LPDDR3 memory that's in the iPhone 5S. Benchmark tests of the functional iPhone 6-looking device in the video above claim that the A8 chip packs a 1.4GHz ARM processor that hits a score of 1633 for single-core and 2920 in multi-core tests. That's about 15-percent better than the 5S.
Newly revealed images of the purported logic board that will hold this chip hint at more exciting changes, too. Other reports suggest that a faster new 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip and an upgrade to a Qualcomm MDM9625M LTE modem capable of speeds as high as 150 Mbps are also possible.
The battery in the iPhone 6 will probably be bigger and more robust. The latest reports say the 5.5-inch device will boast a 2,915mAh battery, which would mean a huge improvement over the iPhone 5S's 1,560mAh. Other rumors say the bump will be smaller and the iPhone 6 will come with a 2,100mAh battery or a 1810mAh battery. Regardless, those rumors still put the iPhone battery behind the 2,800mAh beast in Samsung's Galaxy S5.
Leaked schematics from a phone repair company also suggest that the one or both of the new iPhone 6 models will offer a 128-gigabyte storage option, likely only on the 5.5-inch model. Indeed, an accompanying parts supply list does indeed show a 128-gigabyte NAND from Toshiba. Which would be pretty cool since people have been begging for more storage for ages.
Some of the other hardware updates are expected to be pretty incremental. In part because of the new photo features in iOS 8, most people believe that the camera will get some improvements, and some supposedly leaked parts pointed to the addition optical image stabilization. A purported parts leak also suggested that the new iPhone will feature a circular True Tone flash with two LEDs for cool and warm tints. Touch ID will certainly be included on the new iPhone line, and might even be slightly improved.
Other spec bumps seem a little less likely, but they're worth mentioning. There is evidence that the device will feature an atmospheric sensor that could be used to collect weather data. Some think the iPhone 6 will offer wireless charging capabilities. New patents definitely suggest that Apple is thinking hard about this technology, too, but it seems like too big a leap for a company still hasn't even embraced NFC. Speaking of charging, scattered reports say that Apple is ditching the conventional headphone jack in favor of the Lightning plug. That also seems like a stretch, to be honest.
For the most part, we already know what iOS 8 looks like. Apple announced the new mobile operating system a couple months ago, and various Gizmodo writers (including this one) have been testing it out. It works pretty well!
While iOS 8 enjoys most of the same beautiful design features as iOS 7, the real differences lie beneath the hood. Apple is rolling out a new API called HealthKit with a corresponding Health app that will help you organize the data from the increasingly huge number of wearable devices on the market. It was also developed with the Mayo Clinic and could make doctors' jobs a little bit easier.
Otherwise, expect to see more useful options in the Camera app. Continuity will be improved as you'll now be able to switch seamless between Apple devices, without losing or needing to transfer your work, thanks to a new feature called Handoff. Notifications, Contacts, Mail, and Spotlight all get incremental improvements in iOS 8. And finally, an exciting new feature called Extensions will finally let apps talk to each other. Oh and keyboards. You can now use third party keyboards.
Price structure usually doesn't change much with updates to the iPhone line. However, because of the big, new screen, some expect Apple to add a new tier. That would bring the cost of the upper end, 5.5-inch iPhone up to $300 (with contract) for the smallest model. and the mid-range, 4.7-inch iPhone would run for $200.
The iPhone 5S would then presumably drop from its current starting price tag of $200 down to $100.
If Apple follows protocol, the other iPhones will just shift down the line. The iPhone 5S and 5C will see a nice price cut—if the 5C continues to exist at all, given its reportedly sluggish sale while the rest of the phones will continue the process of being phased out.
The iPhone 4, as we've said before, will basically become obsolete since it won't run iOS 8, while the 4S will probably just run iOS 8 frustratingly slowly.
Apple's track record also helps when trying to figure out timing. Last year, the iPhone 5S was announced on September 10 and hit shelves September 20. Expect a similar timeframe year, with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 hitting stores on September 19. (Reliable reports suggest that both phones will ship September 19.) Last month, reports that manufacturing issues would delay the larger iPhone 6, however these kinds of reports are often sensationalized. But hey, when you're wading through the sea of iPhone rumors, most things are.
Top image by Jim Cooke