Apple is about to be tested once again. As the leader in smartphones, at least as measured by profit, September is fast approaching, the time when the company is expected to introduce this year’s new iPhones. With 2017 being the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone, expectations are they’ll do something very special.
Over the last decade, the iPhone has set the standard for excellence, particularly for its industrial design, attractive interface, and usability. But some Android phones have come close to matching Apple’s quality of materials and construction, made easier by the fact that Apple’s phone design has undergone very few visible changes over the past three years. Over the same period, Samsung has gone from making plasticky and unattractive phones to the recently introduced Galaxy S8 that many consider to be the best phone on the market.
The Galaxy S8 raised the bar with its edge-to-edge curved-edge display and smooth glass enclosure front and back. In addition, it has many features that the iPhone lacks: an ultra-high resolution OLED display, wireless charging, a memory card slot, an always-on display, and a longer battery life. While the S8 is somewhat fragile, it’s industrial design is second to none.
While the iPhone’s iOS operating system is hard to beat for its elegant user interface and ease of use, the S8 with the latest Android Nougat OS is much improved and getting closer to the Apple experience. Nougat is more attractive and less complex than before, and the phone is very fast. In fact, I’ve been testing a Samsung AT&T Galaxy S8 along with my iPhone 6, and usually go to the S8 when I want to read something at length because the display is so clear and sharp.
In a recent post on 9to5Mac, former Apple creative director Hugh Dubberly, who also has also worked at Samsung, suggested that Apple is in danger of being left behind by Samsung now that the company is in the post-Steve Jobs era. He says the pipeline begun by Steve Jobs is over. That’s an opinion held by many analysts as well.
All of this now sets the stage for what Apple will do, and all eyes are on Job’s successor, Tim Cook. Can he pick up where Jobs left off? Can he deliver the innovative products everyone expects?
Rumors are rampant about just what Apple will introduce. The consensus is that there will be three models of iPhones rolled out beginning in late September. Two models will be minor upgrades to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, called the 7s and 7s Plus. The third, referred to as the iPhone 8 or iPhone Pro, is expected to be a more expensive premium model with many advanced features.
It’s expected to have an elongated 5.8-inch OLED screen that will go edge to edge, eliminating the bezel. It will retain the Lightning connector and not have the headphone jack that’s still on the Samsung S8. There will be a larger power-on button and Apple will eliminate the home button and integrate it into the display.
Other features expected include wireless charging and possibly facial recognition or some other use of biometrics to sign in to replace the fingerprint reader. The camera will have some minor improvements and be mounted vertically rather than horizontally. The body will likely be a combination of stainless steel and glass. I would expect to see the phone slightly thicker to increase the battery capacity to go along with the wireless charging. This is something the iPhones have been lacking compared to the competition. Apple has proved how thin they can make a phone; it’s now time to improve its battery life.
If the iPhone 8 sounds a lot like the Galaxy S8, you wouldn’t be the first to notice.
There’s quite a bit of conjecture on pricing. Most assume that the 7s and 7s Plus will retail for a similar amount to today’s models, ranging from $650 to $850. The iPhone 8 is expected to sell for at least $200 to $300 more, or somewhere between $900 to $1100. To counter the resistance to its high price, Apple may offer special extended support. Think of it as the Lexus model compared to a Toyota.
But despite all the speculation, I think Apple will not disappoint and will come out with some surprises, perhaps in its software. With the iPhone representing more than 60 percent of Apple’s revenue, the stakes are very high to offer new models that will make us want to upgrade from what we’re using now. Stay tuned for one of the most anticipated events in consumer tech this year.