Apple has always been good at controlling leaks until recently, the company mistakenly put secret code up online and developers have spent the last week combing through it to find references to the new phone, which is coming in September. And they haven’t been disappointed.
The leak wasn’t actually iPhone software but rather that for the HomePod, the upcoming smart speaker. But it was also a secret version of the operating system, not meant to be given to the public – meaning that it hadn’t been scrubbed of its references to secret features r products.
But when the files were uploaded, they put all that to rest. We now have perhaps the most certain, if not the most complete, picture of what the new phone is going to look like.
Here’s everything we know for sure.
— An entirely new design
It had been known – and obvious – that Apple was heading for a major redesign with this phone. It had been guessed that would include a screen that stretched over the entire front of the phone, getting rid of the bezel that sits at the sides and top and bottom.
But the leaks revealed exactly what that will look like, at least in its silhouette. A drawing of the phone was found inside the code and made public, in perhaps the most revelatory of the many leaks.
It’s still not clear how Apple will use that design – how the little forehead at the top will be incorporated without being intrusive, or how Apple will use the extra space.
— A new and improved camera
The code makes reference to features including “smartcam”, which seems to be technology that can detect what’s in a picture and change the settings to make the most of it.
As well as extra features, the phone will almost certainly see a spec upgrade, as it has every year. Some of the code seems to suggest that both front and back cameras will be able to film in 4K at 60fps – that’s far more pixels and far faster than it has been able to before.
— Which will power augmented reality
Apple already showed off its plans for augmented reality at WWDC, where it demonstrated how it could be used to fill a room with virtual objects. But the new phone seems built to make the most of it.
The cameras seem to have built-in depth sensors that allow the phone to much more accurately get a sense of a space. It can also detect faces, according to the code – not only where they are but also what they’re doing, presumably for extra features like Snapchat’s filters.
— No home button, and probably no TouchID sensor
Apple has been preparing for the removal of its home button for some time. And now it seems like it’s finally happening.
Multiple bits of code in the leaked files seem to suggest that Apple will instead have an entirely virtual home button, which will actually be triggered by pressing on the screen. (Even in the iPhone 7 the button isn’t technically a button, but rather a circle that can tell when it’s been pressed and gives the impression of being pushed down using very precise vibrations.)
That should give Apple extra space on the screen if it needs it, since the home button will be able to move out of the way like it does on Android.
The real problem emerges in the fact that the home button has also served as the fingerprint sensor, since it arrived in the iPhone 5s. Apple has other plans for authentication that don’t include the fingerprint sensor – and there appears to be no suggestion in the files that it has been moved elsewhere – either under the screen or onto the back, as had been suggested earlier.
— Facial recognition
The files confirm that Apple is instead putting facial recognition technology into the new phone. That will presumably be aided by special hardware included in the phone – th files suggest an infrared camera may be involved, so that it can see in the dark – as well as software that can learn what people look like and make sure only the phone’s owner can use it.
As well as allowing for people to unlock their phone with their face, the facial recognition seems to be available for developers to use. That could mean that the phone could sense when someone is paying attention and display different information, for instance, or games could require their players to do something specific with their face.
What we don’t know
— The name
It appears that there will be three phones – two of them probably called the iPhone 7s and the 7s Plus. But the new, innovative phone will have its own name: perhaps the iPhone 8, perhaps something like iPhone X or iPhone Pro, or perhaps something else entirely.
— The price
Likewise, this will be set by an entirely different team and liable to change until launch. But the apparently wildly different design and features suggest it’s true that Apple will ask for more money for the phone – with some rumours suggesting it might sell for as much as $1,400.
— The release date
The leaked showed that the phone is clearly in its later stages, and that it will be coming out in next year – but we always knew that. The leak doesn’t actually give us any more idea about when the new phone will be released, though it’s almost certain that it will be launched in September, albeit potentially in limited supply. Apple has all but confirmed as much elsewhere.