We just got our clearest look yet at a possible radical redesign of the front of the device.
Apple may have just leaked some key details about the iPhone 8 — including a radical redesign.
Developers have been trawling through the firmware code for the HomePod, Apple's upcoming smart speaker, after Apple released it on Friday. And they say it offers tantalising clues about what will be in the next iPhone — including face-unlocking technology and the shape of the screen.
The "iPhone 8" (or iPhone Edition, or iPhone X, or iPhone Pro, depending on whom you ask) will be the 10th-anniversary edition of Apple's smartphone and is eagerly anticipated. Apple is expected to launch an incrementally improved new device, the 7S, in the fall of 2017 — but alongside it will likely be the 8, with a redesign, significant new features, and a higher price.
Reports and rumours have been swirling for months now about the features of the iPhone 8 — including an almost edge-to-edge screen with no home button, wireless charging, an improved camera, and the ability to unlock it with your face via infrared sensors.
Steve Troughton-Smith, a developer, says he has found code referencing that last one in HomePod's firmware.
"I can confirm reports that HomePod's firmware reveals the existence of upcoming iPhone's infra-red face unlock in BiometricKit and elsewhere," he tweeted on Sunday, with screen grabs of the code. (The Verge previously reported on the code.)
In recent years, Apple has secured iPhones with its biometric Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Touch ID has traditionally lived on the iPhone's home button — but Apple is reportedly ditching the home button in the iPhone 8, which has led to uncertainty about where Touch ID would go. Apple has reportedly tried to integrate it directly into the screen and looked at moving it to the back of the device or even removing it.
In early July, Bloomberg wrote of the 3D face-scanning tech: "The sensor's speed and accuracy are focal points of the feature. It can scan a user's face and unlock the iPhone within a few hundred milliseconds, the person said. It is designed to work even if the device is laying flat on a table, rather than just close up to the face."
It's not clear whether this face-unlock technology would be intended to replace Touch ID, or sit alongside it as an alternate method for unlocking your phone.
Another developer, Guilherme Rambo, wrote on Twitter that he had also found the face-unlock code, as well as something else interesting: an icon apparently depicting the front of the iPhone 8. The image seems to confirm earlier reports that its screen will stretch almost to the edges of the device. (See the image at the top of this post for a render of how it may look.)
However, don't expect Apple to confirm or deny any of this. The famously secretive company almost never talks about upcoming products before they're officially announced.
The iPhone 8 is expected to be formally unveiled in September at Apple's big annual event, alongside the 7S and 7S Plus. But there has been speculation it may not hit shop shelves until later in the year if Apple is battling to solve technical challenges.