Will the iPhone 8 drive a handset revolution?

When it first burst onto the scene, the Apple iPhone revolutionised phone design inside and out.

iPhone – game changer?

The intuitive touchscreen interface, derided by some die hard physical button fans, created a full internet capable smartphone market and the clean and pure lines of its design have been copied over and over again.

But as the iPhone nears its tenth birthday, each new design is just a slight update on the previous one. Will that change with the iPhone 8?

So what’s coming?

The iPhone 8 isn’t expected until September but already the usual rumour mills are speculating.

There are suggestions that we can expect new versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and that the iPhone 8 will actually be a new high-end design – a sort of iPhone Pro. The screen will be a very high resolution 5.8in OLED display fitted into the 7 Plus form factor, which means the screen will stretch over the whole of the front surface – there’ll be no bezel and no button.

Instead, Apple pundits are expecting a virtual button area at the bottom of the screen which will act like the Touch Bar of the new Apple Mac Pro. It is likely to include the fingerprint sensor, and a patent to embed a fingerprint scanner in a touchscreen has been registered by Apple.

What about design?

The big news from a design point of view is that the iconic and much-copied anodised aluminium rear housing may be ditched and replaced by a crystal glass rear cover. It is believed that Biel Crystal, an existing Apple supplier, may have been tasked with developing the crystal glass housing. Crystal Glass may be slightly heavier but the lower weight of the OLED (rather than LCD) screen should compensate. If Apple can make it work then it is likely that a crystal glass housing could prove to be extremely durable, allowing Apple to make considerable advances in the recycling and reuse of these devices.

The main reason for the form update is to lift the iPhone above its imitators once again, although it could be just as likely be designed to put off the blatant Apple clones freely available in territories where intellectual property rights aren’t enforced.

New frontiers

The basic form of the iPhone hasn’t changed a great deal since its inception, analysts are asking if the new version might usher in a new design era. We feel this is unlikely, considering that glass was also utilised on the iPhone 4 and 4S in a similar fashion, without spurning any lookalikes. Whilst almost everything apple does seems to steer the designs and specifications of its competitors to some extent, it is more likely that smartphone design will continue with small revisions until there’s a big technological advance that renders the current format obsolete. That might be curved or virtual screens, or some new device that replaces the smartphone altogether…