iPhone 8: Most-wanted features

With the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus already not feeling so new, it's time to look forward and ruminate on what we'd like to see in the next iPhone.

David Carnoy
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
David Carnoy
1 of 15 Armend/YouTube

If Apple follows its usual schedule, we'll see new iPhones announced in early September. And with this year being the 10th anniversary of Apple's hugely influential device, the pressure is on to make a splash. 

A series of reports points to Apple releasing three new iPhones, including two minor "S" upgrades and an all-new iPhone 8 with an edge-to-edge OLED display.

The two LCD models -- we'll call them the iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus for now -- will likely look almost identical to their predecessors, and be comparatively easy to get. However, the OLED iPhone 8 may initially be more difficult to come by and could very well cost over $1,000, even in its base configuration. (Whether that starts at 32GB, 64GB or even more is anyone's guess.)

Regardless of what Apple brings out, here are the features we'd most like to see in the next iPhones -- along with our guess on the likelihood of each one being implemented in the top-end iPhone.

2 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

Smudge detector for camera lenses

Samsung's Galaxy S8 reminds users to make sure the camera lens is smudge free -- but that's because Samsung placed its fingerprint reader right next to the lens.

But Samsung is on to something. Given all of the advances in computer learning, we're guessing -- or at least hoping -- that the iPhone could figure out if your photos were blurry because of a lens smudge, and give you a heads-up to clean it off.

Chances of implementation: 5 percent

3 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

Return of the headphone jack

This one's for the folks who said before the launch of 2016's iPhone 7 iPhone 7that they'd never upgrade their iPhone if Apple removed the headphone jack. We'd be shocked if it returned in the next iPhone, but headphone jack lovers can dream.

Chances of implementation: Zero percent

4 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Augmented reality and virtual reality

Apple already announced and demoed some impressive augmented reality additions at last June's WWDC, and the initial work we've seen from app developers has been impressive. Since iOS 11 will add support for Apple's AR Kit to iPhones 6S and later models, we're assuming that's a done deal for the new 2017 iPhones, too.

But what about virtual reality? Apple jumped into VR at WWDC as well, but it was mostly Mac focused. CEO Tim Cook has said he sees bigger possibilities with AR than VR, but the company is rumored to be working on standalone VR glasses for the future -- albeit possibly later than sooner.

In the interim it'd be nice to see an Apple-branded headset into which the iPhone can be placed, similar to Samsung's Gear VR.

Chances of AR implementation: 100 percent

Chances of Apple-branded VR accessory: 20 percent

5 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

NFC beyond Apple payments

Although Apple's last few iPhone models are equipped with NFC (near-field communication) to power the contactless Apple Pay system, it has has yet to enable the tap-to-pair feature found in other NFC-enabled phones: You can tap a headphone or speaker, for instance, to pair the Bluetooth on many Android phones. 

Apple's AirPod headphones also autopair without the need for NFC. But based on some early looks at iOS 11, Apple appears to be expanding the feature anyway. As CNET's Jessica Dolcourt wrote back in June:

"Apparently you'll be able to pair the iPhone to the Apple Watch with a tap, and there's also support in iOS 11 for making NFC work with other things, not just Apple Pay. Called Core NFC, it lets apps spit out more information about a thing or place. Apple's example: learning more about a product in a store or a museum exhibit. So if you're at the Smithsonian and tap your phone on a placard, the screen could fill with details about what you're looking at."

Chances of implementation: 90 percent

6 of 15 Aloysius Low/CNET

USB Type-C connectivity and charging

Plenty of people would get upset if Apple switched from its Lightning port to a USB Type-C connection, which is gradually becoming the standard for other phones (and laptops, including Apple's own line of MacBooks). But swapping out the rectangular USB-A connector on the iPhone charger -- while leaving Lightning on the phone -- would mean that Apple users could charge their iPhones from their new MacBooks without needing an adapter. According to rumors, using Apple's bulkier USB-C iPad charger will deliver quicker charging to the next iPhones, too.

Chances of USB-C on iPhone: Less than 0.01 percent

Chances of USB-C on default charger: 30 percent

Chances of add-on USB-C charger supporting quick charging: 75 percent

7 of 15 Apple

Faster processor, improved 3D graphics

Apple has consistently improved the iPhone's graphics capabilities with each new iteration, and not surprisingly, we've come to expect a performance boost, and would be disappointed if we didn't get one, though we'd sacrifice some power in favor of a big battery boost.

The A10 Fusion chip you see here powers the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The latest rumors have the iPhone 8 getting an A11 processor -- built on 10 nanometer process technology -- produced by Taiwanese giant TSMC. 

The iPhone 7 Plus got a bump in RAM from 2GB to 3GB, but the iPhone 7 didn't. Hopefully, the new iPhones will get a RAM bump.

Chances of implementation: 100 percent

8 of 15 Mophie

Wireless charging

Right now, if you want to charge your iPhone's battery using inductive "wireless" charging, you have to buy a separate charging case and mat, such as Mophie's Juice Pack Air battery cases for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. But plenty of Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, have wireless charging capability built-in.

There seems to be little doubt that the new flagship iPhone will offer some sort of integrated wireless charging option. The question is whether Apple will go with some sort of proprietary charging system like it has with the Apple Watch or a system that's compatible with one of the two big standards: the Wireless Power Alliance, backed by the Qi consortium, or the AirFuel Alliance (formerly the Power Matters Alliance), backed by Powermat.

The other question is whether Apple will bring wireless charging to the refreshed versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (the so-called 7S and 7S Plus). One rumor has the 7S Plus getting a glass back (instead of aluminum) to facilitate wireless charging.

For more background on wireless charging, check this article out: "How the iPhone 8 could change the wireless charging game." 

Chances of implementation: 85 percent

9 of 15 TechDesigns/You Tube

Touch ID behind the screen

A lot of people love the iPhone's physical home button, but the 2016 iPhone 7/7 Plus version is touch only, with 3D Touch tactile feedback standing in for physical movement. Removing the button altogether and putting it behind the screen -- like it is on a lot of Android models -- would allow Apple to shrink the top and bottom bezels and get more screen in the same size chassis. (Case in point: Samsung's Galaxy S8 Plus is similar in size to the iPhone 7 Plus but has a much larger 6.2-inch screen compared to the 7 Plus's 5.5-inch screen).

The latest rumor has the iPhone 8 getting a virtual home button with 3D Touch -- but with a big change: no Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Apple, like Samsung, is said to be having trouble getting a fingerprint scanner to work behind the screen. Instead, the iPhone 8 is rumored to focus instead on facial recognition to handle unlocking duties. 

Chances of Touch ID behind the screen: 5 percent

Chances of virtual home button: 95 percent

10 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

Bigger screen in same body

As I said, killing the home button below the screen would allow a key design change, too: shrinking the bezels above and below the screen.

Apple grew the iPhone's screen in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and those screen sizes have remained the same the last two years. But compared to top 2017 Android models such as the LG G6, the Essential Phone and -- especially -- the Samsung Galaxy S8, those big iPhone bezels look increasingly dated.

For instance, Samsung's Galaxy S8 isn't much bigger than the iPhone 7 (see photo) but has a significantly larger screen: 5.8 inches compared to the iPhone 7's 4.7-inch screen.

The new iPhone was long-rumored to have an edge-to-edge display, and the recent HomePod firmware leak all but confirmed an "all-screen" redesign. That said, the top "notch" that houses the earpiece, front camera and other sensors has set tongues wagging.

Chances of implementation: 95 percent

11 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

Shatterproof screen

Back when the iPhone 6 came out, there was chatter that it would sport a shatter-resistant sapphire screen, but that never materialized.

Naturally, the folks at Corning argue that its Gorilla Glass is just as strong -- and a better option than sapphire. The company's new Gorilla Glass 5 made its first appearance in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which had a little battery issue that led to its infamous recall.

The iPhone 7's screen is even stronger than 2015's reasonably tough iPhone 6S/6S Plus screens, but it's not truly shatter-resistant like the Motorola Z2 Force.

Chances of implementation: 10 percent

12 of 15 TVC-Mall.com

Better cameras

The iPhone's camera keeps getting slightly better with each iteration. But there's always room for improvement, and a better camera is one of the main upgrade features people are looking for when they shell out big bucks for a new iPhone.

The iPhone 7 Plus got dual lenses that allow for more flexibility while shooting. But the iPhone 7's camera lacked that second lens. You'd hope the iPhone 7S gets dual lenses, not just the 7S Plus.

For what it's worth, early dummy phones of the flagship iPhone 8 -- those created from rumored renders and specs -- are showing the dual-lens camera going from horizontal to vertical. 

Chances of implementation: 100 percent

13 of 15 TechConfigurations/YouTube

OLED screen

There were rumors that the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus would get an OLED screen, which are more energy efficient and offer deeper black levels than LCD, but that didn't materialize. Recent reports have the iPhone 8 going OLED but it it doesn't look like it's getting the Samsung-style wraparound curve that some people are hoping for (and like the mockup shown here).

Chances of implementation: 90 percent

14 of 15 Apple

Significantly better battery life

Apple manages to make each new iPhone slimmer, while equipping it with a faster processor and graphics chip to also improve on battery life. But the truth is, we'd trade a little of that slimness and power for better battery life -- and so would a lot of other people.

The iPhone 7 got a slightly bigger battery, but to get that battery in the phone Apple removed the headphone jack. One hopes a more efficient processor and operating system (iOS 11), plus an OLED screen could squeeze out even more power.

Chances of implementation: 20 percent

15 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Features the iPhone will never have, but we wish it would

Alas, we know the iPhone will never have a removable back that allows you to swap in a new battery and add your own microSD memory card (yes, those 64GB cards are pretty cheap now). But hey, we couldn't resist mentioning it.

Chances of expandable storage: 0 percent

Chances of removable battery: 0 percent

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos