This year, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to launch three new iPhone models. The first two -- widely referred to as the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus -- should be similar in appearance to Apple's current-generation iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Apple is believed to be planning a premium iPhone model that's expected to sport an all-new design along with a whole host of other technological goodies. This one is commonly referred to as the iPhone 8.
The iPhone 8 promises to be a huge leap forward for Apple and, in many cases, the state-of-the-art in smartphone technology itself.
No more Touch ID
Perhaps the biggest -- and likely most controversial -- change to the iPhone 8 is the rumored lack of a Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Touch ID, a technology that made its debut as the star feature in Apple's 2013 iPhone 5s, uses one's fingerprint for biometric authentication.
Over time, the iPhone software ecosystem -- as well as the broader smartphone market -- adopted fingerprint scanners as must-have features. Touch ID is used by many third-party iOS applications and is an integral part of many first-party applications and features -- for example, Apple Pay. It's even a nifty way to unlock your phone.
Apple was rumored to be embed a Touch ID scanner directly into the display of the iPhone 8. However, the current and most credible rumor -- this one from Ming-Chi Kuo, whom Cult of Mac has called the "best Apple analyst on the planet" -- is that Apple couldn't get this technology ready for mass production, leading it to cut the feature.
Say hello to Face ID
While Touch ID is expected to go, Apple still cares deeply about both the security and convenience of its devices. That's why, as Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports, Apple is planning to introduce a new biometric authentication scheme.
This new method, Gurman says, will use a new 3D sensor, coupled with an eye-scanning system, to enable users to unlock their phones and perform all the actions they'd use Touch ID for, with their faces.
Gurman says that "speed and accuracy are focal points of the feature," and that Apple's new tech "can scan a user's face and unlock the phone within a few hundred milliseconds."
Maybe losing Touch ID won't be so bad after all.
Dedicated AI chip
Another cool feature the iPhone 8 could pack is a chip dedicated to handling artificial-intelligence tasks that the main processor inside the iPhone currently handles. This information comes, yet again, from Mark Gurman, who says that inside Apple, this chip is called the Apple Neural Engine.
Some of the responsibilities that this chip will take over from the main processor, Gurman says, include facial recognition, speech recognition, and even the processing the iPhone does when it tries to predict what word you're planning to type next.
This tech is expected to "improve battery performance," Gurman says. Given how important battery life is to many smartphone customers, this chip -- should it make it into the iPhone 8 -- sounds like it'll be a solid win for Apple and customers.
Apple's iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 all suffer from one aesthetic flaw: They have huge side, top, and bottom bezels. Other smartphone makers have worked to reduce the sizes of the bezels on their flagship smartphone models, which has left Apple's current iPhone models looking a little dated.
The good news is that Apple is expected to take a big leap with the iPhone 8. The device is expected to have a full-face display, with a small "notch" at the top. The iPhone 8 should have a thoroughly modern, if not downright futuristic, look, which is great news for iPhone fans. A more modern look could, if Apple plays its cards right, get users of flagship Android devices to switch over, too.
In addition to a full-face display, the display on the iPhone 8 is also expected to be based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. In a nutshell, OLED displays have the potential to offer superior image quality to liquid crystal displays (LCDs), as well as more interesting form factors. The full-face display with the expected "notch" probably wouldn't be possible without a shift to an OLED-based display.
In fact, the other two smartphones Apple is expected to launch alongside the iPhone 8 are expected to use traditional LCDs, and as a result, they won't come in dramatically different form factors to the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus phones.
The use of a full-face OLED display probably would've been enough to make the display the most exciting part of the upcoming iPhone 8, but if Gurman is to be believed, there's another major innovation that could be coming to the new phone as well: a ProMotion display.
ProMotion is just Apple's marketing talk for a display that updates its contents at a rate of 120 times per second -- twice what any previous iPhone display has been able to do. ProMotion technology made its debut on Apple's 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets that launched at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference back in June. Reviewer Chris Velazco from Engadget said in its evaluation of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, "scrolling and animations are almost startlingly smooth."
"Frankly, I don't want to go back to a non-ProMotion iPad after this," Velazco wrote.
Should ProMotion find its way to this year's iPhone 8, reviewers and consumers alike could echo similar sentiments about non-ProMotion iPhones. And that'd be great for Apple, which surely wants current iPhone owners to have every reason in the world to upgrade to new iPhones.
Apple A11 Fusion chip
Each year, Apple makes big advancements in the performance, power efficiency, and capabilities of the applications processors that power its iPhones and iPads. This year, all three of Apple's new iPhones should get the company's brand-new A11 Fusion processor.
The A11 Fusion should include a whole host of design enhancements to turbo-charge the user experience, particularly since it may be called upon to keep up with a zippy ProMotion display, as well as a potentially hugely revamped camera subsystem.
For those who like to geek out a bit, the A11 Fusion is also expected to be made using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (NYSE:TSM) 10-nanometer chip manufacturing process -- the very same tech that was used to build the A10X Fusion chip inside the latest 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models.
This should help Apple realize greater performance -- ultimately translating into a more fluid user experience across the board -- as well as better power efficiency, so that the iPhone 8 can deliver that greater performance while keeping battery life cleanly in check.