No Home Button? Liquidmetal Body? What Can We Expect From Next Year’s Apple iPhone 7?

The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are the hottest phones on the market right now, but that’s still not stopping Apple fans from looking forward to next year’s iPhone 7. Apple being Apple, it’s hard to know what the Cupertino tech giant has in store for 2016, but if the rumor mill is even half right, iPhone fans are looking at a major redesign, and an iPhone that could be truly revolutionary.

In some ways, Apple is a very predictable company, and that’s especially true with the iPhone. This year saw the introduction of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, both of which were refinements of their predecessors from 2014. Assuming Apple sticks with what’s worked so far, Apple fans buying an iPhone in 2016 can count on two things: the next iPhone will mark a significant design departure from the iPhone 6 style, and it will likely be called the iPhone 7.

Another thing we can count on is that, over the next few weeks, we’re going to see more and more leak out about the iPhone 7. Apple is better able than most tech companies to keep a lid on its internal operations, but even the mighty iPhone maker can’t keep everything secret. Recently, the rumor mill has been pushing out some pretty believable tidbits about just what we might be able to expect from the iPhone 7, and it looks like some big changes are in store.

Even Bigger Screens For The iPhone 7?

Apple finally caught up to its competitors in terms of screen size and resolution in 2014 when it released the iPhone 6, but the other smartphone makers have continued to push the boundaries in both those areas since then. Next year may well see Apple upping the resolution on its flagship smartphones, though details of such a shift have yet to leak from any reliable sources.

One rumor that has been bandied about over the past few months concerns Apple possibly making the screens for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus even bigger, but without making the form factor any larger. How would Apple do that? Patent filings unveiled earlier this year point to Apple possibly integrating the home button into the iPhone 7 display using the 3D Touch feature introduced this year with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. That technology allows the display to tell how forcefully a user is pressing the screen, meaning that the iPhone 7 could tell when a user wants to wake up the device or close an app.

And what of Apple’s vaunted Touch ID fingerprint security? The Touch ID sensor is currently built into the iPhone’s home button, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Apple Insider earlier this year pointed to rumors that Apple was looking at integrating even the Touch ID sensor into the iPhone display. That could mean a larger-screened iPhone with Touch ID still available and activated by a 3D Touch press on certain areas of the display, allowing Apple to keep the features that help make the iPhone a cut above the rest.

Is Thinner Still Better?

Apple fans are well aware that the company just can’t seem to stop itself making its iPhones thinner and thinner each year, whether the fans want that or not. Of course, each new iPhone sells better than the one before it, so it’s not like Apple has received too much negative feedback on that. With the iPhone 7, it looks like that trend will continue, as current rumors have the next Apple flagship being even thinner than the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. VentureBeat says that some new chips from Intel might be able to help Apple manage that feat.

According to that report, Intel has a veritable army of employees working on the LTE modem for the next iPhone. Intel is said to be working on a chipset that would allow Apple to combine the A-series processors that power iPhones with the LTE modems, resulting in better speed and better power management. In Regular Talk: a faster chip with better battery life, all in a smaller package so that your iPhone can be thinner.

How thin? KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a better record than most other analysts for predicting Apple’s moves, says that Apple is aiming for super-thin. Around 6mm, which would be as thin as the iPod touch.

Is this certainly going to happen? Intel has created a team of at least 1,000 people to work on it, so the chip giant at least appears to believe it’s a good bet.

As to what the iPhone 7 will look like, that’s still anybody’s guess. A year and a half ago, the rumor was that Apple was going to bring over the design language from the iPad Air and iPad mini, but the iPad line looks the same this year, so there’s no telling if Apple will even tweak the body of the iPhone 7. Still, a bigger screen with no home button would constitute a significant change to the iPhone’s looks, so Apple might see fit to leave the chassis of the phone largely untouched.

There’s a possibility, though, that we could see some truly big change from this year to the next for the iPhone 7, and one of the rumors going around involves the possibility of Apple using a really tough and versatile material called Liquidmetal. Apple Insider, a few days back, pointed to a recent patent filing that showed Apple was interested in using Liquidmetal to make a fastening mechanism that could well be used to keep a device like the iPhone 7 from being opened by untrained tamperers. Apple has already used Liquidmetal in some iPhone components, so we could well see that happening in a bigger way with the iPhone 7.

[Image: Stephen Lam / Getty Images]