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Breaking the trend: why Apple is likely to release both an 'iPhone 7s' and 'iPhone 8' this year

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The rumor mill is working overtime this year, suggesting that Apple is looking at debuting three new iPhone models, including an "iPhone 8" loaded with new technology, and a new design. AppleInsider examines why, in the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, that this seems likely.

If you've missed the last few months of AppleInsider's reports from the supply chain, the "iPhone 8" is expected to debut alongside the "iPhone 7s" family in the fall. Where the "iPhone 7s" is likely to be an iterative improvement over the iPhone 7, the "iPhone 8" is said to be loaded with piles of Apple's new technologies.

The "iPhone 8" is predicted to sport an edge-to-edge OLED panel with a 5.1-inch user space — the rest dedicated to virtual buttons. Slimming or removing the bezels would allow Apple to cram a larger battery into a form factor similar in size to the 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Also expected is a new 3D facial scanner .

With a complete redesign said to be forthcoming in the device implementing a curved glass back with wireless charging, some reports have pegged the starting price of the "iPhone 8" at more than $1,000.

While Apple may use the 10th iPhone anniversary as a launching point for the rumored "iPhone 8," it doesn't really need to.

Quick iteration

While there is somebody inside Apple working on the next iPhone after the 2017 devices, rumors about those devices don't typically begin until after the year's releases.

The first rumors about the "iPhone 7s" family, and the "iPhone 8" began in November 2016. The first inklings of the iPhone 7 began in November 2015. And so on.

In April of 2016, the first rough sketches and case mockups of the iPhone 7 started appearing, with periodic deflections along the way — but the design ultimately settled very closely to the early leaks.

Apple has taken some measures to prevent as profound leaks in 2017 as we've seen in the past, but corporate secrets are only slightly less prone to leaks than the most fleeting of all — military ones.

The "iPhone 7s" isn't expected to radically change the external design of the iPhone 7. We are starting to see engineering sample diagrams from something purporting to be the iPhone 8 — but like in 2016 the earliest efforts are close, and will refine with time.

Apple has been uncharacteristically verbose about future plans

No, they haven't announced the "iPhone 8," but they have been very obviously pointing to a big selling point of the device.

But for the first time, Apple is talking about future technologies of great interest to the company, declaring a focus on specific user segments, and in some cases hammering the point home on multiple occasions. Technology for the "iPhone 8" is no exception.

In an interview in February, Apple CEO Tim Cook heralded augmented reality as a "big idea," right up there next to the smartphone itself.

"The smartphone is for everyone, we don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it's for everyone. I think AR is that big, it's huge," Cook said. "I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining."

Cook made similar comments with equal enthusiasm in past interviews, suggesting Apple is looking to market an AR or mixed reality system in the future.

Technologies surrounding perfected implementation of AR are expensive. Why not include them in a phone that may or may not cost in excess of $1000?

Everything adds up to the "iPhone 8" sooner rather than later...

Nothing Tim Cook and assorted industry analysts are talking about as ready technologies need to wait on a beefier device. The vaunted Galaxy S8 phone isn't as speedy as the iPhone 7 family is — and a fall update will only widen that gap.

When you control the hardware and the software, that sets the table for something like the "iPhone 8," perched at the high-end of a very successful product line. As it stands, the "iPhone 8" appears able to continue Apple's command of the vast majority of the cell phone industry's profits.

...but we have to stop short of being 100 percent certain.

Nobody outside of Apple itself knows for sure what's planned for the fall. Over the years, though, when the rumor mill starts smoking in the spring, there's invariably some sort of fire in the fall — but it doesn't always go the direction that the smoke suggests it will.

Secrets are hard to keep when you need 50 million things containing that secret in a quarter.Secrets are hard to keep when you need 50 million things containing that secret in a quarter.

Things don't always turn out as expected. The teardrop phone from a few years ago never materialized. On the other hand, the dual-camera in the iPhone 7 Plus and the A10 Fusion processor turned out better than expected.

We've said it before — Apple doesn't necessarily innovate, but it does perfect. Some technologies rumored to be in the "iPhone 8," like color-precise OLED screens and the supporting hardware suitable for a refined augmented reality implementation are really only coming into their own now, after years of availability in one form or another.

The iPod could have been built earlier — but Apple waited for perfection. The same can be said for the original Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple has the market clout to release a super-high end phone, the engineering talent to make a device that can command the price, and the ability to finely craft a public message to sell it.