The Wall Street Journal says "the biggest planned change" for the iPhone 7 will be its removal of the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack (rumored for some time), with headphones instead connecting through its Lightning port. That's expected to make the device thinner and more water-resistant, but could also bring with it some drawbacks.
There isn't any mention of a dual-camera array -- it could improve image quality and also let users adjust a picture's focus point after it's taken -- but many prior reports claim the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus will have one.
Regardless, larger improvements are expected for next year's models. Sources tell the WSJ 2017 iPhones could sport edge-to-edge OLED displays and, much like many Android phones, do away with the physical home button. A Touch ID fingerprint sensor will still be on board, but it'll be embedded into the phone's display.
A slew of reports have stated at least some 2017 iPhones will feature OLEDs -- they can deliver better contrast with deeper blacks and lower power consumption than LCDs, and can also be thinner since they don't require LED backlighting.
There have also been reports that next year's iPhones could feature front-and-back glass panels -- echoes of the iPhone 4 --support over-the-air wireless charging, and as Japan's Nikkeireported, allow for "more complex tactile vibrations" than the ones currently possible via 3D Touch.
So, is Apple now moving to a three-year iPhone upgrade cycle? Not necessarily. It's worth remembering the last two big iPhone upgrades -- the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 -- were tied to screen-size increases. With the largest iPhones now sporting 5.5-inch displays, that avenue is now closed. Instead, Apple has to look for other hardware improvements to drive upgrades. And those improvements might arrive one, two, or even three years after the last major ones.
That said, the fact that this year's iPhones won't (from the looks of things) feature major hardware advances makes for bad timing. Apple's iPhone revenue fell 18% year over year in the first quarter as iPhone 6S upgrades proved softer than expected. The company has guided for total second-quarter revenue to be down 13% to 17% from the previous year. This first-half weakness is why IDC expects 2016 iPhone unit sales to drop 2% from 2015 levels, in spite of the surge in demand that's naturally expected to follow the iPhone 7 launch.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that Apple has reportedly ordered a healthy 72 million to 78 million iPhone 7 units to be produced this year. While iPhone orders have often been dialed up or down based on consumer demand, strong initial orders suggest Apple is still confident the iPhone 7 will see a solid debut.