Why a WWDC 2017 reveal for iPhone 8 is possible

A series of educated guesses. UPDATE: Since writing this, Apple has announced this year's WWDC takes place June 5.

It doesn’t matter how many trucks you have parked in your back office, your smartphone is already a computer, and who better than the ultimate creative tech firm to show you just how powerful your mobile devices have become?

UPDATED: I think we will find out, now Apple has announced WWDC 2017 takes place June 5-9.

Big change, big deal

Here’s my speculation:

  • Apple has plans to redefine the smartphone category it defined with iPhone 2007 with this year’s model.
  • There are claims Apple may start manufacturing new iPhones earlier than expected, ramping up production in June.
  • Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple will replace the Home button and Touch ID with a new virtual ‘function area’. This will work in a similar way to the Touch Bar on MacBook Pro, enabling developers to create custom controls for their apps
  • Those custom controls can be different for each app.

Then there’s all the speculation around Augmented and Virtual Reality, which is also likely to have implications on the company’s developer community.

Developers, developers, developers

These are all big changes.

New hardware design will mean developers have more display space to work with, which will have implications on developers and their apps; new biometric sensors may have implications for developers and their apps; and the new, ever-changing ‘function area’ means developers will need to do a heap of work to bring their apps up to speed for the new high-end iPhone.

The new Apple smartphone already sounds like it will be radically different. If the phone is different then it is inevitable the software will be very different, too – so you can expect some significant tweaks in the next edition of iOS.

Most people seem to expect these changes will be made available only in the high-end $1,000+ iPhone, with two entry-level models being a little more like an iPhone 7 design.

(I wouldn't stake my life on this, but I can’t help but speculate that we could even see iOS development fork for a year or so, while the company migrates the entire iPhone ecosystem to the new UI.)

wwdc convention Apple

Apple's 28th annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will be held at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, between June 5-9, the company says.

A bang, not a whimper

It’s blindingly obvious these changes will have a huge significance on iOS developers, who will need to revise their apps for new displays, new user interface elements, a revised operating system and more.

That takes time.

It also underscores the importance of Apple culling orphan apps and insisting developers move to 64-bit.

When Apple introduces major changes it typically works closely with a handful ofdevelopers, helping improve their apps to exploit these changes.

The work they do is usually showcased when the company announces the new ‘iThing’. Anyone who paid attention during any Apple launch of anything should recall the company showcasing third party apps that demonstrate the new.

On with the show

Apple has a choice: keep its secrets until launching the device and hope for the best; or tease consumers with an early glance at the technology, while wooing developers to support the all-new features of its all-new device.

However, if Apple really is planning to introduce a new ‘function area’ then it will want that area to be capable of something, and there are good reasons to give developers a chance to build apps that exploit the feature.

When it comes to recruiting developers to support new features within its operating system there is no better venue than WWDC.

When you think about the significance of new UI elements such as a replacement Home button, then it will be very, very hard for Apple to reveal new API’s for these features without confirming why it is introducing them.

Not to mention the need to gain regulatory clearance well in advance of the release of radically changed hardware designs.

That’s why I think it is possible Apple will introduce its new high-end iPhone at WWDC.

It doesn’t need to be completely public, it may instead choose to recruittrusted developers to support the new device, but I think it could potentially steal the oxygen from the smartphone industry for the next six months if it went public early.

Insanely great

Steal the oxygen? Certainly. Just watch the industry slump that will follow the announcement, assuming the product Jony Ive has probably been working on for the past three years is insanely great, as is very likely given his track record.

Apple has a choice here. I think it wins either way.

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