As we approach the launch of the upcoming iPhone 7, analysts are predicting a lukewarm reception for the handset.

It looks as though Apple will give its latest flagship smartphone some updated internal components and a better camera, but the overall design is expected to be largely similar to the existing iPhone 6s. With this in mind some commentators have already started speculating about what major design changes Apple may make with the 2017 iPhone, widely known as the iPhone 8. According to a new report in Bloomberg, the iPhone 8 could mark the moment that Apple gets rid of the physical Home button.

iPhone 8 curved screen
Image Source: Screenshot / YouTube

iPhone 8 could ship without a physical Home button

With a lukewarm reception widely predicted for the iPhone 7, what will the iPhone 8 bring to the table to inspire users? According to the latest rumors the 2017 smartphone will pack in a number of groundbreaking features, such as getting rid of the physical home button.

Bloomberg recently ran a report which claims that Apple has already started redesigning the iPhone ahead of its 2017 unveiling. It claims that more focus will be given to the display thanks to the removal of the Home button, citing “a person familiar with the matter.”

Bloomberg doesn’t provide any further details, but other sources have previously mentioned the idea that the iPhone 8 Home button might be part of the display itself, be flush with the screen, or sit on top of a number of touch sensitive sensors that vibrate when they feel pressure. This would mean that the vibration gives you the sensation of pressing a button, even though it is actually completely still. If this sounds like the stuff of science fiction, it’s worth remembering that a similar feature already exists on Apple MacBook trackpads.

Edge-to-edge display also subject to rumors

Such a chance would not be implemented just for the sake of it. The rumors fit with other speculation that the iPhone 8 will have an edge-to-edge display, and the possibility of a third iPhone model with a curved OLED screen has also been mooted. It is not clear whether the new display will be a feature of every iPhone, or a new iPhone 8 Pro range topping device.

This May renowned tech observer John Gruber said that he expects the 2017 iPhone to have a new form factor.

.”And there have been some rumors, I guess, but what I’m saying is that I’ve heard this independently and it is completely getting rid of the chin and forehead of the phone,” he said. “The entire face will be the display. And the Touch ID sensor will be somehow embedded in the display. The front-facing camera will somehow be embedded in the display. The speaker, everything. All the sensors will somehow be behind the display.”

Gruber raised two possibilities. He said he wasn’t sure whether Apple might “shrink the actual thing in your hand to fit the screen sizes we already have or whether they’re going to grow the screens to fit the devices we’re already used to holding… I don’t know.”

Various reports point to OLED display

Another report in Nikkei earlier this year also claimed that Apple had planned to introduce an OLED iPhone in 2018, before ultimately bringing that date forward to “offset a predicted stall in iPhone sales.”

The Wall Street Journal also ran an article which said Apple is making a handset with a single glass sheet on the front, pointing to a lack of Home button. Well-connected Apple analysts KGI have also supported the idea that an all-glass iPhone 8 will appear in 2017.

There have been numerous patent filings that suggest that Apple is working on a curved OLED display. If it does appear in 2017, it would not be the first time that Apple has considered the idea. One of the original iPhone prototypes from 2006 had a curved display, but the idea was discarded due to cost and design constraints.

iPhone 7 to launch imminently

It’s all well and good thinking about what might happen in 12 months, but there are more pressing matters for Apple watchers. The iPhone 7 is expected imminently, with little fanfare about its arrival. Alongside the aforementioned improvements to the camera and some beefed up hardware, there have been plenty of other rumors.

One of the most persistent relates to the removal of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. This would mark a major departure for Apple and herald a new era of listening to music through either the Lightning port or via Bluetooth earbuds.

Both of these possibilities have been criticized by fans, who don’t want to buy new accessories or use unwieldy adapters, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The former executive claims that existing Bluetooth technology simply isn’t good enough to listen to high-quality audio, and criticized the potential change.