Apple introduced the magnetic Smart Connector with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2015. Now a report coming out of Israel claims the 10th anniversary iPhone 8 would also feature a Smart Connector. Israeli publication The Verifier claims the Smart Connector would somehow support wireless charging and augmented reality applications. The feature was previously rumored to come with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but the rumors didn’t materialize.

Apple iPhone 8 Concept augmented reality wireless charging
Image Source: Moe Slah / Concepts iPhone / YouTube video (screenshot)

How will it support AR and wireless charging?

At this point, it is unclear which accessories and peripherals would be able to connect to the Smart Connector for AR applications. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his AR ambitions, saying recently that it has the potential to become as big an opportunity as the iPhone itself. Wireless charging is also said to be coming to the iPhone 8. It is unclear whether it would feature the Qi charging standard that requires the phone to be placed on a charging mat, or a long-distance wireless charging technology.

Apple has been working with Broadcom on wireless charging technology for almost three years. The Cupertino company has also partnered with Energous, the startup behind the WattUp wireless charging technology that allows you to charge a smartphone from a distance of up to 18 feet. Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn has been testing Energous’ wireless charging module since last year.

On the iPad Pro, the connector has limited applications such as using keyboards. Apple Insider points out that the connector’s magnet strength isn’t that impressive. So, the peripherals needed for the AR applications need to be attached to the smartphone in some other way. Apple might even use the super-fast Lightning port to connect to the peripherals. The Verifier does not provide details regarding how the Smart Connector would fit in the whole setup.

Since Apple has traditionally shared its technologies across the product lines, the possibility of the Smart Connector appearing on the iPhone 8 isn’t far fetched. The Verifier added that the new Apple TV hardware and AirPlay are also an integral part of Apple’s augmented reality ambitions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook betting big on augmented reality

Apple has assembled a team of more than 1,000 augmented reality experts in Israel. They are working on a variety of AR software and hardware technologies. The iPhone 8 would have 3D sensor modules both on the front and back to support facial recognition and augmented reality. Steven Milunovich, an analyst at UBS Research, recently told investors that Apple would also release an AR development kit to let developers create third-party AR content.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a proven track record when it comes to revealing details about Apple’s yet-to-launch products, says the iPhone maker is 3-5 years ahead of its rivals in augmented reality. The Cupertino company has acquired multiple AR startups over the last few years including PrimeSense, RealFace, and Metaio.

Apple is interested in augmented reality more than VR. Tim Cook argues that VR offers an “isolated experience” where you are blind to whatever is happening in the rear world. Augmented reality, in contrast, adds an extra layer of information on the existing environment. Research firm IDC forecasts the combined AR and VR market would grow 130.5% from $6.1 billion last year to $13.9 billion in 2017. The combined market is estimated to reach $143.3 billion by 2020.

New features could delay the iPhone 8 launch

Incorporation of 3D sensing modules and other AR-related features could delay the iPhone 8 launch by several weeks. Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White said in a research note that the 3D sensing technology and curved OLED screens could push back the iPhone 8 launch to October or November. Brian White added that the device would still arrive in time for the all-important holiday shopping season.

Brian White said the supply chain is more enthusiastic about the iPhone 8 than Samsung’s latest Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, even though the 10th anniversary iPhone may end up looking a lot like the Galaxy S8. It will have the same OLED display as the Galaxy S8. The iPhone 8 is also expected to ditch the physical home button in favor of virtual ones, just like the Galaxy S8.

Apple recently placed orders for about 70 million OLED screens with Samsung Display, the same company that makes OLED panels for the Galaxy S8. Samsung is preparing to produce 95 million OLED screens for Apple this year, just in case the demand exceeds Apple’s expectations. Only the 5.8-inch iPhone 8 would sport an edge-to-edge OLED display. The iPhone 7S and 7S Plus would stick to the LCD panels that Apple has been using for years.

iPhone 8 to feature True Tone display

Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz recently told investors that the 10th anniversary iPhone would have the same True Tone display as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Apple will be sourcing the “full spectral sensing” ambient light sensor from Austrian semiconductor first AMS for True Tone technology. The True Tone display can change its color and intensity to suit the surrounding environment, enhancing the text legibility and reducing the eye strain.