Apple’s flagship iPhones have had the same design for the last three years. But things are going to change in a big way this year. The 10th anniversary iPhone will in all likelihood bring major design changes that Apple fans have been craving for. Among other things, the iPhone 8 is widely expected to feature an edge-to-edge OLED display and a fingerprint sensor integrated into the display.

Apple iPhone 8 Concept
Image Source: Thiago M Duarte / Ran Avni / ConceptsiPhone / YouTube video (screenshot)

Apple has just been granted 56 patents

On Tuesday, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Apple as many as 56 patents covering dozens of novel technologies. Two of them are of particular interest to people interested in buying the next-gen iPhone 8. Note that patenting technologies doesn’t guarantee their inclusion in the upcoming products. Apple files hundreds of patents every year, but only a handful of them make their way into final products.

However, these patents do indicate that Apple is at least exploring the idea of a bezel-less smartphone with the fingerprint sensor sitting under the display. These patents were first spotted by Patently Apple. One patent is for Reducing the border areas of a device while the other one covers how the Touch ID fingerprint sensor could be embedded in the screen.

iPhone 8 to use flexible materials for the curved OLED display

iPhone 8 Patent
Image Credit: Apple Inc. / USPTO (screenshot)

The first patent outlines how a flat screen could wrap around the edges to extend the display area. The images included in patent documents show a nameless device featuring edges that wrap around the sides of the device. Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy S8 features a similar screen, which Samsung calls the “Infinity display.” The patent corroborates with the existing rumors that the iPhone 8 would feature a bezel-less OLED display.

According to the patent, Apple will use a flexible substrate to make the display panel and touch sensors so that they could curve around the edges.

Will Touch ID be embedded in the display?

The second patent outlines a complex method to integrate Touch ID into the display. In current iPhone models, the fingerprint sensor is integrated into the home button. The iPhone 8 is going to ditch the physical home button to make room for an edge-to-edge display. It means Touch ID could be embedded in the display. Smartphone makers have so far struggled to integrate fingerprint sensors into the display.

iPhone 8 Fingerprint Sensor Patent
Image Credit: Apple Inc. / USPTO (screenshot)

The patent documents reveal that the primary purpose of the in-display Touch ID will be to ease the on-screen authentication. It will allow you to access the fingerprint sensor while still in the middle of using apps. The sensor panel captures your fingerprint data and sends it to a different part of the device for processing. It’s not the first patent Apple has been granted on the subject. Last year, the company had patented another technology to embed Touch ID into the display.

Recent reports suggest that Apple is facing technical difficulties integrating the Touch ID fingerprint sensor under the display. If the company fails to resolve it in time, it may have to relocate the Touch ID sensor to the back panel. Samsung was also initially planning to embed the fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S8’s display, but eventually had to place it next to the rear camera.

iPhone 8 to have a glass back for wireless charging

Earlier this week, Engadget published the iPhone 8 renders based on highly detailed CAD drawings obtained from a reliable source. The renders show a vertically placed dual-camera system on the back. According to the publication, the flash and microphone will also be part of the main camera bump. The iPhone 8 will have a glass back. It is in line with previous rumors that the 10th-anniversary device would feature a glass front and back with a stainless steel frame in the middle.

Engadget said the glass back allows for the integration of wireless charging technology. While the rumor mill was expecting a long-range wireless charging technology, more recent reports point to the Qi charging standard that many Android smartphones already use. The publication added that the iPhone 8 would be taller, wider, and thicker than the current iPhone 7.

AR, 3D facial recognition other key features

The 10th anniversary iPhone is said to feature 3D facial recognition and a faster A11 chip. TSMC has already started mass production of A11 chips for the iPhone 8. As for 3D facial recognition, LG Innotek has bagged a $177 million initial contract from Apple for the supply of 3D camera modules. LG Innotek has set up a new facility worth $238.5 million to produce 3D modules.

The 3D camera sensor is also expected to support augmented reality applications. Loup Ventures managing director Gene Munster said recently that the iPhone maker was betting big on augmented reality. The first generation of AR applications will debut with the iPhone 8, predicts the analyst. Munster believes Apple’s near-term focus will be to nail AR on the iPhone.

iPhone 8 price and release date

The iPhone 8 is expected to be the most expensive smartphone from Apple yet. The current iPhones have a starting price of $649. According to Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski, the iPhone 8 is going to cost $999 for the 128GB model and $1099 for the 256GB variant. The current top of the line 256GB iPhone 7 Plus is priced at $969 in the US.

The 10th anniversary iPhone’s high price tag will be due to its radical design and exciting new features. For instance, Jankowski estimates that the OLED display will add $35 to the bill of materials. The 3D sensing module is said to add another $20 to the cost.

There have been contradictory reports about the iPhone 8 launch. The supply chain leaks have consistently reiterated that production bottlenecks would force Apple to push back its launch. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted earlier this month that the iPhone 8 production would ramp up only in October/November rather than the usual ramp up timeline of August/September. If Kuo is to be believed, the device won’t hit the store shelves until at least October.

On the other hand, noted Twitter tipster Steve Hemmerstoffer aka @OnLeaks recently said that Apple was on track to start the iPhone 8 mass production in August. It means the device should launch in September alongside the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. However, the flagship iPhone may face supply shortages during the first few weeks or months.