iPhone 7 Rumors Swirling 7 Months Before Expected Debut

A flush-mounted rear camera, the removal of rear antenna bands and other changes could be expected, according to reports.

iPhone 7, iPhones, Apple, smartphones, rumors, iPad Air 3, Apple Watch

Hot on the heels of recent rumors about Apple's next iPad Air 3 tablet, a new 4-inch iPhone5se and the latest Apple Watch models are more early rounds of rumors about Apple's next flagship smartphones, the expected iPhone 7 series, which will debut in September.

The latest rumors about the iPhone 7 describe a move to a thinner flush-mounted rear camera, replacing the protruding rear camera that is built into the existing iPhone 6 devices (pictured), and the removal of antenna bands that are now on the rear of today's iPhones. Both details are described in a Feb. 2 story by MacRumors. Also described is a possible dual-lens rear camera on upscale iPhone 7 Plus devices.

The information came from "a source who has provided reliable information in the past," according to the article. "Our source has been unable to confirm whether the device as a whole will be thinner than the iPhone 6 and 6s, although any thickness reductions would be expected to be slight, and many users (particularly those who use their devices without cases) will likely find the flush rear camera to be a significant improvement even if other dimensions remain the same."

It is too early, of course, to know if these changes will be in the next iPhones when they are announced in September, but that has never stopped rumors regarding Apple in the past.

Apple sure needs a big hit with its next iPhones to generate demand after sales of the devices leveled off in its latest financial quarter.

In January, reports surfaced that Apple is trimming production of its current iPhones by about 30 percent through March due to growing stocks of unsold iPhone 6 smartphones around the world. The production cutbacks are expected to allow remaining iPhone inventories to be reduced in the meantime. A similar iPhone production cut was made by Apple in 2013.

In December, reports circulated that Apple is applying for a patent for a technology that could allow the company to build waterproof iPhones in the future by protecting external headphone ports and charging cords with special self-healing rubber receptacles, an earlier eWEEK article reported. The patent application, which was posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 10 after originally being filed by Apple on June 9, 2014, could be a hint of a future feature in the company's flagship smartphones.

The application describes the innovation as a "self-healing elastomer applied over one or more external electronic connectors," which would protect internal electronic connectors used to plug in external headphones or charging cords. The special self-healing elastomer, which is essentially rubber, would then be pierced temporarily by an incoming plug on a headphone cord or charging cord to allow the connection to be made, according to the application. When the cord is removed, the self-healing rubber material would regain its original shape to again block the port, making the device safe from water penetrating into the device.

While other smartphones on the market are waterproof, including models from Samsung, iPhones do not yet have the feature.

Earlier in December, reports surfaced that Apple could be looking at dropping the long-established 3.5mm headphone jack on its next iPhones and replacing it with a thinner Lightning connector or Bluetooth to help make the phones even thinner, according to another eWEEK story. Even if Apple does delete the headphone jack, the company's patent application to seal iPhone ports could still be useful.

Earlier in February, reports also surfaced about a new patent that Apple received for a technology that would allow an iPhone or iPad or other device to "sense" a user's finger input when hovering over a display screen, rather than physically touching the surface. When this might eventually show in future iPhones is unknown.

The patent for the "proximity and multi-touch sensor detection and demodulation" technology was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Feb. 2, according to a report by AppleInsider.com. The latest patent application for touch technologies by the company follows its moves last year when it introduced 3D Touch force-sensing inputs in its iPhone 6s smartphones.

The patent for the technology "details methods by which photodiodes, or other proximity sensing hardware, work in tandem with traditional multi-touch displays to essentially shift the user interaction area beyond the screen," the article reported. "In some ways, the invention is similar in scope to 3D Touch, but measures input in an opposite direction along the z-axis relative to an iPhone's screen."

The sensors could "detect a finger, palm or other object hovering just above a display surface," the report continued. This would potentially allow users to push virtual buttons or operate other functions without ever touching a display, offering touch-less operations, according to the story.