5 Interesting Things Revealed about the iPhone 8 from HomePod Firmware


iPhone 8 leaked

Early last week, a major goof-up on Apple’s part has revealed several things about the highly-anticipated iPhone 8, alongside other unreleased Apple devices. Pre-release HomePod firmware was accidentally uploaded to public servers on 31st July 2017. And before Apple could pull it down, copies were downloaded and being scanned word-for-word by people on the Internet.

Although this firmware was related to Apple’s upcoming smart speaker, it has also revealed a ton of information about the iPhone 8 and the new Apple TV too.

Let’s start with five of the most interesting finds from the leaked HomePod firmware related to the iPhone 8.

#1. The iPhone 8 “top-notch” design

Hidden in the leaked firmware, the iPhone 8’s speculated design finally got a confirmation of sorts, especially regarding the way the screen extends to the top edge, wrapping around the front camera, earpiece and sensor array. Referred to as the ‘notch’, this design was first seen on phones like Andy Rubin’s Essential phone and more recently in the Sharp Aquos S2. Although the leaked firmware didn’t have any actual picture of how the iPhone 8 looks like, a diagrammatic representation of an iPhone prototype named ‘D22’ clearly suggests the notch’s presence.

These findings accurately portray how the upper part of the iPhone 8 would look like. It’s going to be interesting to see how Apple retrofits the remaining parts of the interface in this unusually-designed display. For instance, there’s no certainty of where the time — which has persistently appeared on the top bar of every iPhone — will be shown. Also, the two overflowing corners are just about wide enough to fit in the status bar, carrier name, battery status icon and the battery percentage. The question that remains is the position of other status icons like Bluetooth, WiFi, Location, Alarm, Lock-screen rotation lock, Do not disturb, etc.


#2. Face Unlock on iPhone 8 Almost Certain

In the initial iPhone 8 rumor days, several of them pointed to a new iteration of Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint recognition technology, which would work from underneath the display. We also saw leaked renders of iPhone backs with a fingerprint sensor, similar to Android phones. Today, a fingerprint scanner underneath the display is not at all hypothetical, as Qualcomm demonstrated the tech on a Vivo phone at MWC Shanghai this year. And although Android phones with this technology will not arrive any time before 2018, Apple has historically proven its capabilities in the past by being the first to implement a feature, for other companies to follow.

But this time around, the HomePod firmware suggesting the presence of an infra-red face unlock feature, meaning Apple could go a different path. Dubbed ‘Pearl ID’ in the code, this feature will rely on sensors mounted next to the earpiece to detect a face to unlock the phone. What’s impressive though is that it supposedly will be able to scan your face even when the phone is resting flat on a surface (like a table). Another interesting tidbit revealed recently is that the iPhone 8 could intelligently mute notifications when the user is looking at the screen. And if that wasn’t enough, the company also seemingly is working on something related to facial expressions, if rumors are to be believed. Well, maybe there is some correlation to this and the company Apple acquired all the way back in 2015, that worked on motion capture of facial expressions.

Now, you may be wondering if it will be easy to fool this biometric system by flashing a photo or video of the user in front of the camera? By the way, this trick has compromised the Samsung Galaxy S8’s facial recognition already. Well, as the demo video below of a company called RealFace suggests (see 13:52 onwards), such a hack could potentially be avoided. Apple acquired RealFace earlier this year.

There are other clues pointing to facial recognition being used throughout the software. For instance, it’s mentioned in code related to Apple Pay. It also seems that third-party apps will be able to use the new biometric verification mechanism. But just a few days ago, it has also been revealed that the new iPhone may be armed with “multi biometric options”. Could it be a combination of face and fingerprint recognition? Will this ‘Face ID’ feature work in pitch dark conditions? It’s going to be an interesting wait-and-watch for all to be revealed this September.

3. The iPhone 8 Will Have a Crisper Retina Display

From the flood of leaks derived out of the HomePod firmware, we’ve learnt that the iPhone 8 will finally have a higher display resolution. The 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display is said to feature a 2436 x 1125 pixel resolution. This odd figure is higher than the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution on the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus models. By the way, iOS downscales to 1080p on bigger iPhones from an actual resolution of 2208 x 1242 (3x Retina).

Eagle-eyed readers may find the numbers 2436 x 1125 familiar, because the same numbers were used by serial Apple leakster Ming Chi Kuo several months ago regarding the iPhone 8 resolution. The only difference being, Kuo suggested a higher overall 2800 x 1242 pixel resolution with the former representing the usable area (the rest was suggested to be a “function area” that the virtual home button and other elements will occupy). John Gruber of Daring Fireball has very nicely explained why Kuo’s 2800 x 1242 pixel information is wrong, and why the iPhone 8 will most likely come with the aforementioned 2436 x 1125 pixel resolution.

If that will indeed be the iPhone 8 resolution, that takes the pixel density to 462 PPI, which is a nominal improvement over the 400 PPI 5.5-inch iPhone Plus models, but a marked improvement over the 326 PPI 4.7-inch iPhone models. If Gruber’s calculations are correct, this will also mean that the iPhone 8 will not require any downsampling of content like today’s Plus-sized iPhones, as it will show content at true 3x Retina resolution. And there’s a good chance that’s the case, as the leaked code points to 1920 x 1080 and 2436 x 1125 as two distinct hardware resolutions.

Other tidbits about the display also suggest a tap-to-wake mechanism, like several Android and even Windows Lumia phones have had for years.

4. iPhone 8’s Virtual Home Button and Function Area

The bottom of the iPhone 8 is as interesting as the top; because this would be the first time an on-screen virtual home button will replace the iconic physical button. Last year, we already got a taste of what that feels like with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, as the mechanical home button was replaced by a placeholder area that simulated a click, thanks to the Taptic Engine. We presume hard-pressing the on-screen button on the iPhone 8 will result in a similar feel.

The leaked HomePod firmware tells us that the on-screen button can be hidden in the event of full-screen video playback, thereby utilising a majority of the 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display.

The other interesting thing is the utilisation of space on the sides of the virtual home button. While in the past there have been concepts of a Touch-Bar-like area that could have contextual shortcuts, recently a more realistic explanation of what those sides could be used for came to light. A former Apple software engineer suggests that the navigation and menu items typically placed on top of iOS apps will be repositioned to the bottom, on either sides of the virtual home button. This could make these commonly-used elements easier to reach, especially considering the taller iPhone 8 display height.

5. iPhone 8 Will Record 4K Video at 60fps and Other Smart Features

Finally, the leaked firmware also touches upon the camera aspect of the upcoming iPhone 8, which you’ve probably noticed features a vertically-aligned dual camera setup. The information suggests that both the front and rear cameras will be able to record 4K videos at a smooth 60 frames per second. This will be a marked improvement over its predecessor, which could only record 4K in up to 30 frames per second. This potentially also signals a performance improvement in Apple’s A11 chip that will be powering the phone.

There’s also a “SmartCamera” feature addressed in the firmware, that can automatically detect a scene (like fireworks, snow, sunrise, sport, etc) and tune the camera for better image or video capture.

Lastly, there’s also a mention of “ModernHDR” which could mean an advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique for improved quality.

Bonus: New Apple TV and HomePod

It’s not only the iPhone 8 details that were leaked — as we got to know that the upcoming Apple TV 5 will support 4K and HDR10. The Apple TV hardware update is a long time coming, since it’ll be two years since the 4th generation launched soon. We can also assume the aging A8 chip on the 4th Gen Apple TV will be replaced most likely by the A10 or A11 chip for better performance.

And finally, information about the HomePod itself suggests that the smart speaker will feature a 272 x 340 pixel LED matrix display. It will feature a simplistic output for showing basic info like weather, track name, etc. Meaning it won’t a proper touchscreen like an iPhone or like the Amazon Echo Show. Next, it is already known that the HomePod is powered by a custom-made Apple A8 chip, but the leaked code also suggests 1GB of RAM to go along with it. Lastly, HomePod will also feature accessibility features like VoiceOver.

So there you have it. This has been the list of the most interesting tidbits revealed about the iPhone 8 from the HomePod firmware. Every day, there are newer findings being revealed, so be sure to check out our iPhone 8 page to read about them.

So, which of these excites you the most? For us, we’re pretty intrigued about how Apple is going to fit the UI on the top and bottom area of this all-screen iPhone.

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