Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn't confirmed that the iPhone 8 exists, but in an interview he did hint that the rumored smartphone will feature “something that you didn’t expect”.
Of course, he didn’t go into explicit detail about new iPhone features, and he’s still advocating that you buy the “killer product” that is the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
However, Cook did drop minor breadcrumbs about Apple’s roadmap for 2017 and beyond, and said that he too sees all of the iPhone 8 rumors and speculation that pop up every day.
Here’s what Tim Cook has been saying that has us intrigued…
1. iPhone 8 will contain something you didn’t expect
Cook seemed confident that you’re going to upgrade to the new iPhone – what we’re calling the iPhone 8 – even if long-time users have increasingly been holding onto their older devices.
Apple has seen another 1% decline in iPhone sales in the first three months of 2017 compared to the same quarter in 2016. Is Apple just the victim of his own past innovative success, making old devices too good to upgrade to new ones?
“No, because it's always something that you didn't expect,” Cook promised host Jim Cramer, hinting at (at least) one surprise new feature in the iPhone 8.
“You know, who thought you could take a photo like a portrait?” he said, citing the fact that the iPhone 7 Plus dual-lens camera can take bokeh-rich photos in portrait mode.
The iPhone 8 should continue this unique selling point (USP) tradition, just as Apple was able to differentiate the 7 Plus with two rear cameras.
- Everything you need: iPhone 8 release date, news and rumors
2. Cook talks bigger GPUs for AI and AR
So what Apple’s big surprise iPhone 8 feature? Cook didn’t say for sure, but he did talk about two very important A-buzzwords: AI (artificial intelligence) and AR (augmented reality).
“I think AI is huge,” he said. “We use AI in so much of what we do today. But we're going to be able to use it even more in the future.
“The processing and GPUs are getting so incredible – their capabilities so incredible we're going to be able to do a lot more.
“I don't want to get into details, but there's a lot more there," he said before getting into at least some details. “AR, you know, I've said in the past, this is something we're really excited about.”
The iPhone 8 redesign is said to switch up the dual-lens cameras so that they can help the phone screen become a window into an augmented reality world.
What does that mean? You’ll able to find your seats in a crowded stadium or groceries among a store’s many aisles by looking at your phone, theorizes veteran Apple analyst Gene Munster.
- But first: iPhone 7 release date, news and rumors
3. iPhone 8 rumors are hurting iPhone 7 sales
Here’s the problem with the iPhone 8’s surprise feature – just talking about it may be hurting Apple’s sales, according to Cook who tiptoed around saying ‘new iPhone' by saying 'new... things.'
“There are more rumors floating and more press articles and mentions of new things," he said in the earnings call. "When that happens a percentage of people delay.
“That probably affects us more in China than other places because there's a tendency there to buy the latest thing. Although I have to say, the 7 Plus has done extraordinarily well there.”
Cook seems to think Apple's sale numbers could be even better if we weren’t already hyped up on the unconfirmed iPhone 8. Good news for him: we’re switching subjects.
4. Taking on (or buying) Netflix?
Cook thinks Apple’s current services revenue alone will be able to stand as an equivalent to a Fortune 100 company by the end of this year. And that's just with what it has right now: iTunes, iCloud, Apple Music, the App Store and Apple Pay.
By 2020, he plans to have Apple services business double in size. But how? Well, some have suggested Apple should buy Netflix, although it sounds as if Apple is just going to take on the media giant.
“What we see that the video world has kind of hit an air pocket, and where cord cutting has been happening on some kind of basis, we think it's accelerating massively,” he said on CNBC.
“We'd like to play in this. Because we do think that the best experience for a customer is to view things when they want, the way they want, and have many different additional information-- around what they're watching, not just the linear TV feed.
“We are working on some original content now. We're learning. And we'll see where this takes us,” Cook said.
5. Apple Watch 3 and AirPods 2 could be in 'the pipeline'
The big question surrounding the future of Apple’s wearables – which include the Apple Watch 2 and Apple AirPods – is when will they no longer be tethered to an iPhone?
“Where does it go?” Cook asked without answering his own question. “I wouldn't want to comment on that, but we do have a really great pipeline here.”
Well, we believe that pipeline will lead to a cellular-capable that lets you go phone-free thanks to an embedded SIM card. Apple AirPods 2 could contain .
While Google’s can already make phone-free calls with the , don’t expect Apple to rush to launch a new smartwatch at its event.
“We took our time to get [the original Apple Watch] right, and we've made it even better with the Series 2 offering,” noted Cook. Apple doesn’t often do first or even second to market, but it does leave its mark on categories in the end.
- Best iPhone watch: Apple Watch 2 review
6. Expect to get the iPhone 8 you want
Apple makes mistakes, but Apple rarely admits to making mistakes. That happened during this week's earnings call, where Tim Cook said the company misjudged iPhone 7 Plus inventory.
“One of the things that we did not get right was the mix between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus,” he said on Tuesday. “Demand was much stronger to the iPhone 7 Plus than we had predicted.
“What did we learn from it? Every time we go through a launch, we learn something. And you can bet that we're brushing up our models, and we'll apply everything we learn to the next time.”
Hopefully that means you’ll be able to get the iPhone 8 (and the color) you want on launch day. Not everyone was able to get the specific iPhone 7 Plus they wanted last year.
- Our big, big list: Best Apple Watch apps
7. India is the future
It's tough to say which topics Cook talks about more consistently: how he’s bullish on AR, or sees growth in India. Right on cue, he mentioned India again in this week’s earning call (and AR in his TV interview).
“We've been investing quite a bit,” he said. “We have a ton of energy going into the country on a number of fronts, and it is the third largest smartphone market in the world today behind China and the United States.
“Now that the 4G infrastructure is going in the country and is continuing to be expanded there is a huge opportunity for Apple there.”
It leads up to believe that the more affordable may not be a one-time product if Apple really wants to compete with other in the country.
- Small, but still an iPhone: our iPhone SE review
More to come at WWDC
The next time we’re scheduled to hear from Tim Cook is at Apple’s WWDC on June 5. We're unlikely hear about the new iPhone there, either.
, macOS 10.13 and watchOS 4 may take center stage instead. We’ll also likely see new trailers for Apple’s foray into streaming original content, not new phone hardware.
However, we expect another flurry of iPhone 8 hints, and another piece that dives more deeply into Tim Cook’s comments. That's more than a hint from us.