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Buy an iPhone as a gift now or wait until 2017 holidays?

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You’ve just thought of the perfect holiday gift for that special someone in your life -- a new iPhone. (Aided, perhaps, by Apple’s first-ever Black Friday sale, with gift cards that offer savings of up to $150 on certain products.) This person may have an older iPhone that’s showing its age and is almost ready to be retired. Or the person may be a smartphone guru who likes to have the latest model. Either way, you know your gift recipient would enjoy unwrapping a brand-new iPhone for the holidays.

Aah, but there’s a decision to be made. Released in September, the iPhone 7 is outfitted with various tweaks and new features but little in the way of major enhancements, making it mostly a minor upgrade over its predecessor. So depending on which iPhone your gift recipient currently owns, he or she may find little to get jazzed about in terms of the new phone’s features.

On the flip side, rumors have been flying that the 2017 iPhone will be a major upgrade with a host of cool new features and enhancements. Indeed, 2017 will mark the 10th year anniversary of the first iPhone, and the scuttlebut is that Apple is planning a host of substantial changes to the phone to mark the occasion.

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So what exactly does the current iPhone offer, what might next year’s model look and act like, and do you buy now or wait until 2017?

Apple has a history of releasing a major new iPhone every other year, with minor new versions in between. So the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 carried with them hefty new enhancements, while the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6S offered only a few significant improvements. But that pattern took a reverse course this year as the iPhone 7 was a more modest upgrade, though not without some advances of course.

Stereo speakers are one new feature in the iPhone 7. For the first time in the phone’s life, it offers two speakers at the bottom for true stereo sound. Unfortunately, to add the extra speaker, Apple had to remove the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. That means you either have to get an adapter to use your older headphones and earbuds or buy new ones that either plug into the phone’s Lightning port or work wirelessly over a Bluetooth connection. Apple does package a pair of Lightning EarPods with the phone.

Photo buffs will certainly find stuff to like with the new iPhone 7. The 4.7-inch-screened iPhone 7 now has a 23mm wide-angle lens to capture more of the scene. The 5.5-inch-screened iPhone 7 Plus now has dual cameras, which join forces to complement each other and work as one. The phone combines data from both a wide-angle and a telephoto lens to create higher-quality images.

The new phone is also water-resistant so you don’t need to worry much about getting it wet. The iPhone 7’s new Home button is no longer a physical button but rather a pressure-sensitive one that provides tactile feedback when you press it. The phone also boasts other improvements, such as a faster processor than that found in the 6S and longer battery life on a single charge.

Okay, well, when you put all those features together, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sound like talented phones. But then we go back to the question of whether either would make the right holiday gift for your special someone now or whether you should wait to buy the 2017 model instead.

Which features might owners of next year’s model enjoy? Right now, everything is naturally in the rumor stage. We don’t know anything for sure about the 2017 iPhone beyond reports claiming it will be a major upgrade with several sexy new features. But let’s dive into some of the more informed conjecture.

First, Apple may decide not to name next year’s phone the iPhone 7S as would be expected. Instead, the phone would be such a major upgrade that the company may dub it the iPhone 8.

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One report says that Apple will introduce three different models of the iPhone 8 with three different screen sizes -- 4.7 inches, 5.1 inches, and 5.5 inches. The phone may dispense with the top and bottom bezels, which currently provide space to the front-facing camera and the Home button. Instead, the screen will stretch all the way to the edges of the phone, meaning large screen sizes without the need for large phones. If this proves true, then the camera and Home button may be built directly into the screen.

The display, at least on the 5.5-inch-screened iPhone, would be made of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) rather than the LCD (liquid crystal display) found on today’s iPhones. The advantage of an OLED display is that it’s thinner and more flexible than an LCD screen, chews up less power, and provides brighter and more vivid colors. Apple may also equip next year’s iPhone with a glass body on at least one of the three new flavors. Glass is more resistant to scratches than is the aluminum used in current iPhones.

Other cool features for next year’s iPhone could include iris or facial scanning and wireless charging. And there’s likely to be more up Apple’s sleeve to celebrate the phone’s 10th anniversary.

How solid are these rumors? Several of them come from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid track record of accurately predicting future changes to Apple devices.

Okay, so those are some of the facts, features, and rumors of the iPhone. But you still face a few options, actually three options rather than just two. You can buy your favorite smartphone user an iPhone this year and leave it at that. You can buy an iPhone this year, paying the full retail price with the option to upgrade to the 2017 version and then pick up next year’s model as your 2017 holiday gift. But that may be more of a commitment and obligation than you want. Or you can wait until next year to buy the 2017 iPhone.

If the person on your gift list desparately needs a new iPhone, you can certainly consider the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. If not, your best option is probably to hold off another year for the 2017 iPhone. That way, you can shower your gift recipient with a potentially exciting and innovative mobile device that should be more than worth waiting for.

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