This ‘dark mode’ iPhone 7 might make Darth Vader squee

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iPhone 7 concept with black aluminum case and OLED dark mode screen
iPhone 7 concept with black aluminum case and OLED dark mode screen.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

With so many iPhone 7 leaks and rumors on the interwebs right now, there may not be many surprises left by the time Apple unveils the device. But what if everything we think we know is wrong? Could all the iPhone 7 rumors be pointing toward something more interesting than the current crop of leaked photos?

Creating these iPhone 7 mockups based on recent rumors made me realize that the next iPhone could be a real black beauty.

Putting together the iPhone 7 clues

Agent Cooper from cult TV show Twin Peaks once said, “When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same point of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention.” And so it is with Apple rumors.

Two recent clues pertaining to the iPhone 7 suggest it could be getting a dark makeover: the Space Gray as “formal black” rumor, and the resources in the iOS 10 beta suggesting a new dark mode. Combined with a rumored OLED screen, this means the next iPhone could look a lot like the Space Gray Apple Watch Sport.

iOS 10's new dark mode on an OLED display could make the screen seamlessly blend with the bezel
iOS 10’s new dark mode on an OLED display could make the screen seamlessly blend with the bezel.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Taking design cues from Apple Watch

There has always been a pattern to the way Apple designs its products. A new style is initially featured on one product line, and is then rolled out across many others. Translucent “Bondi blue” plastic was first used on the original iMac, but later appeared on the PowerMac G3 and the iBook. The iPod was first to sport a seamless shiny black bezel around the screen, which later showed up on the iMac, MacBook, iPad and iPhone.

So it is reasonable to suppose that the Apple Watch design language may provide us with clues to where the rest of Apple’s products are heading. And one of the most popular Apple Watch models is the Space Gray aluminum case with the black Sport Band.

In these iPhone 7 mockups, I’ve drawn the device in a style similar to the photography Apple uses for Apple Watch. I’ve taken some artistic license, adding glossy reflections that arguably make my “dark mode iPhone 7” look more like black stainless than aluminum. In reality, the phone would probably not look quite this shiny, but I couldn’t resist.

iOS 10’s rumored dark mode would look amazing on an OLED display

Apple Watch is also notable for the black backgrounds of its on-screen design. This saves battery life, since the device’s OLED screen uses less power to display black, and also makes the edges of the screen blend seamlessly with the bezel surrounding the display. So much so that Apple specifically tells third-party developers to design right to the edge of the screen because the bezel “provides a natural visual padding around your content that eliminates the need for additional padding.”

This looks great on an Apple Watch, but would look even more incredible on an iPhone 7 running iOS 10 with its rumored new dark mode. While most rumors right now suggest OLED screens won’t make an appearance until iPhone 8, possibly next year, the fact that Apple is already working on a dark mode for iOS may suggest it is coming sooner. It would certainly be a cool surprise if it did.

In these mockups, I’ve deliberately not drawn the edges of the screen, and I’ve inverted the colors of the display to give the user interface a back background.

Dual-lens technology could win the battle of the bulge

Most of the iPhone 7 leaks currently doing the rounds show the camera still protruding from the back of the phone. This was one of the ugliest aspects of the iPhone 6 design, and it will be disappointing if Apple still has not found a way to solve the problem.

One grain of hope lies in Apple’s acquisition of Israeli camera technology company LinX Imaging last year. In April, MacRumors reported that a multi-aperture camera could be more compact, eliminating the need for a camera bump on the back of future devices. Which means I could finally rest my iPhone on the table without it wobbling.

That’s why for this mockup, I’ve shown a dual-lens camera behind a sheet of glass that sits flush with the iPhone’s aluminum body.

iPhone 7 could look super-sleek with no camera bulge or antenna lines
iPhone 7 would look super-sleek with no camera bulge or antenna lines.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Drawing the line at antenna lines

The iPhone’s antenna lines are an ugly necessity. They allow cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radio signals to pass through the phone’s case. But they don’t look pretty.

For some time now, rumors have suggested that there will be fewer antenna lines on iPhone 7, with most leaked designs showing the two horizontal lines on the back disappearing and the rounded lines at the top and bottom remaining. But what would be better than fewer lines? No lines at all.

Back in 2015, we reported on an Apple patent for a composite material that looks just like the anodized metal used in iPhone cases, but that allows wireless signals to get through — allowing for seamless phone designs without unsightly antenna bands.

Based on current rumors, it seems unlikely that this will make its way into the iPhone 7 design, but it seemed like a reasonable justification for leaving the lines off these mockups altogether.

iPhone 7 mockup featuring black anodized aluminum case, OLED display and iOS 10 dark mode
iPhone 7 mockup featuring black anodized aluminum case, OLED display and iOS 10 dark mode.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Anyone can see they’re photoshopped

I drew all these iPhone 7 mockups in Photoshop by overlaying shapes, gaussian blurs and semi-opaque gradations. The dark mode screen grabs were just inverted in Photoshop, with the curves tweaked to make the gray text lighter and the hues adjusted to keep the accent color blue. I’ve tried to emulate the photography style favored by Cupertino.

The mockups are just speculation for fun, based upon rumors, without any insider knowledge. Let us know if you have better ideas for iPhone 7 in the comments.

The making of the mockup
The making of the mockup.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac