Although the iPhone 7 is more than a year away from being launched, speculations are already beginning to crop up about what new features and enhancements the upcoming Apple flagship product has in store.

The latest prediction about the iPhone 7 comes from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who sent Apple stocks up by 9 cents at $111.13 after forecasting a price target of $172 for Apple's shares in 2016. The reason for his bullish outlook, Munster says, is the removal and inclusion of certain features in the upcoming smartphone.

Most prominently, Munster believes the iPhone 7 will ditch the home button, an iconic iPhone feature that has always been included in all iPhone models since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007. Although Munster's predictions had always been hit-and-miss — he is famous for being stubborn about a TV set that Apple is supposedly working on — a home button-less iPhone 7 at least has some merits to it.

Munster says Apple's new 3D Touch can finally allow the company to get rid of the home button for the next iPhone. However, Touch ID proves to be the biggest barrier to finally going without the home button and possibly creating a bigger screen for the iPhone 7. The analyst believes Apple may move the fingerprint scanner to the side of the phone, similar to what Sony has done to the Xperia Z5.

Earlier this year, Apple filed a patent for a technology that integrates Touch ID straight into the display, thus removing the need to use a physical button under which the fingerprint sensors are placed. It does not support Munster's prediction about the fingerprint scanner being moved to the side, although it is in line with the idea of a home button-less iPhone 7. Still, Munster boils it all down to a 50 percent chance that the iPhone 7 could get rid of the home button.

"As many have speculated, the addition of 3D Touch may provide Apple with a way to eliminate the home button on the phone and use the additional space to make the screen bigger or make the device smaller," Munster says in a research note to clients. "Apple would need to move the Touch ID reader to potentially the side of the phone to remove the home button. We believe a home-buttonless iPhone has a 50 percent chance for the iPhone 7."

He also believes that the next iPhone will have sapphire glass displays, which isn't too far-fetched, considering Apple initially tried to use scratch-proof sapphire crystal displays for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus before GT Advanced Technologies, its supplier, buckled under the pressure of developing products for the Cupertino firm. Apple already uses sapphire glass displays but at a smaller scale for the Apple Watch.

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr

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