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So much has been written about Apple's upcoming flagship smartphone dubbed as the iPhone 7 but no one is still sure of its release date with some reports claiming that it could happen in the third quarter of this year while others say it could be pushed to next year.

A report by Value Walk has claimed that Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has sent out a note to investors that Apple might release its flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7, this year instead of the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6s Plus or the 4-inch iPhone 6c. Its release date could fall in September if released this year.

However, Apple Insider had reported earlier that Apple Inc. might unveil the iPhone 6s and perhaps the iPhone 6S Plus with Apple SIM (universal SIM card) pre-installed in September this year.

Though not sure if Apple's upcoming flagship smartphone will see the light of day this year, several patents the company has filed have given hope that the device could come with some special features not seen in its predecessor, the iPhone 6.

Special Features Expected in the iPhone 7:

Touch Surface for Simulating Materials

The Cupertino giant has applied for a patent titled "Touch Surface for Simulating Materials" and it has been published on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"A system for simulating materials using touch surfaces includes a touch surface, an actuator and/or an temperature control device, and a control unit. The control unit controls the actuator or the temperature control device to cause at least a portion of the touch surface to simulate a material. Such control may include utilizing the actuator to vibrate the surface to simulate the tactile sensation of texture," reads the latest patent.

"Such control may also include utilizing the temperature control device (such as a Peltier device) to control the temperature of the surface in order to simulate the thermal conductivity of a material. In some cases, the temperature control may be performed utilizing a temperature sensor to adjust the temperature of the surface. In various cases, the vibration and/or temperature may be varied over time, such as in response to one or more touches detected using one or more touch sensors."

Camera: Mirror Tilt Actuation

Apple has filed a patent titled "Mirror Tilt Actuation" and it has been published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to Apple Insider. It talked about improving picture quality with the use of image sensors and "OIS adjusts the direction of the field of view of the camera to compensate for user motion." 

"Some embodiments include an image sensor and a zoom lens assembly including a plurality of movable lens elements arranged to be moved independent of one another," reads the patent. "The lens and mirror assembly includes a mirror for folding the path of light from the optical axis of the first lens to the optical axis of the plurality of movable lens elements, and the lens and mirror assembly further includes an actuator for tilting the mirror." 

Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device

Apple Inc. had filed for a patent that reads: "Protective mechanism for an electronic device" and the US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded the same. It claimed that a device can be avoided from falling flat on the screen by using vibration motor to adjust gravity.

"An electronic device including a processor, a sensor in communication with the processor and a protective mechanism. The protective mechanism is in communication with the processor and is configured to selectively alter a center of mass of the electronic device. Additionally, the electronic device also includes an enclosure configured to at least partially enclose the processor and the sensor," reads a statement on US Patent and Trademark Office website site.

Elevated Joystick

It was reported earlier this year that Apple had filed a patent hinting a possible introduction of a low-profile joystick to its devices. The technology could change mobile phone gaming if it comes true. According to a report by Mail Online, a touch on the screen of an Apple device could transform into an elevated joystick with single click and then falls back to original state with just a push.

"The multi-function input device is operable in at least a first mode and a second mode," reads the patent obtained by Mail Online. "In one example, the multi-function input device may have a button mode and a joystick mode."

It is not known if Apple will implement its patents in the near future but they have sparked off speculations that these features could be introduced in its upcoming flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 is expected to sport a screen bigger than that of the iPhone 6 and protected by sapphire crystal glass, powered by A9 processor, come packed with 2GB RAM, and house a 14MP main camera and 4MP front snapper.