Apple today announced two new iPhone models, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. Not mentioned, but visible in the tech specs for these devices, is support for FLAC, the free lossless audio codec.
Third party apps have long been able to play FLAC files; after all, they are just files. But this suggests that the iPhone can natively play FLAC files, using hardware decoding. This is interesting, because Apple has long avoided offering any type of FLAC support in iTunes or in its operating systems.
But I looked at the iPhone 7 tech specs, and it also says that it supports FLAC, so maybe Apple just means that the files can be read by third-party apps. If FLAC were natively supported on last year’s phone, a lot of people would have heard about it. I think that this has something to do with iOS 11. Because I looked on an older version of the iPhone 7 tech specs page (via the Wayback Machine), and FLAC support is not mentioned.
So Apple may have updated the iPhone 7 specs to match what iOS 11 supports, but the iPhone 6s does not show this support. So, this is some combination of hardware and software, apparently.
I’ll post more when I find out.