Early on in the Apple (AAPL -1.96%) 2016 iPhone rumor cycle, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo floated the idea that the iDevice maker might introduce two variants of its next-generation 5.5-inch iPhone: one with a single-lens camera and one with a dual-lens camera.
However, the analyst later revised that prediction, saying that the company would only introduce a single version of the next 5.5-inch iPhone. And, unsurprisingly, it would come with a dual lens camera.
But a recent image leaked to the web shows what appear to be mockups of three distinct iPhone models: iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and iPhone 7 Pro. The first two sport single-lens rear-facing cameras, while the last one shows a device that's nearly identical to the iPhone 7 Plus, but with a dual-lens camera instead.
This image has renewed speculation that the iDevice maker might be planning to put out not just two, but three, new phones in this coming product cycle.
Could be a good way to bolster average selling prices
If Apple does release these three new models, then I would expect that the iPhone 7/7 Plus (if that's what they're ultimately called) to come in at the same price points as the prior-generation models. The Pro model, featuring the dual-lens camera, would then come at a premium.
This strategy would have the potential to bolster Apple's average selling prices. Indeed, for those customers who really value unique camera performance and features, the iPhone Pro could be worth a premium.
At the same time, Apple also appears to be improving its single-lens iPhone camera as well. The leaks that I've seen show a substantially larger camera lens, which could imply that Apple will both widen the maximum aperture of the lenses and even transition to a next-generation CMOS image sensor featuring larger pixels.
In other words, Apple still delivers a generational improvement for the standard iPhones while at the same time introducing an interesting new feature in a higher-end model for those willing to pay extra.
An iPhone Pro would give Apple added freedom
In addition to a dual-lens camera, Apple could opt to endow a potential iPhone Pro with other specification enhancements to really appeal to those buyers that value such features. After all, such a device would likely sell for much more than the standard iPhone Plus model, and Apple could restrict the storage sizes on the Pro models to, say, 128 gigabytes and 256 gigabytes, to further drive upsell.
At much higher prices, Apple could potentially add features that would otherwise be too cost prohibitive. A higher resolution, higher-quality display relative to the one found in the iPhone 7 Plus, for example, could make it into a Pro model. Additional memory and very aggressively binned A10 running at even higher frequencies than typical could also be possibilities.
As Apple faces intense competition from many lesser-known vendors, the company needs to be sure to field products that represent the pinnacle of smartphone technology and innovation. A specialized iPhone Pro model could be the way that Apple gets the bleeding-edge features that couldn't quite make it into the mainstream iPhone models into the hands of consumers.