Over on Twitter, well-known mobile-device leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer tweeted out the following image:

Image source: Weibo via Nowherelse.fr.

This image is purportedly of Apple's (AAPL 0.76%) upcoming iPhone lineup. Interestingly, a number of Hemmerstoffer's readers were quick to denounce these as "fake" because under the word "iPhone" there is an 's' inside of a box. Apple began putting this 's' on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus phones to denote that those phones were the newer iPhone 6s rather than the older iPhone 6.

So, if these are supposed to be leaks of the iPhone 7, the 's' shouldn't be there, right?

Who says that the next phone series will be called iPhone 7?

Although it is commonly believed that Apple will call its next-generation phone the iPhone 7 (and that the follow-on to the iPhone 7 will be called the iPhone 8, skipping over the iPhone 7s entirely), I don't see why this necessarily has to be the case.

In fact, from a marketing perspective, I could see Apple choosing to skip the iPhone 7 altogether to jump to the iPhone 7s. This would make the next iPhone seem, at least to many customers, like a significant jump. Never underestimate the power of clever branding.

Furthermore, Apple could easily justify it from a technical perspective. Let's took a look at how.

What will Apple deliver with the next iPhone?

This new iPhone clearly has an updated industrial design. The antenna lines that run across the top and bottom of the device's body now appear to be gone, providing what is broadly viewed as a cleaner look. So, the design itself is probably "new" enough to justify a jump from the 6 series to the 7 series.

Beyond that, though, I believe that Apple has significant technical innovations/enhancements in store for the devices. Processing performance is likely to get a large boost; the camera subsystems should see significant improvements (making up for the fairly underwhelming improvements seen in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus); both cellular and Wi-Fi performance should be up nicely; and I think that it's about time for a substantially enhanced display, too.

The technical improvements that Apple is likely to bring to the next device are certainly far more than what one would expect from a typical "new number" iPhone. In fact, it's probably not unreasonable to argue that the next iPhone has all of the improvements that one would expect from a "new number" phone and its subsequent 's' variant all rolled into one.

I don't think it would be disingenuous of Apple, then, to call the next iPhone the iPhone 7s.

So is this picture legitimate?

Although you can never be 100% sure with these sorts of leaks, my inclination is to believe that these tweeted images are legitimate or, at the very least, are representative of what the next iPhone lineup is going to look like.

After all, the new phones should be announced within the next couple of months, so it would be a surprise if leaks at this point weren't legitimate. But, as always, time will tell.