According to Nikkei Asian Review, a generally reliable source for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) supply-chain leaks, Apple has "placed orders for bendable organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels with Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Electronics for use in 70 million handsets this year."
"The large order suggests that Apple expects its new premium iPhone 7 to launched late 2017 to fly off the shelves," Nikkei Asian Review writes.
Apple's going to sell a lot of phones
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this report is that these orders apply just to the rumored premium OLED iPhone 8 -- not to the total number of new iPhone displays the company is ordering displays for.
As you might recall, Apple is also expected to launch iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus smartphones -- essentially upgraded versions of the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus phones -- alongside the new OLED iPhone.
Since the iPhone 8 with an OLED display is expected to be priced at a substantial premium to the standard iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, we should expect that Apple's total build plans for next-generation iPhone models will be well over the 70 million-unit mark reported for the iPhone 8.
It appears Apple is going to sell a lot of smartphones in this coming product cycle. Not only that, but it also stands to see both significant unit shipment increases in addition to a potential blended average selling price boost thanks to the OLED iPhone.
A great cycle for Apple, but...
I think it's reasonable for investors to expect that this coming iPhone product cycle is going to be a phenomenal one for the company. And, to be blunt, the rise in Apple's stock this year of more than 24% as of this writing suggests that investors are, in fact, pricing in a great iPhone product cycle for the company.
What's going to be much tougher to call is what Apple does to keep the momentum going after this potential "super-cycle."
On one hand, I can see a path for Apple to continue to build on a potential super-cycle. If Apple can bring the key innovations of its premium OLED iPhone 8 to the "standard" price points next year while further advancing the premium iPhone with more exclusive features, then Apple's super-cycle could get a second wind.
Apple overestimated demand for the 6s after enjoying an iPhone 6-driven "super-cycle." From that experience, Apple has surely learned that it takes a lot of innovation to keep the momentum going.
At the same time, though, it's going to be quite difficult to meaningfully top what Apple brings to the table with its OLED iPhone. Many of the pain points with the current iPhone devices -- lack of an OLED display and huge bezels come to mind -- should finally be fixed.
What Apple will need to do is to not just improve upon the features already present in the device, although it should do that, but it also needs to find ways to fundamentally improve the user experience with fundamentally new and useful features and functionality.
We'll see in the coming years whether Apple's product-development teams have such features in store.