Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) 2017 iPhone lineup hasn't even been announced yet, but already, we're beginning to see purported leaks about the company's 2018 iPhone lineup, referred to as the iPhone 9.
Per a new report from The Bell (via MacRumors), Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup will include devices with the following display sizes: 5.28 inches and 6.46 inches. The report also claims that Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Display, which is expected to supply the OLED displays for this year's iPhone 8, will also provide the OLED displays for the upcoming iPhone 9 models.
Does this report make sense? Let's take a closer look.
The core concept is good
Fundamentally, the idea of offering premium iPhone models in two sizes is good. Apple's iPhones have come in two display sizes (4.7 inches and 5.5 inches) since 2014, and even though this year's iPhone 8 is expected to come in a single display size (5.8 inches), it should be accompanied by so-called "iPhone 7s" models with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch liquid crystal displays (the display technology Apple currently uses in its iPhones) at more mainstream price points, too.
It makes sense, then, that as Apple more broadly deploys OLED displays in its product lineup that it would offer phones in multiple sizes to appeal to a wider range of tastes.
Further, it seems reasonable to expect that Apple will completely ditch liquid crystal displays in new models (outside of, perhaps, a low-cost successor to the current iPhone SE) beginning in 2018. So, rather than offer a "special edition" OLED iPhone with a 5.8-inch display (a sort of "compromise" size) alongside the standard 4.7-inch/5.5-inch LCD versions, Apple might instead choose to offer small and large iPhone models with OLED displays.
Though I might not be inclined to take the rumored iPhone 9 display sizes as fact based on this single report, I'm confident that Apple will indeed offer the iPhone 9 in two display sizes, and that those displays will be OLED-based.
An uncomfortable question
Here's an interesting -- and, potentially uncomfortable -- question worth asking: What happens to the concept of the "premium" iPhone in this scenario?
Would Apple apply the same pricing structure that it plans to roll out with the iPhone 8 to the rumored 6.46-inch version, and then offer the 5.28-inch version at more standard price points? Or would Apple offer up yet-another special edition along with the more "mainstream" models in this lineup?
Alternatively, Apple could simply price the 5.28-inch/6.46-inch models at the price points that the iPhone 7/7 Plus currently occupy and lower the price ceiling that this year's iPhone 8 model is likely to raise. Such a move would pose a risk to Apple's average iPhone selling price during the iPhone 9 cycle, though.
At this point, it's not clear what Apple is going to do, and there are certainly pros and cons to each potential path. I suspect that even Apple itself is probably going to want to see the initial data from this year's iPhone product cycle before determining its pricing/positioning strategy for the iPhone 9.