Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has yet to launch this year's iPhone models, but at this point, quite a lot is known about the devices. Based on what we know about the upcoming iPhone models, as well as what some of Apple's suppliers are known to have coming down the pike, I'd like to put out my initial expectations for the premium iPhone model that is almost certain to launch in 2018.
There's been a lot of buzz about smartphones with gigabit LTE capability. However, because Apple wants to source parts from both cellular modem leader Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) as well as challenger Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), this year's iPhone models aren't expected to support gigabit LTE speeds.
However, as I noted recently, both Intel and Qualcomm should have credible gigabit LTE modems available in high volume next year (only Qualcomm has them available in volume this year). So, I think that the odds are extremely high that the next iPhone -- at the very least, the premium model -- will pack gigabit LTE capability.
This year's iPhone model is expected to feature an Apple-designed A11 Fusion processor built using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (NYSE:TSM) 10-nanometer technology. This 10-nanometer tech is expected to deliver a significant chip area reduction relative to TSMC's 16-nanometer tech (used to manufacture the current A10 Fusion processor).
However, TSMC's 10-nanometer tech is also expected to be quite short-lived. Indeed, TSMC has indicated that it plans to ramp its next-generation 7-nanometer technology in the first half of 2018. This means that Apple's A12 Fusion chip (or whatever Apple calls the chip inside its 2018 iPhone) should be manufactured using TSMC's 7-nanometer technology.
The 7-nanometer technology should enable both a performance/power efficiency enhancement as well as an area reduction relative to TSMC's 10-nanometer technology -- all good stuff for 2018 iPhone models and customers thereof.
More aggressively curved display
Per generally reliable news source Nikkei Asian Review, this year's premium iPhone will include a curved OLED display. However, the curve on the display, the report says, "will be gentler than screens in Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Galaxy S7 Edge handsets."
"This is partly due to the challenges of making curved glass covers to match screens," Nikkei reported, citing "a source familiar with the design."
I suspect that, in a bid to continually innovate year in and year out to avoid an iPhone 6s/iPhone 7-like "lull" in features that the average buyer cares about, Apple is working hard to try to get a more aggressively curved display on its 2018 premium iPhone model.
Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple "waterfall" the more gently curved OLED displays to its more mainstream-priced iPhone models next year, with the "premium" model getting the cooler curves.