Later this year, Apple (AAPL 0.17%) is expected to launch three new iPhone models. The one that seemingly has the bulk of press, consumer, and investor mindshare is the rumored "premium" iPhone 8.
This phone is expected to pack in all sorts of new features, like a full-face OLED display, 3D sensing technology, and many other interesting and potentially unique capabilities.
However, alongside that flashy new model -- a device that's rumored to be significantly more expensive than past iPhone models have been -- Apple is reportedly planning direct successors to the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones.
The new phones are expected to look similar to their predecessors; they're expected to use liquid crystal displays (LCD), rather than the more sophisticated OLED technology that'll be used on the premium iPhone; and they probably won't include all of the camera advancements that the premium model will.
Nevertheless, there are several enhancements Apple could make to these "less exciting" iPhone models that could make them compelling products.
Here are a couple.
Upgraded display tech
Apple's two lower-end iPhone models this time around are still going to employ LCD technology, but as Apple and others have shown, LCD technology can improve substantially over time.
That feature should improve the user experience, as it allows the display to adjust its color temperature based on surrounding lighting conditions.
Moreover, Apple's recently launched 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets include some display-related features that could make their way into this year's LCD iPhones.
For example, the displays on the new iPad Pro models are brighter than the displays on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus; Apple could carry over those brighter displays to this year's LCD iPhones.
Furthermore, Apple's new iPad Pro devices have what the company markets as a "ProMotion display" -- a fancy term for displays with a high refresh rate. These make the user experience much smoother.
Though I had previously expressed skepticism that Apple would include ProMotion displays in this year's iPhones, a report from Bloomberg said that Apple is testing "screens that can display content at a higher frame rate" for this year's iPhones. "The faster screens in testing are the same as the ProMotion displays in Apple's latest iPad tablets," Bloomberg reported, citing "people familiar with the product."
If Apple can bring this ProMotion tech to all its iPhone models this year, that could be a really compelling selling point.
Faster A11 Fusion chip
Apple's upcoming A11 Fusion chip, which should offer significant performance enhancements and feature additions relative to the A10 Fusion found in the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones, is expected to make its way into all of this year's iPhone models.
Although customers are probably not buying smartphones based on "speeds and feeds," the A11 Fusion chip should make general usage snappier through higher CPU performance, and help make intensive 3D games run more smoothly.
It could also enable some interesting camera features that are simply beyond what the A10 Fusion-powered iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus can deliver -- another nice boost to the user experience.
Clearly, Apple's OLED-based iPhone is going to steal the proverbial show, but there will be potential iPhone customers who simply won't pay the hefty price tag that the upcoming premium iPhone is likely to command.
So for that customer base, which is likely to be rather substantial, Apple still needs to deliver a great, compelling product that gives them reasons to buy new phones.
I think Apple generally knows what it's doing, so I expect the company to deliver strong iPhone 7s and 7s Plus devices this year, even if they pale in comparison to the awesomeness that is likely to be the OLED-based iPhone.