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Should You Believe This iPhone Rumor?

By Ashraf Eassa - Updated Dec 8, 2017 at 1:35PM

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Producing a low-cost LCD iPhone without Apple's 3D Touch technology wouldn't make sense.

Next year, Apple (AAPL 0.96%) is expected to launch a relatively low-cost iPhone with a 6.1-inch full-face display similar to the one found on today's premium iPhone X, but with a key catch: Instead of using more advanced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays that offer better image quality and faster response times, Apple would instead use a cheaper liquid crystal display (LCD). 

According to a new report from Nomura Securities (as relayed by Business Insider), this low-cost LCD iPhone won't include Apple's 3D Touch technology, which allows the display to sense the intensity of a user's press. 

Apple's iPhone 8 Plus in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold.

Image source: Apple.

Here's why I don't believe that rumor. 

3D Touch is part of the iPhone ecosystem

Every iPhone available for sale today, except for the ultra-low-cost iPhone SE, includes Apple's 3D Touch technology, which was first introduced in the second half of 2015 with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus smartphones. 

Although 3D Touch wasn't quite the killer feature that Apple might have hoped it would be, the reality is that over the last few years both Apple and iOS app developers have worked to integrate 3D Touch more deeply within the iOS ecosystem -- at least for iPhones (iPad tablets have yet to adopt the feature and it's not clear if they ever will).  

iPhone 6s in rose gold.

Image source: Apple.

Yes, iPhones without 3D Touch exist in the installed base (e.g., iPhone 5s, iPhone 6/6 Plus, and iPhone SE) and make up a nontrivial portion of the iPhone installed base, but I'd imagine that the number of 3D Touch-enabled iPhones currently in use dramatically outnumbers that of non-3D Touch capable iPhones. 

3D Touch is now a feature that's expected to be available on all future iPhones, at least until it's supplanted by something fundamentally better.

This isn't a cheap phone

For a product like the iPhone SE, which starts at $349, it's easy to forgive the omission of 3D Touch -- customers buying such low-cost devices (at least relative to the rest of the iPhone lineup) know up front that they're buying a device designed to be extremely cost-sensitive. 

However, Nomura Securities says that the upcoming 6.1-inch LCD iPhone is expected to go after the $650-$900 iPhone segment -- I personally wouldn't be surprised to see it start at $699 and go to $849 for the version with higher storage capacity. 

That's not a cheap phone -- that's a premium iPhone in the eyes of virtually everyone except perhaps Apple, which will presumably have much pricier devices available in the form of the successor to this year's iPhone X and its jumbo counterpart. 

Since this isn't an inexpensive phone, Apple can't really afford to remove a feature that has become a more integral part of the user experience just to save a few bucks on the bill-of-materials cost.

Dismiss this rumor

At this point, my inclination is to dismiss this rumor. Given the supposed price point and market positioning of the upcoming LCD iPhone, cutting 3D Touch out of the device would be a terrible idea. 

Indeed, the 6.1-inch iPhone is likely to target users with iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 series devices, and I think that the product becomes substantially less attractive if it does away with a feature that the potential target market is so accustomed to having.

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