This fall, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to launch three new iPhones. The first is expected to be a straightforward successor to this year's iPhone X -- think internal upgrades in a virtually identical form factor. The second is expected to simply be a larger version of the upgraded iPhone X.
And, finally, Apple is expected to launch an iPhone with a 6.1-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) aimed at more affordable price points. LCDs are a cheaper, less advanced type of mobile display technology than organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), which will be used in the successor to the iPhone X and its larger sibling.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently published (via MacRumors) some details about this year's upcoming 6.1-inch iPhone that I think investors should pay close attention to.
The key specifications
According to Kuo, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will have a single rear camera, just as the current iPhone 8 does. The more advanced dual-camera systems will be exclusive to the next-generation iPhone X and its larger counterpart.
Additionally, Kuo says that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will use an aluminum frame, once again just as the current iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus do. The current iPhone X uses a more expensive (and arguably more aesthetically pleasing) stainless-steel frame.
Interestingly, Kuo claims that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will use a logic board similar to the ones used in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, rather than a more advanced substrate-like printed circuit board, or SLP, that the current iPhone X and the next-generation iPhone X-class devices should use.
The analyst also expects the new 6.1-inch LCD iPhone to use a rectangular battery rather than an "L-shaped" battery (this can either be two cells connected together or a single battery cell in an "L" shape), likely in a bid to cut costs.
Kuo says that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will incorporate 3GB of RAM -- the same as today's iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, but lower than the 4GB that Kuo says the next-generation iPhone X models will have.
And, finally, Kuo claims that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will lack the company's pressure-sensitive display technology, known as 3D Touch.
Kuo is a well-connected and highly respected analyst who rarely gets the features and capabilities of future iPhones wrong. To that end, I fully believe that all of the specifications that he's given for the 6.1-inch iPhone so far are accurate.
From what Kuo describes, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone looks like a device that's designed to bring the essence and the goodness of the iPhone X to a more affordable price point. The key features like a nearly bezel-free display, Apple's depth-sensing TrueDepth camera, and high-quality internal hardware are all there.
Where Apple seems to be cutting back is in the areas that aren't absolutely essential to the user experience. For example, using a cheaper aluminum frame isn't going to fundamentally impact the user experience relative to a device with a stainless steel one.
Additionally, while the dual-lens camera that debuted on the iPhone 7 Plus in late 2016 was a big selling point for the device, it's a cost adder that most smartphone buyers probably aren't willing to pay extra for. Users who absolutely have to have the dual-lens camera can opt for the successor to the iPhone X or its larger sibling.
Finally, Apple's 3D Touch technology really hasn't caught on in the way that Apple seemed to hope it would. 3D Touch adds additional component cost and manufacturing complexity, so I can see why Apple would strip it from the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, particularly if Apple hopes to price the device aggressively without dinging its profit margins.
Indeed, as an added bonus for Apple, 3D Touch now becomes a selling point for the higher-end iPhone models, which could push customers who really enjoy 3D Touch toward the more expensive iPhones, ultimately boosting Apple's iPhone average selling prices and profits.