Thanks to a research note from the well-respected Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via Mac Otakara), we now have some more details about the next-generation iPhone. The new iPhone will reportedly be constructed from 7000-series aluminum, which is stronger than the 6000-series -- GSMArena says it's series 6003 -- used in the current iPhone 6/6 Plus models.
That's not all as far as the changes go.
The phones seemingly get thicker, too
In a surprising twist, the phones are expected to see slight changes in physical dimensions. The new phones will reportedly be 0.15 millimeters wider and taller than the current iPhone models and -- get this -- the new phones are expected to be about 0.2 millimeters thicker as a result of the Force Touch capability that is currently expected to be the "headline" feature of the new phones.
The current iPhones are already quite thin, and although "thinner and lighter" is what Apple seems to strive for in each successive generation, I think that the added functionality of Force Touch, as well as all of the other goodies that Apple is said to be packing into the phone, will be more than worth the additional thickness.
Apple actually made a similar sacrifice with the iPad 3 in order to accommodate a larger battery, which was needed to power the first iPad that featured a Retina display.
This is shaping up to be an interesting iPhone release
Although this upcoming iPhone is "just" an "s" update, it's starting to look like a very compelling release. The A9 processor, built on a 14/16-nanometer FinFET technology, should deliver solid performance/power improvements over the A8. The move to 2GB of LPDDR4 means that, not only will the memory interface likely get faster, but there's more memory for media-rich applications, as well.
These changes, coupled with the rumored inclusion of a brand new 12-megapixel rear-camera sensor, Force Touch, and a stronger chassis, seem to be the recipe for a very interesting "s" update.
Will it be enough to keep the growth going?
Although the upcoming iPhone looks as though it will be quite compelling, the big unanswered question among many in the investment community is whether all of this will be enough to drive growth from the strong numbers that Apple saw with the iPhone 6 cycle.
I think that, for most users, these internal upgrades aren't going to be major selling points unless Apple adds software functionality that simply won't run on older-generation iPhones. The camera upgrade should be a solid marketing point, especially if Apple brings major improvements to camera functionality, but the real star of the show will be Force Touch.
If Apple can demonstrate the unequivocal utility of Force Touch, then this could help Apple continue to gain share against high-end Android smartphones, and even catalyze another upgrade cycle.
Only time will tell whether Apple will ever be able to match what it pulled off with the iPhone 6/6 Plus, with which the company drove a very strong upgrade cycle and managed to get customers to "switch" from Android phones at impressive rates.
However, if Apple can give users of older generation iPhones great reasons to upgrade, and if Apple can continue to gain share, then those factors -- coupled with the general growth of the high-end of the smartphone market -- might be enough to allow Apple to deliver iPhone growth during its coming fiscal year.