Investors following Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) know that the company follows what has been widely referred to as a "tick-tock" development model for its iPhone. In one year, the company releases a new industrial design, and in the other, it uses the same basic industrial design as in the prior year, but with upgraded internals.
Last year, Apple rolled out the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which were fundamental redesigns of the consumer electronics giant's popular handsets. This year, however, Apple is expected to focus principally on internal improvements while retaining the same basic iPhone 6/6 Plus designs.
From what has leaked to the Web, I believe that there is a strong chance that the iPhone 6s could be the biggest "s" update in the history of the iPhone.
A long list of improvements
In moving from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6s, a number of sources report (including KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo, 9to5Mac, and Cult of Mac) that Apple is including the following major upgrades:
- A faster and more capable system on a chip.
- 2 gigabytes of faster LPDDR4 memory, up from 1 gigabyte of slower LPDDR3 in the iPhone 6.
- Use of Qualcomm's MDM9x35 modem, which supports double the download speeds of the prior-generation MDM9x25 used in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
- The inclusion of Force Touch.
- A 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.
- Improved Touch ID.
To put things into perspective, Apple's iPhone 5s -- at the time touted by Apple as the "most forward thinking" iPhone that the company had released to date -- didn't offer the scope of improvements over its predecessor that we are likely to see on the iPhone 6s.
The 5s was a major upgrade in that Apple brought in a much faster processor, moved from older generation LPDDR2 to faster LPDDR3 memory, added Touch ID, and improved the camera subsystem (with a better rear-facing camera and the addition of "true-tone flash").
That said, the 5s didn't see an increase in RAM capacity (while the 6s is expected to double memory capacity), nor did it include something on the order of Force Touch, which Apple refers to as "the most significant new sensing capability since Multi-Touch."
Apple also reused the same LTE modem between the iPhone 5 and the 5s, while with the 6s, Apple is opting to deliver a significant boost in cellular modem capability. In light of this, I also wouldn't be surprised if Apple were to include a more capable Wi-Fi connectivity chip as well -- something that it didn't do in transitioning from the 5 to the 5s.
This looks like a great "s" update
Based on the specifications of the iPhone 6s that have leaked to the Web so far, it's looking like Apple has a winner on its hands with this device. Interestingly enough, Apple CEO Tim Cook said on the company's most recent earnings call that only 27% of the iPhone installed base (before the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) have upgraded to Apple's latest phones.
For customers who didn't upgrade to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I believe that the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will prove to be extremely compelling options. Although it's too soon to tell if Apple will be able to grow iPhone sales year over year during the iPhone 6s cycle (as the company faces very tough year-over-year comparisons), the company seems to be doing all of the right things from a product perspective to put the odds squarely in its favor.