Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster (via Barron's) recently put out a set of predictions about the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 7. In particular, he thinks that the new iPhone, which is expected to debut in the fall of 2016, will have the following features/changes:
- 50% chance of a home button-less design, with Touch ID sensor moved elsewhere on the phone (potentially to the side, per Munster)
- Sapphire display cover glass (rather than the "dual Ion-X" glass currently in use)
- Better battery life
In this article, I'd like to offer up my own predictions for the iPhone 7.
Another big specification upgrade
With the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple delivered what was arguably one of the biggest internal upgrades generation-on-generation. I believe that Apple will continue to make large strides in internal specifications as it leverages its now structurally higher average selling prices and substantially increased volume scale (i.e. supplier leverage) to deliver bleeding edge features while keeping its cost structure in check.
To this end, I'm expecting a number of major specification upgrades. The A10 applications processor, though built on the familiar 16-nanometer FinFET Plus manufacturing technology, should bring a number of improvements. The image signal processor is likely to be more robust, supporting a number of new camera features. The CPU cores should be improved and clocked slightly higher as well, and Apple will almost certainly use a new graphics architecture.
Cellular and Wi-Fi should be much improved as well. I expect Apple to move from the Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) MDM9635 to the MDM9645 LTE-Advanced modem, which should bring a doubling in maximum theoretical download speeds and a tripling in maximum theoretical upload speeds. In support of these speeds (which should require three carrier aggregation on the downlink and introduce two carrier aggregation on the downlink), RF content inside of the next iPhone should go up.
Finally, I suspect that if Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM) releases a faster Wi-Fi combo chip than the one currently found in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus (which appears to be Broadcom's best) then there's a good chance Apple will adopt it.
A major display enhancement
Another big improvement that Apple will likely bring to the table here is an all-new display. Upon release, Apple has tended to have some of the best, if not the, best displays on the market in terms of color accuracy, contrast, and brightness. I believe we will see another big jump in display quality and performance.
According to a report from DigiTimes, Japan Display will be Apple's top display supplier in 2016. This suggests that Apple will continue to use liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, in its next generation phone rather than use AMOLED displays.
The major improvements that I expect in the iPhone 7/7 Plus displays over the ones found in the 6s/6s Plus are as follows:
- A significant boost in typical contrast ratio from 1400:1 and 1300:1 in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively, to at least 1800:1 for both devices.
- An increase in resolution for the iPhone 7 to bring the number of pixels per inch up from 326 to approximately 400, in-line with the pixel density seen on the current iPhone 6s Plus. Whether Apple chooses to increase the resolution of the 7 Plus model remains to be seen, but I suspect competitive pressures with flagship Android handsets may drive the company to include a 2560-by-1440 panel.
An all new industrial design
Finally, in line with Apple's product release history, I expect an all-new industrial design. I disagree with Munster, though, in that there is even a chance that Apple will remove the physical home button with this product generation.
Indeed, a report from Apple Insider, citing an apparently reliable source, claims that although Apple does hope to eventually remove the physical home button in its iPhone down the line, such a move isn't likely to happen over the next few years.
What I expect from an industrial design perspective, then, is this:
- The phone should be much thinner; KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple is aiming to reduce the thickness of its upcoming phones to between 6 millimeters and 6.5 millimeters.
- The phones should have much slimmer bezels, allowing the next generation iPhones to have more competitive screen-to-body ratios.
All told, the iPhone 7/7 Plus should represent very nice improvements in both design and specifications from the current iPhone 6s/6s Plus and a substantial leap in features and capabilities from the iPhone 6/6 Plus and earlier. It will be interesting to look back at this set of predictions once the first concrete information about the iPhone 7 begins to leak to the Web.