With Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6s/6s Plus sales not coming in as robustly as the company and its investors might have hoped, the iDevice maker is going to need to pull out all the stops with its next-generation iPhones, likely to be called iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively.
Here are three features that I believe Apple must include in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in order to remain competitive with what I believe next-generation Android flagships will have.
Optical image stabilization for the iPhone 7
When Apple launched the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the latter came with optical image stabilization for still images, while its smaller counterpart did not. Then, with the launch of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, the latter gained support for optical image stabilization for video while the smaller model, like its predecessor, offered neither.
In order for the iPhone 7 to continue to offer a class-leading camera subsystem compared to the top Android phones, I believe that Apple must add optical image stabilization to the device. Ideally, the iPhone 7 will support this feature in both still images and video, although it wouldn't be surprising to see Apple add it for still images in the 7 and for videos in the 7s (though this would probably be a mistake from a competitive perspective).
Greater pixel density for the iPhone 7
One common criticism of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s is that compared to other flagship phones, it sports a relatively low-pixel density of just 326 pixels per inch. Anybody who has used either the iPhone 6 or 6s as well as the iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus will probably be able to tell you that there is a very noticeable difference in the sharpness between the two phones.
With low-cost Android smartphones now packing very sharp displays (1920-by-1080 resolution is becoming very common even in mid-range Android devices, for example), it would practically be a sin for Apple to continue to use a 1334-by-750 display on the next-generation iPhone 7.
Now, the challenge Apple faces is that displays with more pixels consume more power. Apple aims to make each successive smartphone generation thinner and lighter than the previous one, if possible, which limits the company's ability to increase battery size in future iPhones.
However, figuring out how to make higher-resolution, better-looking, and more power-efficient displays is what Apple's engineers, as well as those at the display makers that Apple works so closely with, are paid to figure out.
Although I would also like to see a sharper display for the iPhone 7 Plus, it's probably not as imperative. The key thing that Apple does need to work on with the display for the 7 Plus, though, is to make sure that color accuracy and contrast actually match those on the iPhone 7's display (something it didn't quite achieve with the 6/6s family of phones).
A much more competitive camera subsystem
With the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple introduced a new camera subsystem, adding a much higher-resolution 12 megapixel sensor, up from the 8 megapixel sensor used in the prior-generation iPhone lineup.
Interestingly, though, according to DXOMark, the cameras on the iPhone 6s/6s Plus are actually inferior to those found on a number of top Android phones such as the Nexus 6P, LG G4, and Galaxy S6 Edge. Furthermore, per the test, there was no improvement in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus cameras relative to the iPhone 6/6 Plus.
Given that best-in-class camera performance has been somewhat of a hallmark of the iPhone camera, it is a little distressing to see that Apple isn't leading here.
With the iPhone 7/7 Plus, I would hope to see Apple move up to the top of the rankings compared to its competition, particularly if it wants to continue to keep seeing Android owners switch to iPhone over time.