Although Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has yet to release its upcoming iPhone 7, I believe that recent commentary from one Apple supplier may shed some light on what the iDevice maker may have in store for its 2017 iPhone, the iPhone 7s.
One thing that I have been critical of Apple on is the fact that the company has traditionally kept its displays more or less the same for two generations of iPhones. For example, with the iPhone 6/6 Plus, Apple equipped its flagships with industry-leading LCDs that were very widely praised.
However, when the iPhone 6s/6s Plus came along, Apple recycled the same panels that it had used previously, effectively bringing no improvement to the quality of the display.
After going through comments made during a technology presentation from Apple display supplier Japan Display, I believe that Apple may actually bring an enhanced LCD in the iPhone 7s from the one it introduces with the iPhone 7.
A look at what Japan Display had to say
A key part of a typical liquid crystal display, or an LCD, is the backplane technology used. The backplane is a crucial part of a display and, as Android Authority explains, is a key factor that determines the kind of display resolution and power consumption characteristics of a mobile display.
The displays found on Apple's current flagship iPhones almost certainly use the first generation of Japan Display's Low Temperature Polysilicon, or LTPS, backplane technology. If we take a look at this slide from the aforementioned technology presentation, we see that Japan Display plans to introduce a second generation Advanced LTPS backplane technology in its fiscal year 2016 and a third generation in fiscal year 2017:
As you can see in this slide, the second generation of LTPS should lead to a significant reduction in backplane power consumption (30% drop). The third generation, which the slide indicates goes into mass production during the company's fiscal year 2017, can drive power consumption down by another 42% from the second generation.
Tying this back to Apple and the iPhone
The impression that I get is that these reductions in power consumption can be used in one of two ways. The first is to simply deliver better battery life at a given display resolution (2560-by-1440, or "WQHD" is used as the reference in the slide above), or it can allow for similar power consumption at higher display resolutions.
My bet is that Apple will deliver a resolution increase with the iPhone 7/7 Plus (the current 6s/6s Plus are behind many Android flagships in this regard), and then with the iPhone 7s keep resolution constant while delivering other enhancements to the display quality in addition to a reduction in power consumption.
Will these features be enough to catalyze sales?
I firmly believe that if Apple had introduced meaningful new display technology with the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, the device would have been more attractive to a number of high end buyers. In my view, this could have driven improved sales and potentially even driven average selling prices higher as the price-reduced iPhone 6/6 Plus became less attractive in comparison to the 6s/6s Plus.
If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, Apple should have access to significantly improved display technology at a quicker pace than it has had previously, allowing it to deliver more compelling improvements in its displays generation-over-generation.