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1 Challenge Apple, Inc. Will Face With the iPhone 7

By Ashraf Eassa – Mar 6, 2016 at 9:30AM

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Here's one technical challenge that the iDevice maker will have to face as it strives to make its next-generation iPhones thinner.

Apple's iPhone 6s in Rose Gold. Image credit: Apple. 

Apple (AAPL 0.84%) is expected to launch its next-generation flagship iPhones later this year. The devices represent "new number" devices, which means that we can expect a new or enhanced industrial design along with upgrades to critical components, such as the display.

Indeed, the iDevice maker had long been known for its best-in-class mobile displays, yet DisplayMate's Raymond Soneira says that its current iPhone displays are "well behind the display curve."

Apple has the opportunity to try to regain display leadership with the iPhone 7 generation of devices. However, after one crucial bit of information about the device was leaked, it's clear that Apple's job is going to get a whole lot tougher.

A thinner device means a thinner LCD
A report from Apple-focused blog Macotakara corroborates a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that Apple's iPhone 7 will be a full millimeter thinner than the iPhone 6s. If this report is accurate, Apple's upcoming device will be extremely thin, at just 6.1 millimeters.

Key to enabling this thinner device, the blog says, is a liquid crystal display that's a full millimeter thinner.

What this means for the iPhone
For the iPhone 7 to have a competitive display, it's going to need to deliver the following improvements to its display:

  • Higher brightness.
  • Greater contrast ratio.
  • Better color accuracy.
  • Higher resolution.

Achieving these while making the display thinner and more efficient will extremely difficult and will require what essentially boils down to herculean feats of engineering.

Should Apple sacrifice performance or features for "thin"?
Apple is known for its relentless pursuit of thinner devices. Apple Senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio said in an interview with Charlie Rose that at Apple, "every tenth of a millimeter" in the company's products is "sacred."

However, it remains to be seen whether Apple will be able to achieve the dramatic improvements in the display technology it needs to be competitive while trying to make its devices increasingly thin.

If Apple can deliver a device that offers best-in-class display performance, then Apple's pursuit of "thin" is certainly welcome. However, if Apple can deliver something that aces rigorous third-party display quality tests even while reducing device thickness, then that'll be a major achievement for the iDevice maker.

Thinner should get easier with the move to OLEDs
All of Apple's iPhones to date have used liquid crystal displays. One drawback to LCDs is that they require a separate backlight to operate. OLED displays, which the company is rumored to switch to with the iPhone 8, don't require such a backlight. This means that once Apple transitions from LCDs to OLEDs, it should be able to make its iPhones thinner still.

We'll know soon enough
There has been a surprising dearth of technical information pertaining to the next-generation iPhone, display technologies included. However, it shouldn't be long before Apple's component suppliers begin ramping up production of the components that will go into the iDevice maker's next-generation phones.

Once that production starts, I fully expect KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo, or some other well-connected analyst, to catch wind of what these component suppliers are producing. Once they do, I'm sure they'll be quite eager to bring that information into the public domain. 

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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