This fall, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to unveil a set of redesigned iPhones -- the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and iPhone 7 Pro. These devices are expected to be thinner than 2015's iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which is a welcome improvement given that the iPhone 6s/6s Plus were actually slightly thicker than their predecessors.
However, if a new rumor from Mac Otakara is true, then investors and customers alike should brace themselves for a disappointment.
Thinner but no change to x- and y-dimensions
One of the major criticisms of the iPhone 6/6s series of phones -- and, in particular, the iPhone 6/6s Plus models -- is that relative to many competing devices, their physical footprints are frustratingly large.
This is due to the fact that the bezels on the iPhone 6 series phones -- both on the top and on the sides -- are quite large. Many of Apple's competitors, in contrast, have been working to dramatically reduce the size of the bezels on their phones in order to either reduce the footprints of their devices or keep similar footprints but increase display size.
Per Mac Otakara, the iPhone 7 (and presumably the 7 Plus) will retain the same x- and y-dimensions as the prior-generation iPhones.
What this means for iPhone buyers
If this rumor is true, then it implies one of two things for the iDevice maker's next-generation iPhone:
- The bezels have gotten smaller and Apple has increased the display sizes on the devices; or
- The next-generation iPhones will retain their unusually large bezels.
Unfortunately, generally reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reportedly said in a note published late last year that the iPhone 7/7 Plus will feature the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch display sizes, respectively, that the prior two generations of iPhones have employed.
Frankly, I'm just hoping that the rumor from Mac Otakara isn't true at this point, though I'm not counting on it. According to Mac Rumors, Mac Otakara is "largely accurate, making it a widely trusted source for Apple product rumors" but cautions that the site "does share inaccurate info on occasion."
Not a deal breaker, but still disappointing
Engineering a mass market product like the iPhone is always going to include trade-offs, so if Apple really isn't going to reduce the footprint of the iPhone 7/7 Plus, then there's probably a good engineering reason for doing so.
That said, I don't think this is the sort of thing that's going to make or break the next-generation iPhone. As long as Apple makes the device more aesthetically pleasing and dramatically improves the key aspects of the device (processor, display, camera, and so on), then a relatively large footprint isn't likely to have a materially negative impact on demand.
It's worth noting that KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo leaked many of the iPhone 6 details in April 2014 and shed quite a lot of light on the iPhone 6s (in particular, leaking that the device would include 3D Touch) in April 2015.
Indeed, with at least one Apple supplier beginning "pre-build" activity for the iPhone 7, the component selection/specification for this device is very likely locked down. As more component vendors start their own pre-build activity, information about what they're building is almost certain to leak out sooner rather than later.
I expect that investors will learn everything that they'd like to know about the iPhone 7/7 Plus within the next month or two, so stay tuned.