Image credit: Apple. 

A recent report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple (AAPL 0.57%) is gearing up for a significant overhaul with the 2017 iPhone, which could either be called the iPhone 7s or the iPhone 8. The device will apparently move away from a metal casing and toward a fusion of metal and glass, include wireless charging, additional biometric functions, and more.

It sounds exactly like the kind of major overhaul that one may have expected with the iPhone that's expected to come out later this year.

Interestingly, the fact that Apple is apparently planning to bring a major overhaul to the 2017 iPhone has many investors and Apple watchers wondering whether the iPhone 7 will wind up being a minor update to the iPhone 6s.

I believe that even if the iPhone 7 winds up looking like a slimmer iPhone 6s with less annoying antenna band as rumored, it can still represent a substantial upgrade from the 6s. Here's how.

Massive display improvement
The displays on both the 6s/6s Plus are in very dire need of upgrades. Although the premium variant of the 2017 iPhone that Kuo described is expected to see a shift to an OLED display (which would be a huge jump), I still believe a big display upgrade is in the cards this year even if Apple sticks to traditional LCD technology.

There are five vectors that I would like to see improved upon in the new displays:

  • Higher display resolution for greater sharpness (1704-by-960 for the iPhone 7; 2208-by-1242 for the iPhone 7 Plus/Pro)
  • Wider color gamut for richer, more vivid colors
  • True Tone technology so that images look more natural in many different lighting situations
  • Improved contrast ratio
  • Low screen light reflectance

Apple has already introduced four of the five improvements listed above with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Since the iPad is generally a less important device to Apple than the iPhone is, it's usually not long before "iPad exclusive" technologies make it into the iPhone.

With the iPhone 7, I think that if Apple is able to implement the enhancements that I outlined above, the display improvement alone should be worth the price of admission, especially for users coming from the older iPhone 6/6 Plus.

Third gen Touch ID, second gen 3D Touch, significant camera improvements, internal updates
In addition to better screens, Apple is likely going to make significant improvements to a number of key technologies. For one thing, I expect Apple to roll out a third generation Touch ID that will be even quicker than the already lightning-fast one found in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see a second generation 3D Touch implemented as well.

Next, and perhaps more significantly, I believe that Apple is planning a substantial camera upgrade for the iPhone 7-series of phones. Early leaks/renders show that the camera holes in the iPhone 7's chassis will be larger than the one found in the iPhone 6/6s, which suggests that Apple will be employing a larger sensor. I also expect a move from a five element lens to a six element lens, in addition to many other improvements to the optics to go along with the improved sensor. 

The larger-screen iPhone is said to come in both a single and dual camera lens configurations, too.

Finally, Apple is likely to bring significant internal improvements to the iPhone 7 in the form of a faster A10 processor, faster (and in the case of the larger iPhone 7, more) memory, and perhaps other improvements here and there.

All told, Apple has solid room for improvement
The current iPhones are nice, but there's still plenty for Apple to do. The company has a golden opportunity to deliver a knockout of a phone with the iPhone 7 by implementing the improvements enumerated above. If it does, then the iPhone may very well return to growth in the coming fiscal year.