Image source: Apple. 

The lack of leaks around the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 7 has been fairly odd. Most of the rumors around the upcoming phone have been vague and often contradictory.

For example, last year KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple was aiming to significantly reduce the thickness of its next-generation iPhones. However, there have been other reports suggesting that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will retain virtually identical physical dimensions to the prior-generation iPhone 6s/6s Plus -- a significant contradiction to the earlier leaks.

Additionally, aside from the strong rumors that Apple will employ a dual-lens camera in the iPhone 7 Plus, very little is known about the device's specifications.

That being said, a new report out of Taiwan publication Economic Daily News (via CNBC) claims that Apple's contract manufacturers for the iPhone 7 -- Foxconn and Pegatron -- are ramping up production staff earlier than usual.

Additionally, the report claims that that, and I'm quoting CNBC's paraphrased version here, "the design of the iPhone 7 was more complex than previous models, which meant that suppliers needed to start work on the new phone's parts earlier than on previous iterations, which assembling staff needed more training than previous."

So, on one hand, rumors point to an "incremental" iPhone 7, but on the other, this latest report makes it seem as though the iPhone 7 is significantly different/more advanced than the iPhone 6s that came before it. What gives?

Maybe Apple has gotten good at plugging leaks?

One explanation that comes to mind is that Apple has simply gotten much better at keeping leaks under control. An example of Apple's improved secrecy was obvious with the iPad Pro (9.7-inch) launch: There were no leaks ahead of time suggesting that the new device would pack a display that supports the wider DCI-P3 color gamut, for instance.

The iPhone SE was also fairly well guarded as well, with many of the key specifications (camera sensor resolution, applications processor, memory, etc.) not really known until very shortly before the launch.

I wouldn't be surprised if Apple were able to keep the device under better wraps this time around.

Another potential explanation

Although the lack of iPhone 7 leaks might be a testament to Apple's efforts to keep the device a mystery, I can't help but wonder if Apple's suppliers are now more motivated than ever to keep mum.

In previous years, secular smartphone growth and the general "craze" around the iPhone meant that even if a whole bunch of information was leaked about an upcoming device, it didn't hurt Apple or the supply chain vendors all that much.

These days, though, with smartphone growth slowing and with demand for Apple's iPhone 6s/6s Plus already relatively weak, suppliers that depend on Apple can't really afford leaks that would impact iPhone 6s/6s Plus sales.

So, Apple's suppliers and contract manufacturers themselves may now be much more interested in cracking down on leaks so as to not hurt themselves.

We'll see soon

Apple's next-generation iPhone should launch in about four months if the historical pattern holds. After the "failure" of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple is going to need a home run with the iPhone 7. For the sake of its shareholders, it needs to deliver something special this time around.