These represent educated guesses on my part, based on the leaks that have hit the Web thus far, and my analysis of what various component vendors should reasonably be able to supply for the upcoming device.
Without further ado, here are my latest thoughts on what to expect from Apple's next-generation iPhone.
I don't expect a move to OLED-based displays, but I do expect that Apple will deliver significant enhancements in the contrast ratio, color saturation, and brightness of its next-generation displays. In particular, I'm looking for contrast ratios of at least 1800:1 -- up from around 1400:1 on the iPhone 6 and 6s and 1300:1 on the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus -- as well as full coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut, the same as on the latest 4K and 5K iMacs, and a bump in maximum brightness from around 583 nits to north of 600.
In addition, I am expecting that Apple will adopt the same anti-reflective display coating that it's currently using on its iPad lineup, which should help boost overall image quality.
Next, a report from DigiTimes claims that chip design house FocalTech will "begin shipping its multi-point touch-pressure sensors at the end of the first quarter or in early second quarter 2016."
Given that Apple currently has the lead over Android vendors in shipping 3D Touch, and given that Apple needs to fight hard to maintain/grow its share in the premium portion of the smartphone market, I'd imagine that the company will move to such a multi-point 3D Touch solution.
Finally, Apple is almost certain to improve the display resolutions on its new iPhones. My guess is that the iPhone 7 Plus will see a bump from the 1920x1080 panel to a 2208x1242, the native rendering resolution on the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus.
The resolution increase, if we see one, for the iPhone 7 is harder to call. I wouldn't be surprised, but would be extremely disappointed, if Apple kept the same low-resolution 1334-by-750 resolution display in the iPhone 7, but doing so would just be asking to lose mind share among reviewers and market share worldwide.
I'm guessing the iPhone 7 will sport a 1704-by-960 resolution display, as 9to5Mac reported the iPhone 6 would have ahead of the latter's launch.
In terms of wireless connectivity, I continue to believe that the next-generation iPhones will use Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) MDM9x45 stand-alone LTE modem. This should allow Apple to deliver about twice the peak download speeds that the modem in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can and three times the peak upload speeds.
Additionally, according to AnandTech, the iPhone 6s uses a Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) BCM4350 connectivity combo solution. I believe that with the iPhone 7, Apple will transition to Broadcom's BCM4359 connectivity combo chip, which was announced in early 2015.
The BCM4359 doesn't increase maximum theoretical speeds from the 867 megabits per second the BCM4350 enables, but it does support some new and advanced features, the main one being "real-time simultaneous dual band." This, Broadcom says, should allow for a "dramatically improved experience to highly connected, multi-tasking users."
Processor performance improvements
With the iPhone 7, Apple is expected to move to a brand-new A10 system-on-a-chip. Although the chip is expected to be built on the same 16-nanometer FinFET Plus manufacturing process that some of the A9 and all of the A9X chips were, I do think that Apple will wring out some impressive performance enhancements over the A9.
CPU performance should go up by at least 20% from clock speed enhancements alone, given the performance uplift in CPU that we saw in going from the A9 to the A9X. I would expect architectural enhancements to the CPU core to bring another 10% to 15% performance-per-clock uplift, for a total boost in CPU performance by at about 30% to 40% over the A9.
Graphics performance should also go up nicely. I am expecting that Apple will introduce a custom graphics processor architecture with this generation, but if that doesn't happen, I see a move to either an eight-cluster or 10-cluster Series 7XT Plus for a solid performance increase. All told, I am looking for at least a 50% boost in graphics performance.
Substantial camera improvements
Apple, in my view, dropped the ball with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus cameras. They are by no means bad -- they're subjectively very good. However, according to a number of third-party tests, Apple has, by no means, camera leadership with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
I believe that for Apple to successfully wrangle away share form high-end Android competitors -- or, frankly, just maintain share -- it will need to accelerate to a clear leadership position here. To that end, I expect Apple to do significant work with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus cameras to try to elevate them to "leadership" status once again.
Improvements that have been talked about include moving from a five-element to a six-element lens, an improved image sensor (perhaps one with larger pixels), a larger maximum aperture to improve low-light photos -- one area where the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus significantly trail some competing flagships -- and so on.
I also expect Apple to do significant work in enhancing the Image Signal Processor baked inside its A10 chip to enable a significant improvement in image quality.
iPhone 7 is on track to be very impressive, but it simply needs to be
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus brought some very good improvements over the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but even those enhancements weren't enough to keep demand even flat to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus levels.
Although I believe Apple will be helped in the iPhone 7 cycle by cycle-specific dynamics (i.e., the iPhone 6 may have led to a "pull in" of demand from users with iPhone 5s phones who would have otherwise waited for the 6s), I believe putting the pedal to the metal with respect to the product will help.
Apple's iPhones are quickly becoming "good enough" to last people for a longer time than previous-generation models, particularly beginning with iPhone 6, so it's important that the company deliver innovations with each generation that are so compelling that customers remain willing to upgrade at a fairly rapid clip.
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