Nikkei Asian Review, which has often reported correctly on future Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) product plans, says that the iDevice maker plans to release three new iPhone models next year, each of which will be equipped with an organic light emitting diode (OLED) display, which promises to deliver an image quality boost over the current liquid crystal display (LCD) technology that's used in all currently available iPhone models.
It's no surprise, then, that Apple is seemingly willing to throw around substantial cash to enable suppliers' efforts to build OLED displays (and some suppliers are working feverishly to stay in Apple's supply chain as the smartphone giant makes this transition).
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In this column, I'd like to offer some speculation about what Apple might be preparing, at least in a very general sense, for its 2018 trio of smartphones.
Small, medium, and large?
This year's iPhone lineup is expected to consist of three models: two devices with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCDs, respectively, and a premium device with a 5.8-inch OLED display.
The 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models will reportedly look like today's iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively, but will include new features such as a new processor and, per several reports, wireless charging capability. The 5.8-inch model is expected to fit in, roughly, the physical footprint of the iPhone 7, but because of its "full face" display, it'll have a larger display than the one found on the 5.5-inch LCD model.
If Apple successfully transitions its entire iPhone lineup to OLED displays, then I could see Apple going with the "full face" display design for all three models.
After all, if Apple spent all of that time and money developing that technology, it wouldn't make much sense for the company not to deploy it across its product stack in a bid to offer as competitive a lineup as possible.
Working under that assumption -- one that I believe is quite reasonable -- I think Apple will offer the 2018 iPhone models in three sizes: small, medium, and large.
The "medium" device, which would likely be Apple's most popular model, could be the same size as this year's upcoming iPhone 8, while the "small" and "large" variants would appeal to the kinds of customers who like Apple's iPhone SE and larger-screen devices like the Galaxy S8+ or Galaxy Note, respectively.
Such a strategy could continue this year's expected momentum
This year, Apple is expected to enjoy a robust product cycle driven by the introduction of the new OLED iPhone 8, but that model is expected to be rather pricey. The company is expected to offer lower-cost products with the LCD iPhones, but those aren't likely to be as compelling as the OLED iPhone.
Next year, Apple can bring the goodness of this year's premium iPhone model to a wider range of price points (expanding it both downward and upward), screen sizes, and ultimately customers.
If Apple takes full advantage of the situation, I could see Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup avoiding the fate that befell the last iPhone series that launched after a so-called "iPhone super cycle" -- the iPhone 6s -- and continuing to grow its iPhone business during the next cycle.
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