The iPhone 7 remains the biggest and most important smartphone in the world, but for the first time in many years Apple’s plans regarding its flagship device are somewhat up in the air. Apple has announced publicly that it expects that it will sell less iPhone units in 2016 than last year; the first time this has occurred since the original iPhone was introduced back in 2007. And there have been a wide variety of reports hinting at multiple iPhone units, currently with significantly diverging specifications.

So what can we expect from the iPhone range in this calendar year? How many models will Apple ultimately release? And what factors will the consumer electronics giant take into consideration?

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7 Pro: How Many Models Will Apple Release?

Apple share price troubles

The first thing to say on this subject is that although Apple remains a massively powerful and valuable player in the technologies marketplace, its luster has dimmed ever so slightly over the last few months. With Apple itself admitting that there may be sub-par sales of the iPhone in 2016, coupled with a lukewarm response from consumers for other devices, this ensured a perfect storm in which the financial value of the company would almost inevitably be downgraded.

And Apple stock fell over 25 percent from its peak in August 2015 over the next six months, as investors became increasingly skeptical about the ability of the company to deliver increased profitability. This slump ended a period of relentless positivity and success for Apple, in which the company became the world’s first $700 billion market capitalized corporation. Its market cap has since slid to just over $600 million, but there is good news Apple to celebrate as well.

The company’s share price has already recovered appreciably in 2016, with significant growth being experienced between February and April. Possibly the major factor in this was the notion that the stock was significantly undervalued, and Apple shares have thus once more broken through the psychologically important $100 barrier.

It is notable that the city has responded very well to Apple’s promises to create new revenue streams; something that the consumer electronics behemoth first pledged to do back at the start of 2014. Apple has perhaps not been hugely innovative in its attempts to produce new and successful products, but it has delivered a smartwatch, new models of the iPhone range, and iPad tablets as well. The California-based corporation has also shored up its laptop and desktop computing range, and there seems to be more stability in the Apple camp now.

iPhone 7 Pro release mooted

So the suggestion from Apple analysts that the Cupertino-based corporation could release an iPhone 7 Pro during 2016 do seem to be entirely logical. This would effectively be a new product niche and potential revenue stream for the corporation, and thus Apple would be fulfilling something that could positively impact upon the valuation and stock position of the company.

Another indicator for the future of the iPhone 7 is the fact that Apple recently unveiled a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This was the second iPad Pro unit released by Apple, and one that is intended to appeal to both consumers and the business community. It seems that Apple is placing a particular emphasis on this ‘Pro’ branding, and thus the iPhone 7 could follow with its first ever Pro release later this year.

This would point to the fact that Apple will indeed release three models of the iPhone 7, with the standard smartphone and phablet both certain to be retained. And there are other factors which also support this notion, most obviously the diversification of the smartphone marketplace. Apple has perhaps been affected slightly less in this regard than its great competitor Samsung, but the market-leader must still pay close attention to the prevailing conditions.

The iPhone 7 will be released into a marketplace in which there are numerous affordable Android alternatives, with some of these lesser-known brands beginning to gain market and consumer recognition. This was perfectly exemplified by the recent release of the Huawei P9; the latest flagship from the Chinese Corporation.

Huawei competitor

Whereas once upon a time such smartphones would be relatively simplistic compare it to the iPhone, and certainly not a significant threat to Apple, the P9 is certainly worth paying heed to. In particular, this new mobile contender features dual-camera technology, something that has been linked with the rumored iPhone 7 Pro.

It seems in such a context and climate that there is pressure on Apple to diversify its product range as much as possible, in order to appeal to as many market demographics as is feasible. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that Apple will indeed release an iPhone 7 Pro alongside the usual iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, and that the way Apple will mark this new model out from the other iPhone 7 devices is via dual-lens technology.

So it does seem extremely likely that Apple will release three iPhone 7 models before 2016 is out, to stand alongside the already announced iPhone 6C. But while consumers may be wondering what is coming in the existing calendar year, Apple is already making plans for next year’s iPhone 7S.

The latest reports indicate that Apple is planning to begin using AMOLED displays in its 2017 range of smartphones, which would likely begin with the iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus. This suggests that the California-based corporation will stick with LCD technology for the forthcoming iPhone 7, but that it will finally ditch the battery-draining tech next year.

And it seems that Sharp will play a major role in the delivery of this technology, particularly as Foxconn has just acquired a controlling stake in the company. The relationship between Foxconn and Apple is well established, and this should mean that Sharp manufactures AMOLED screens for usage in the iPhone 7S during 2017.

The future for the iPhone is certainly intriguing, and the smart money is on three iPhone 7 units seeing the light of day this year.