Not a week goes by without an analyst or commentator weighing in with their predictions for Apple’s product lines, be it the iPhone 7, a new MacBook or even the rumored Apple Car. The quality of the sources varies greatly, but this time around it is worth taking notice. Renowned Apple inside Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has sent out a note to investors, and his track record of delivering trustworthy information means that everyone interested in Apple should read carefully.
Contradicting previous rumors
While some previous reports have claimed that Apple might release three new smartphones in 2015, including a 4-inch version which would potentially be known as the iPhone 6c, Kuo reveals his predictions. And they’re slightly different.
Analyst Kuo predicts that there will be no iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, and instead the company will move directly to the iPhone 7. According to Kuo, the thinking behind the name change is that the new models will include a major new feature which means they can be seen as new phones by themselves, rather than refinements of the previous model.
This feature is thought to be a capacitive Force Touch sensor, similar to the technology which we have seen in the Apple Watch, which will be positioned under the backlight of the iPhone 7. Although the technology is similar, the design of Force Touch technology must be adapted for the iPhone 7, given the specific challenges that Apple has to overcome in order to offer the feature.
Modifying Force Touch for the iPhone 7
“We believe that iPhone’s Force Touch sensor doesn’t directly detect the pressure applied by fingers,” Kuo wrote. “Instead, it monitors the contact area on which the finger touches the screen to decide how big the pressure is.”
If this is the case, Apple may be attempting to facilitate interaction with icons and user interface elements of varying sizes on the screen. His predictions follow hot on the heels of a report on the Taiwanese website Economic Daily News, which also reported that the next iPhone would feature Force Touch technology.
“There are two possible structural designs for Force Touch from a technology viewpoint. The Force Touch sensor can either be placed between the cover lens and the In-cell touch panel or under the In-cell touch panel’s backlight. In the first position, the technological challenge lies with how to produce the transparent Force Touch sensor; in the second position, the challenge is how to reduce signal interference from in-cell touch panel. Our understanding of the technology is that producing a transparent Force Touch sensor is more difficult, so the chances are the new iPhone this year will opt for the second position,” he added.
Another of Kuo’s predictions involves the hardware design of Force Touch, which he claims is likely to change in 2016 with the removal of the metal shielding in order to give the hardware a thinner form factor. Although iPhone 7 users are sure to be happy about improvements in the user experience, Force Touch module suppliers such as TPK and GIS, and metal shielding suppliers Minebea, Hi-P and Jabil, looks set to suffer increased uncertainty.
Rumors continue to swirl
Kuo’s highly detailed predictions are worth noting because of his success in detailing previous Apple product launches, including the iPhone 5. He has sometimes made errors in his timeline predictions, but has proved himself to have a good handle on the technological developments taking place at the tech giant.
That said, an official announcement from Apple on the iPhone 7 is still a long way away. New iPhones are typically unveiled around September, and the intervening 5 months promise to be a maelstrom of rumors and speculation before Apple finally lets us in on its secrets.
No iPhone 6c to be released?
Kuo also predicts that there will be no 4-inch iPhone released this year, contrary to previous rumors. He believes that Apple will focus on 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models as successors to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. His stance contradicts these photos, shared by cell phone spare part wholesaler FutureSupplier, which appear to show the casing of an iPhone 6c, identified by the different shape of the camera flash.
Concrete details on the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6c are very much thin on the ground, and at this stage of the game it is hard to place any great amount of trust in the rumors which emerge. What observers can do is evaluate the veracity of past pronouncements from certain sources, and on that count the smart money is on Kuo and his claim that Apple will move directly to the iPhone 7 with Force Touch technology.