With about nine months to go until Apple’s expected annual iPhone upgrade announcement, rumors from the company’s Asian supply chain are intensifying.
On Tuesday, unnamed supply chain sources told Apple news blog Mac Otakara in Taiwan that Apple is working on three new models for 2017. Entering the current line up of phones with 4.7- and and 5.5-inch screens could be a new medium-sized model with a 5-inch screen that also includes the dual-lens camera currently only found on the larger screen Plus model.
Other sources, including well-regarded analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, have also reported a third model will be added to the line. But while Kuo has written that only the new model would boast higher-end specs and a brand new edge-to-edge OLED screen, Mac Otakara reported all three phones would contain identical technology.
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The report also included the caveat that Apple will not make a final decision on the complete 2017 iPhone designs until the company’s second fiscal quarter, which runs through the end of March.
Apple’s iPhone sales 13% shrunk in the first nine months of this year after the company abandon its practice of overhauling the external design of the iPhone every other year and went with a similar design for the third consecutive year. The iPhone 7, introduced in early September, carried almost the same design externally as last year’s iPhone 6s and 2014’s iPhone 6. For the holiday quarter, analysts expect Apple might do a little better than last year, when tight supplies hurt sales, but not enough to prevent the first full year of lower sales.
Analysts and investors have been hoping for a major overhaul by Apple (AAPL) to attract more upgraders in 2017, with some predicting for a “super cycle” based on rumors about major changes, like OLED screens and wireless charging capability.
Apple’s share price was in the summer doldrums this year due to the lack of excitement about the then-upcoming iPhone 7 model’s rumored lack of pizazz. But since the end of June, the shares have jumped 23% on anticipation of the 2017 upgrades.
The supply chain rumors have grown increasingly accurate as the company has grown, with so many different companies needing to be involved in planning for the surge in manufacturing. And Apple’s desire for cutting edge technology—like OLED screens—requires that suppliers gear up well in advance of the iPhone’s public unveiling.