Major changes to Apple's iPhone lineup are potentially coming in 2017, including the addition of wireless charging, AMOLED displays and a glass-encased model with a 5.8-inch screen, according to a research note from a KGI Securities analyst.
The report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo updates his previous predictions that Apple would introduce an AMOLED display in 2018. Kuo's research was reported in a March 26 story by 9to5Mac, which also said that Apple will review glass, plastic and ceramic cases for its upcoming 2017 iPhones, but will go with glass because "plastic doesn't offer thin and light form factor designs, and it would be not easy to precisely control the tolerance of ceramic."
Also expected in future iPhones is a curved display with a curved glass body that includes metal sides, like the earlier iPhone 4. Kuo wrote that the phones "will feature a 'completely new form factor design' with more narrow bezels and a 'more comfortably grip.'"
Perhaps the biggest prediction in Kuo's note is his belief that Apple will unveil an iPhone that has a 5.8-inch diagonal display while having an overall size that is smaller than today's 5.5-inch iPhone, the story reported. "If Apple is able to produce enough of the 5.8-inch AMOLED displays, the larger device will entirely replace the 5.5-inch model, meaning that Apple will offer 4.7-inch and 5.8-inch iPhones in 2017."
Wireless charging, which is available in phones from competitors including Samsung's recent Galaxy S6 and S7 devices, is also being eyed for the next iPhones in 2017, the report indicates. Other new features include "additional biometric recognitions, perhaps facial recognition or eye recognition."
Changes to Apple's iPhones won't, of course, have to wait until 2017. Rumors have been circulating in recent months about Apple's next flagship smartphones, the expected iPhone 7 series, which are slated to debut in September. The latest rumors about the iPhone 7 describe a move to a thinner flush-mounted rear camera, replacing the protruding rear camera that is built into the existing iPhone 6 devices, and the removal of antenna bands that are now on the rear of today's iPhones.
Apple needs a big hit with its next iPhones to generate demand after sales of the devices leveled off in its latest financial quarter.
In January, reports surfaced that Apple is trimming production of its current iPhones by about 30 percent through March due to growing stocks of unsold iPhone 6 smartphones around the world. The production cutbacks are expected to allow remaining iPhone inventories to be reduced in the meantime. A similar iPhone production cut was made by Apple in 2013.
Apple's latest smartphone, the iPhone SE (pictured), debuts on March 31 and will go on sale with all the major U.S. carriers, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The iPhone SE has a 4-inch display, a 12-megapixel camera, an improved battery and a powerful 64-bit A9 processor and M9 motion coprocessor. The new phone replaces the iPhone 5s, which debuted in September 2013. The iPhone SE is the first iPhone that can shoot and capture 4K video.
Also going on sale on March 31 is Apple's smaller new iPad Pro, which has a 9.7-inch Retina display, a 64-bit A9 chip, four-speaker audio, 4K video, a 12-megapixel iSight camera, Retina flash and iOS 9.3.
In January, Apple reported $75.9 billion in first-quarter revenue, a new record for the company, but its sales of 74.7 million iPhones were flat compared to the 74.5 million that were sold in the same quarter a year earlier.
First-quarter sales of iPads dropped to 16.1 million units from 21.4 million in the same quarter one year ago, while Mac sales slipped to 5.3 million this quarter, compared with 5.5 million one year ago.