Apple iPhone 7: thinnest ever design or 4K display? Or both?

by on September 7, 2015

Stephan Jukic – September 07, 2015

Apple is on the verge of releasing its new iPhone 6 models (two of them) which will be the company’s first smartphone with a built in 4K camera. At the same time, rumors are circulating that Apple’s next effort, the iPhone 7, will indeed also feature a 4K UHD display in addition to a camera.

This isn’t a new rumor by any means and it doesn’t extend to just the iPhone. The same has been claimed by new Samsung flagship phones and the latest version of the Samsung rumors points at 4K display in their next phone as well.

However, what further reinforces the credibility of these rumors this time around is the fact that none other than Sony –another major player in the phone business—has now actually released a smartphone with a real live 4K display, the Xperia Z5 Premium.

Thus, in order to stay on the cutting edge of technological competitiveness, will Samsung and Apple finally really do the same?

With Apple, it’s a bit trickier to say for sure. Unlike Samung, the company doesn’t have any major stake in the 4K display and resolution technology market, at least for now and its existing base of almost fanatically loyal fans also serves to at least partly protect Apple products from some more conventional competitive pressures. Thus, if we were to argue for one or the other of these two tech giants being the next to release one more phone with a 4K display onto the market, we’d lean more towards Samsung, given Apple’s track record of lagging behind on 4K across the board.

Sony has already beaten Apple, Samsung and all others in being the first big tech player to finally release a phone with 4K display

Sony has already beaten Apple, Samsung and all others in being the first big tech player to finally release a phone with 4K display

Nonetheless, there is some evidence for an iPhone 7 with 4K display: Apple has been using what is called in-cell display technology in its recent devices. This started with the iPhone 5 in 2012 and has extended to the latest versions of the phone. This technology combines both screen display surface and the digitizer input normally behind it into a single layer that results in a lighter, thinner handset overall. This design variation on a smartphone screen is widely considered superior to the glass-on-glass panels that Apple previously used and many manufacturers still use.

On the other site, in-cell technology also has its downside. While letting Apple create ridiculously thin phones like the iPhone 6 at just 6.9 mm, in-cell tech also has a high production cost in both money and labour. This in turn might be leading to also rumored choke points in the Apple production chain and thus causing the Cupertino giant to neglect the development of higher resolution in its new phone models.

Now however, Apple is supposedly thinking of moving back to glass-on-glass display technology and because this entails a simpler manufacturing process and a consequently thicker phone, the new selling feature of the iPhone’s display will be 4K resolution instead of an ultra-thin design.

There are of course also problems with this rumor, principally because it seems to be contradicted by a much more credible bit of speculation from Apple Insider which states that next-year’s iPhone 7 will actually be the company’s thinnest model yet, with a rumored 6.0 to 6.5 mm thickness!. Thus, Apple is either foregoing 4K ultra HD for yet a little longer or we’re going to see some new innovative acrobatics which permit both ultra-thin in-cell screen design and 4K resolution on that screen.

Whichever rumor pans out, the iPhone 7 is shaping up to be a tantalizingly cool new model for the near future, possibly a future in which several new 4K-display smartphones from several manufacturers are already on the market as well.

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