The beginning of 2015 was excellent for Apple as the sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S remained strong. The total shipment of iPhones in the first quarter was over 60 million units, exceeding the market expectations. As the second quarter is drawing to a close, the smartphone market shifts its attention to the next-generation iPhone (iPhone 6S or iPhone 7). Interests on the next iPhone's future sales results are growing as more information about its specs have been leaked to the public.
According to the latest reporting by the global research firm TrendForce, both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch versions of the next iPhone will enter mass production in June. They will be shipped in the third quarter, with the quarterly shipments projected to reach 24 million units. By the fourth quarter, the next iPhone will be released in greater quantities with the estimated quarterly shipments surpassing 50 million. The new model will help drive the 2015 shipments of all iPhones to go over 230 million, resulting in a yearly shipment growth of 20%. The next iPhone is also estimated to represent more than 35% of this year’s total iPhone shipments.
Major upgrades made to the new model's mobile DRAM and unit memory capacity
The biggest highlight for the next iPhone is the mobile DRAM upgrade from LPDDR3 to LPDDR4. The memory capacity per iPhone has also doubled from 1GB to 2GB. With the new model scheduled for shipments in the third quarter, Apple’s main mobile DRAM suppliers Samsung and SK Hynix are going to set aside capacities for LPDDR4 production. Using the capacities of 25nm or 20nm processes as references, the next iPhone with its 2GB of memory will effectively consume an additional 20K wafers per month compared with its 1GB predecessors. With the total worldwide DRAM capacity at 1,080K wafers per month, around an additional 2% of it will be given to the production of the next iPhone’s memory.
The next iPhone is very likely to have its minimum storage capacity raised from 16GB to 32GB, so their storage options would range from 32GB and 64GB to 128GB. It is expected that TLC-based NAND flash will be carried on the 64GB and 128GB versions, which TrendForce estimates will also make up over 50% of this year’s next-generation iPhone shipments. TrendForce further finds that owing to the drive from the next-generation models, approximately 18% of all NAND flash consumption this year will come from iPhones.
Force Touch will be Apple’s key technology in touch sensor development
There is a strong possibility that the next iPhone will feature Apple’s “Force Touch” technology, which is a pressure-sensitive touch module that produce different commands and feedbacks depending on how long or hard the user presses the touchscreen. The Force Touch module will be a notable improvement in the smartphone touch displays as it adds many potential functions. The design of this new touch technology is likely to have a flexible printed circuit (FPC) that is located under the LCD module to control the sensor. The U.S.-based Analog Devices Inc. is the expected candidate supplier of the next iPhone’s Force Touch sensor ICs, which will come with a firmware designed by Apple.
Force Touch requires the support from apps in order to maximize its functional relevance. Even if this technology is available on the next iPhone, it might not offer noticeable improvements in user experience due to the lack of supporting apps. Nonetheless, Force Touch represents an important milestone in Apple’s innovation in the touch sensor technology, and whether it will appear on the iPhone and iPad series is going to be a topic closely followed by the market watchers.
LED backlight gets smaller for a lighter and thinner body
Apple stays with its Japanese suppliers for the LED chips used in the next iPhone's backlight. Due to the popular demand for lighter and thinner phones, the next iPhone is also going to see a size reduction for its backlight LED package, from 0.6t (3.0 x 0.85 x 0.6mm) to 0.4t (3.0 x 0.85 x 0.4mm). However, a smaller size package means that each LED package will have its brightness reduced by about 10%. Therefore, an additional two to three LEDs will be needed in the module to compensate for the loss in brightness. As for the next iPhone’s camera flash LED, its design will still be based on the dual-flash LED technology, which uses two LEDs of different color temperatures to create a more natural light when shooting.
TrendForce, Taipei Computer Association, and TechNews proudly present Compuforum 2015 on June 5, during the week of Computex Taipei 2015, at the 4th floor VIP room of the Taipei International Convention Center. This year seminar, titled “The Future of Mobile Devices: Key Components and Communication Technology”, will feature the latest industry research by top analysts from TrendForce’s research divisions – DRAMeXchange, WitsView, and Topology. Honored guest speakers from global tech giants SanDisk, Qualcomm, ARM, Intel, and Broadcom will also be there to share their thoughts with the attendees on the latest trends and future development in mobile solutions. Topics that will be discussed at the forum include chips, memory, display panel, wireless communication, and wearable devices.