By holding its annual September iPhone event a little earlier than usual, Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Reportmight be able to book two weeks worth of iPhone 7 sales in what's expected to be a weak fiscal fourth quarter.
That, along with reports that collectively suggest the iPhone 7 might not be as much of a dud as many expect it to be, could propel analyst estimates higher in the coming weeks. This would be a positive both for Apple, and for chip suppliers such as Cirrus Logic (CRUS) - Get Cirrus Logic Inc. Report,Skyworks (SWKS) - Get Skyworks Solutions Inc. Report,Qorvo (QRVO) - Get Qorvo Inc. Report ,NXP (NXPI) - Get NXP Semiconductors N.V. Report ,InvenSense (INVN) and Broadcom (AVGO) - Get Broadcom Inc. Report.
On Monday, Apple sent out invites for an event that will be held at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Sept. 7, in San Francisco. Needless to say, the company is expected to unveil a new 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and 5.5-inch iPhone 7-plus. A new Apple Watch may also be in the cards.
Apple's event arrives two days earlier in September than its 2015 and 2014 iPhone events, and (given the company's past behavior) could mean the iPhone 7 will ship on Friday, Sept. 16. A bit of extra time to sell the iPhone 7 could prove useful in a quarter in which Apple has guided for revenue to drop to $45.5 billion to $47.5 billion from $51.5 billion in the year-ago period, largely due to an iPhone sales decline.
Meanwhile, though chances are the iPhone 7's feature set won't turn heads as much as next year's models, there could be enough to drive healthy upgrade activity. Those expecting the only major change to be the removal of the traditional headphone jack are likely in for a surprise.
There's a good chance Apple will outfit the iPhone 7 and 7-plus with displays similar to the one that won the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, launched earlier this year, rave reviews. And the devices will also likely feature the battery life improvements that allowed the four-inch iPhone SE to offer battery life that easily surpassed that of the iPhone 6S, in spite of having similar internals.
Camera improvements are also expected -- particularly for the iPhone 7-plus, which will reportedly feature a dual-lens camera that delivers more detailed photos, better low-light shots and perhaps also the ability to change a picture's focus point after it's been taken. The teaser sentence included in Apple's invite -- "See you on the 7th." -- certainly seems to hint at camera improvements.
Apple will also reportedly replace its traditional mechanical home button with a pressure-sensitive one relying on haptic feedback. And a recent report suggests Apple will be doubling iPhone storage capacities across all price tiers. Consumers have long complained about the mere 16GB of storage provided for the cheapest models of a given iPhone.
Outside of the dual-lens camera, these improvements aren't as flashy as the ones rumored for 2017 iPhones; they're expected to feature OLED displays and glass casings, support over-the-air wireless charging and more advanced haptics, and fully do away with a physical home button. There's also a report that Apple will sell a high-end iPhone model (an iPhone Pro?) with a curved OLED display. Naturally, the presence of such rumors could give some Apple buyers pause.
But again, Apple is dealing with a low bar. Though it was the iPhone 6S that launched a year ago rather than the blockbuster iPhone 6, the average analyst estimate for Apple's December quarter still calls for sales to drop 3.4% annually to $75.9 billion.
It looks like the iPhone 7 and 7-plus will have enough baked in for Apple to surpass such downbeat estimates.