Apple Inc has asked suppliers to build as many as 90 million next-generation iPhones this year, a sharp increase from its iPhone shipments last year, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has maintained a consistent level in the past few years of about 75 million units for the initial run from a device’s launch through the end of the year.
The upgraded forecast for this year suggests the company anticipates that its first iPhone launch since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will unlock additional demand.
The next iPhones are to be Apple’s second with 5G, a key enticement pushing people to upgrade.
This year’s update will be more incremental than last year’s iPhone 12, emphasizing processor, camera and display improvements, the people said.
Apple is planning updates to all of the current models, spanning the 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch regular versions and the 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch Pro models.
The phones, codenamed D16, D17, D63, and D64, are all expected to be announced in September, earlier than last year’s October introduction partly thanks to the supply chain recovering.
At least one of the new versions will have a low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) display capable of alternating its refresh rate based on the content being shown.
Apple has used this technology in the Apple Watch for several years, allowing the screen to be slower in certain situations — such as the Always On mode — to extend battery life.
The new iPhones with LTPO displays would use indium gallium zinc oxide technology for improved power efficiency and responsiveness.
While the design of the new Apple phones would remain largely unchanged, the company plans to reduce the size of the front-facing camera and face unlock sensor cutout, or notch, to better match its rivals.
The company hopes to eventually remove the notch entirely in a future version of the iPhone and is likely to shrink its size further next year.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.
Apple’s camera upgrades would put the focus on more advanced video recording features such as improved optical zoom. An upgraded system-on-chip, built around the same six cores as the current A14 chip, is also to be included.
The company has tested an in-display fingerprint scanner for this year’s devices, but that feature is not likely not appear on this generation.
While Apple has asked suppliers to build up to 90 million units, the actual number could be a few million units shy of that target, one of the people said.
Huawei Technologies Co’s (華為) sanction-stricken smartphone business is a major factor for Apple’s increased shipment orders, another person familiar with the strategy said.
The ongoing chip shortage that has undermined operations across several global industries is not expected to affect the production of upcoming iPhones, some of the people said.
Apple is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (台積電) biggest customer and its outsize orders make the launch of a new iPhone an annual event that suppliers across Asia plan for months in advance.
Chinese assembly partner Luxshare Precision Industry Co (立訊精密) is to have a bigger role this year after it acquired iPhone assembly facilities from Wistron Corp (緯創).
Assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) is expected to dominate orders for the 6.7-inch Pro Max model, and split the 6.1-inch Pro with Luxshare and the 6.1-inch regular iPhone with Pegatron Corp (和碩).
Pegatron is expected to make all of the 5.4-inch units.
Beyond the new iPhones, Apple is preparing several other products for later this year, including new MacBook Pro laptops with custom Apple chips, redesigned iPad mini and entry-tier iPad models and Apple Watches with updated displays.
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