There are many rumors floating around about what Apple Inc. (AAPL) plans for its upcoming iPhone 7 series smartphones. Dropping the headphone jack, making it waterproof and going as thin as the iPod Touch are routinely bandied about. However, the feature that could make or break this next generation of Apple’s flagship smartphone is the dual camera being tipped to appear in the iPhone 7 Plus.
What exactly is a dual iPhone camera system, what advantages would it offer and how could incorporating this feature be a big win for Apple?
To understand the significance of the dual-camera to the iPhone 7, there are four threads that need to be followed.
What Prompted AAPL’s Change?
First, there is the problem of softening iPhone sales. The iPhone is Apple’s dominant revenue generator but after nearly a decade of wild sales increases that have been the primary factor in driving AAPL stock, the company is forecasting its first ever iPhone sales decline.
Second, there is the iPhone camera effect. One of the reasons for the iPhone’s popularity has always been its camera. Apple pays particular attention to camera quality, avoiding the megapixel arms race tactics employed by most smartphone manufacturers.
The iPhone camera has proved so popular it has helped to decimate sales of point-and-shoot digital cameras, and according to Yahoo! Inc.’s (YHOO) Flikr –a photo sharing service frequently used as a benchmark for camera popularity– 42% of photographers who uploaded photos took them with an iPhone. Second and third place were captured by DSLR cameras from Canon Inc. (ADR) (CAJ) and Nikon Corp (ADR) (NINOY).
Interestingly, a large percentage of those iPhone users also uploaded photos taken with a DSLR, indicating they turn to the bigger camera for some of their key photos.
The third thread? Apple’s smartphone arch-rival Samsung (SSNLF) recently released its new Galaxy S7, paying particular attention to its camera. For the first time in recent memory, photo testing sites have crowned the Samsung smartphone’s camera as the best, handily beating the iPhone camera.
Finally, nearly one year ago, AAPL acquired LinX, an Israeli company that has developed advanced camera technology. The company’s dual-camera system offers a huge advance in mobile photography, including greatly improved low-light photos and optical zoom capability. The LinX technology has the potential to not only produce a huge leap forward in smartphone cameras, it could put them at levels comparable to the DSLRs that Canon and Nikon are clinging to as their prosumer photography stronghold.
When you weave these threads together, you end up with an iPhone 7 — most likely the iPhone 7 Plus, in order to further differentiate Apple’s big smartphone from its standard model — that’s equipped with a killer, dual-lens camera capable of DSLR- quality photos.
And it could be a very big deal.
Fighting for the Camera Title
Offering improved mobile photography overall with the LinX dual-camera system would be a big win for Apple, helping it to regain “best mobile camera” bragging rights from Samsung.
More importantly, an iPhone 7 Plus with optical zoom capability would represent an entirely new level of camera capability in a smartphone. It would be a must-have feature capable of convincing current iPhone owners (for whom Flikr stats suggest photography is a big deal) to upgrade. It could be a big enough deal to drive some Android users to Apple’s platform.
The capabilities of the dual-camera system could also be enough to make prosumer photographers choose to buy a new iPhone 7 Plus instead of lugging around a bulky DSLR. Good for AAPL, bad for Canon and Nikon …
Apple is under pressure to deliver a killer feature that kick-starts iPhone sales. 3D Touch didn’t do it and the usual playbook — thinner, faster and lighter — isn’t enough to convince existing iPhone users to upgrade, or to make much of a case for switching from Android. However, by leveraging the iPhone camera as a key strength, and taking a gigantic leap forward to DSLR-level quality photos in the iPhone 7 Plus, AAPL stands a good chance of moving the needle on iPhone sales.
And that’s what the fuss is about with Apple’s dual-camera technology.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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