What to Expect on the iPhone 6

Loyal Apple fans have probably started the countdown to Sept. 9, 2014, when the company will be unveiling the much anticipated iPhone 6 at Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, U.S. Staying true to its secretive nature, the company’s press conference invitation uses the catchy phrase “Wish we could say more.” With less than one week left on the clock, many in the industry believe Apple will be showcasing the iPhone 6, 12.9-inch iPads and iWatches at the event. To sort the rumored iPhone 6 features apart from the facts, LEDinside will explore LED related components to be found on the latest generation Apple smartphone.

Apple's upcoming Sept. 9, 2014 press event uses the slogan "Wish we could say more." (Photo Courtesy of Apple)

Having earned a reputation as a leading innovator in the smartphone industry, people tend to have very high expectations about Apple’s product designs. The tight-lipped company tends to keep product developments under the lid, which has often left the general public to their own imagination. Starting from April 2013, product designers conceptualized innovative devices ranging from transparent phones, curved OLED screen phones, bezel-free iPhone 6 featuring a wrapped screen, to phones using 3D halogram projections. Based on an Apple solar panel patent, Seeking Alpha Analyst Matt Marglois even speculated in January 2014 that the new phone would come equipped with solar powered sapphire LCD screens, which could resolve short battery life issues in the modern smartphone.

Michael Shanks bezel-free iPhone 6 design will probably not be seen in the upcoming phone. (Photo Courtesy of Michael Shanks)

Creative as most of these proposed designs are, most will not be realized. Even for Apple some of these design concepts would require huge leaps in technology developments and financing to get to the mass production stage. It is already fairly difficult to mass produce OLED screens economically, let alone flashy 3D halogram projection phones.

Any changes in iPhone 6 backlight?

Being one of the first to break the news about the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 in early February 2014, some readers might remember a LEDinside report pointing out the slimmer phone meant backlight hardware needed to become lighter. At the time it was expected the new phone would abandon the 0.6t side-view LED in favor of the 0.4t side-view LED. So, what other changes are expected in LED backlighting on the iPhone 6?

Apple has used LED backlighting since the launch of iPhone 3 in 2008, as screen sizes increased, LED usage volumes have also scaled up, according to LEDinside analyst findings. The phone’s panel sizes have gone up from 3.5-inch in iPhone 3 to 4-inch in the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. The latest iPhone 6 is expected to rival Samsung smartphones with its 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.

Industry insiders currently do not expect the larger 5.5-inch model to make an appearance at the September press conference. Analysis by Apple expert KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in mid-July this year noted new technology for the in-cell touch panel and color unevenness found in the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 metal casing will be magnified in the larger-sized 5.5-inch phone. These production difficulties are expected to delay the larger screened iPhone 6 launch date to 2015.

Changes in iPhone LED backlight from iPhone 3 to LEDinside analysts projected changes iPhone 6. (LEDinside)

Bigger smartphone screens have spurred LED usage volume in iPhones as well. From iPhone 3 to iPhone 5, the LED usage has gone up by 2 PCS for every generation phone. The iPhone 3/3S which employed 6 LEDs for backlight increased to 8 PCS in the iPhone 5/5S. Based on this consistent trend, LEDinside estimates the smaller 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will use 10 LEDs, while the larger screened 5.5-inch phone might use up to 12 LEDs.

LEDs in iPhones have also gotten brighter with each passing generation, and on average increased by 200 mcd for every generation phone. LEDinside analysts project LED brightness in the latest iPhone 6 will be between 3,000 mcd to 3,200 mcd, an increase of 200 mcd compared to the 2,800 mcd to 3,200 mcd found in the iPhone 5/5S.

Hikes in screen resolution have been seen in different generation iPhones, but not always. The biggest hike in iPhone screen resolution was between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4, where the screen resolution doubled from 163 PPI to 326 PPI. However, PPI has remained the same for iPhone 4 and 5. LEDinside analysts projected the new iPhone 6 might see an incremental increase in the resolution from 326 PPI to 385 PPI, or in the higher end 400 PPI.

As for Apple’s LED backlighting suppliers, data compiled by LEDinside analysts did not note any significant differences. LEDs for iPhone 6 backlight purposes will still be supplied by Nichia, while Philips Lumileds is still the sole supplier for flash LEDs found in the smartphone.

Previous dummy iPhone 6 leaked by Sonny Dickson showed only one flash LED module leaving many speculating the new phone would use only one flash. (Photo Courtesy of Sonny Dickson)

Dual flash LEDs or single?

The thinner iPhone 6 design had some speculating the new phone would be using only a single flash LED. Sonny Dickson, who has built up a reputation for exposing Apple product features before the launch date, leaked images of a dummy iPhone 6 with only a single round flash module. The photos leaked in early May indicated Apple had regressed from dual-flash LED to single LED design.

A photo of the new iPhone 6 component leaked by Nowhereelse.fr photo and than reposted by Luna Commerce shows the new iPhone 6 will use white and amber color flash LEDs. (Photo Courtesy of Luna Commerce)

More recent leaks by French technology website Nowhereelse.fr on Aug. 12, 2014 has overturned this assumption. There is simply no going back for Apple. Dual-flash LED employing True Tone Color is good to stay. The iPhone 6 might be sporting a single round flash module, but two color LEDs (amber and white respectively) have been found incorporated in the module.

So what is the deal with sapphire glass?

The industry was hyped about the introduction of sapphire glass covers in the new generation phones after Apple announced investing US $ 578 million over a period of five-years in sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced Technology (GTAT) on Nov. 5, 2013. (Probably affected by GTAT’s exclusive partnership with Apple, the sapphire industry has not benefited economically from Apple’s announcement of broadened sapphire applications.) Additionally, Apple’s expanding sapphire patent portfolio from 2013 to 2014 also suggested the material would be introduced into future iPhones.

At first all seemed promising with GTAT expanding sapphire production at the Apple invested Arizona plant in March and June 2014, but it turned out skeptics,  such as Corning Glass were right in predicting employing sapphire glass on a mass scale would prove difficult. GTAT’s lower than expected sapphire yield rates began to surface in May 2014. By mid-July this year industry analysts including Mark Heller of CLSA, UBS analyst Stephen Chin, Canaccord Genuity, and even LEDinside noted the iPhone 6 would only be utilizing sapphire glass covers in small volumes, most notably in high-end luxury models. GTAT’s sapphire yield rate issues were attributed to immature process yields, and poor quality alumina boule used by GTAT to synthesize sapphire, according to Heller.

The robust sapphire glass material will still be found in the iPhone 6, but not where most want to see it. Following the employment of sapphire glass in iPhone 5 home buttons and camera lenses, Apple will continue employing sapphire in these phone components, said LEDinside analysts. The use of sapphire glass is expected to add US $100 to iPhone 6 retail prices. Currently, market rumors from China have pointed out China Unicom plans to retail the 4.7-inch phone at RMB 5,288 (US $860.16) under mobile phone contract, while the 5.5-inch phone will be sold at RMB 6,288.

(Source and Design: LEDinside)

To sum up, the new iPhone 6 will still house some of the promised features from Apple’s original blue print, but sapphire glass covers will be ruled out in the short term. Meanwhile, sapphire will still be found in the iPhone 6 camera lenses and home buttons. The new phone will also still be employing dual flash LED technology to compensate lighting in photos. In terms of LED backlight, LED volume usage and brightness has increased as the new iPhone 6 highlights a much larger screen and higher screen resolution.

(Author: Judy Lin, Chief Editor, LEDinside)

Related reports:

Sapphire Cover Glass Fails to Appear on Apple iPhone 6 Models 

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