The iPhone Pro could be imminent, analyst says

Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City
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Apple's suppliers dropped hints that the iPhone is moving away from the "numbered" cycle, and toward an iPhone Pro, according to a new research note released this week.

Apple is likely to join the shift toward organic LED (OLED) smartphone screens, a Pacific Crest supply-chain check revealed Thursday. That, combined with an all-glass casing, could signal enough an overhaul that the iPhone 7s Plus might merit a more emotive name, like iPhone Pro, wrote the authors of the note.

"We do not believe the majority of consumers care enough about OLED, in and of itself, to drive a significant change in iPhone upgrade rates or share gains," wrote Pacific Crest. "However, Apple's potential transition to OLED seems likely to accompany a broader change to the form factor to a glass enclosure from metal."

Organic LEDs lights, or OLEDs seemed to be "aggressively" popular when technology analysts at Pacific Crest visited some major electronic display makers this week. The OLED lights, which have recently become more cost-effective, would enable phones to have thinner, curved edges, a better color gamut and longer battery life, according to Pacific Crest.

Meanwhile, a move to an all-glass iPhone has long been eyed by Wall Street: Both Macquarie and Nomura analysts this month mentioned the possibility of a glass chassis in coverage of supplier Catcher Technologies.

Still, by Pacific Crest's estimates, the iPhone 7s would stick with standard LCD displays, as OLED screens are more expensive, maintain their quality for just two years and come primarily from one supplier (Samsung).

Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Apple shares have been under pressure, down nearly 5 percent so far this year as iPhone sales have slowed. A "pro" model could help revive sales volume, wrote the analysts, who included Weston Twigg, Daniel Baksht, John Vinh, Jun Wang, Andy Hargreaves and Evan Wingren.

"We would view a move away from numbered iPhones positively, as it would free up development time and help Apple maintain differentiation through its iPhone product lineup based on marketing and appearance," the analysts wrote. "These are more sustainable differentiators than technology, in our view, because they appeal to consumers' vanity and desire for status."