If the iPhone 7 looks like the iPhone 6s, that could be a big problem for Apple

Can Apple get away with only updating the look of the iPhone every three years? A recent survey suggested that iPhones upgraders will be put off if the new iPhone looks like the existing handset.

See also: Six ‘iPhone-beating’ Android smartphones

The survey carried out by Quartz showed that more than three-quarters of respondents said they were either “not so likely” or “not at all likely” to upgrade to the iPhone 7 if it hasn’t seen a redesign.

Flipping that around, only 9.3 percent of survey respondents said they were either “very likely” or “extremely likely” to upgrade their iPhone if the iPhone 7 hasn’t been redesigned.

This news could come as a bit of a worry for Apple.

Currently, iPhone sales are being buoyed by Android ‘switchers’ and people buying the cheaper iPhone SE, and the idea with the iPhone 7 is that people who bought the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — and there are a lot of them about — will be nearing the end of their contract and looking for a new handset, and that this, in turn, would reinvigorate sales.

But might buyers be put off buying an iPhone that looks pretty much like the one they’re moving up from?

The survey suggested that this might be the case. When asked whether they would change their upgrade habits to match Apple’s if the company starts refreshing the iPhone every three years instead of two, the majority of respondents (70 percent) indicated they were either extremely, very, or somewhat likely to do so.

The survey wasn’t all that big (a little over 500 respondents), but it’s still very significant given how decisive the results are.

To those who are tech literate, it might seem odd that so many people base their purchasing decisions on the look of a device rather than what’s inside the device, but for the average user, figuring out what all the different incremental upgrades mean can be tricky. Also, people want their new stuff to look new, rather than having to explain to others that all the differences are on the inside.

Another problem is that the more obscure and niche the new iPhone features become, such as 3D Touch and Live Photos, the harder it is going to get to communicate what’s new and different to the average user.

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