Sunday, August 12, 2012

Industrial designer believes that the iPhone 5 will be the first unibody version

Since the first unibody Macbook, rumors have persisted about a unibody iPhone, but it hasn't happened - yet. As the iPhone 5 approaches, and with multiple leaks of videos and shot, industrial designer Don Lehman thinks now is the time for the unibody iPhone.

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Lehman took a look at the earlier iLab Factory photos, along with the site's video (embedded), and has come to some conclusions.

Although he admits it's possible the images and video are of a) a hoax, b) a decoy by Apple, or c) an early prototype, Lehman believes instead that the purported iPhone 5 falls into the category of d) a production sample of the next iPhone.

Here's what Lehman says:

"The leaked design has three pieces of metal instead of four. It still has two U-shaped pieces at the top and bottom, but this time the two flat sides become one single piece of metal that also comprises the back of the device. That single piece of metal is the unibody backplate.

"The same properties that unibody designs give to Apple’s laptops apply to this design as well: stronger, lighter, and thinner."

Even the bosses (screw attachment points) seem to be part of that same unibody piece.

Lehman says this design could reduce the iPhone 5's thickness anywhere from 2 - 3 mm from that of the iPhone 4S. That sounds small, but its in the percentages that you can see the real impact: it would be as much as 32 percent thinner than the 4S.

Why, then, is the iPhone 5's back still made of a few different pieces of either metal or glass? It's all about the antennas, Lehman said.

"Antennas for the most part do not transmit signals through metal. The cell antenna is integrated into the metal case, but there are still separate Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and (potentially) NFC antennas to deal with. They need to transmit their signal through non-signal-blocking materials such as plastic or glass. That was why the original iPhone had a black plastic piece at the bottom of the case, why the 3G/3GS’s back was made entirely of plastic, and why the 4/4S’s back was made entirely of glass. This is why there are the two pieces of either glass or plastic at the top and bottom of this design."

So far, folks seeing the leaked iPhone 5 images and specs (which admittedly, are still just rumor) have not been all that excited. Assuming Lehman's speculation is true, Apple's iPhone 5 could be a game changer.

It would be, as Lehman said, another example of Apple refining an already successful design. Where have we seen that system before, aside from Apple? Japan and cars, come readily to mind.

This is just one of many rumors about the iPhone 5 that are circulating. Others include the elongated iPhone 5 screen (4-inches, with a new 16:9 aspect ratio), a quad-core processor, LTE, a moved headset jack, a moved FaceTime camera, and a slightly larger battery.

All these things await Sept. 12, assuming that date is correct, for the iPhone 5 launch event - and confirmation.

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