Apple has been using unibody aluminum chassis on its flagship iPhones for the last few years. However, this year’s iPhone 8 won’t have an aluminum unibody construction. The next-gen smartphone is rumored to have a glass sandwich design. The handset will have an all-glass front and rear, supported by a metal frame center. Until now, it was unclear what metal frame the Cupertino company would use.
The new frame would be 30-50% cheaper
Taiwanese publication DigiTimes has learned from supply chain sources that Apple is ditching aluminum for the stainless steel chassis. If a stainless steel chassis sounds familiar, that’s because the tech giant had used it on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Apple switched to the lightweight and durable aluminum alloy with the iPhone 5. The company currently uses aluminum for the Apple Watch and Mac as well.
While the iPhone 4’s stainless steel frame was manufactured using CNC machine process, Apple is said to use forging method for the iPhone 8 stainless steel. DigiTimes pointed out that quality control for forging is “more stable” than CNC. It is also 30% to 50% cheaper than the CNC machining process. The money Apple would save using the stainless steel forging method could go towards the purchase of curved OLED display panels, which are more expensive than LCD displays.
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Foxconn and Jabil to make stainless steel frames
Apple Insider believes that CNC tooling will still play a role in the construction of the iPhone 8 due to the need for details like anchor points and internal screw threads. DigiTimes reported that Apple has placed orders with Foxconn and Jabil for the forged stainless steel casings. These are the same companies that had supplied stainless steel frames for the iPhone 4.
Though the glass back is more vulnerable to breaking than metal, it can transmit signals more effectively. The iPhone 8 is rumored to offer true wireless charging, where your device would charge automatically over the air when it is within 15 feet of a transmitter. The glass back would help enable wireless charging, and the stainless steel would provide structural integrity to the phone.
iPhone 8 release to spur a ‘supercycle’
Sources familiar with the matter recently told the Wall Street Journal that Apple was testing as many as ten different prototypes of the iPhone 8. The physical home button on the new iPhone would be replaced by the one embedded in the display itself. The company is also said to launch the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus that will be iterative upgrades to the current models.
Analysts forecast that the revolutionary iPhone 8 would trigger a “supercycle” that will be even bigger than the 2014 iPhone 6 supercycle. Last week, Nomura analysts told investors that Apple could sell a record 86 million iPhones during the fourth calendar quarter of 2017. By comparison, the company had sold 75 million units in Q4 2014.