Don Lehman, an industrial designer, has written a great piece over at The Tech Block on the hardware design of next-generation iPhone, closely analysing the device by taking cues from the numerous component leaks we’ve seen earlier.
The new iPhone’s body has been showcased extensively in a number of images and videos, leaving little to the imagination on the exterior design front. Lehman’s piece, though, takes this already available data and adds to it a great amount of context.
He takes a look at the evolution of the external antenna from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S. While they largely appear to be the same, Apple amended the iPhone 4S antenna to address antennagate and greatly improve signal quality. The only portions being used as antennas, Lehman says, are the top and bottom U-shaped metal bands.
Using that information, Lehamn explains Apple’s decision to include a two-toned metallic back:
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 reason the back of the device is still made up of a few different pieces of metal and glass as opposed to one unibody piece is the antennas. 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.
The back looks like this:
Lehman also notes that the unibody backplate makes the design a lot more solid and compact than the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4:
Because of the screw bosses machined into the unibody backplate, this design should be more solid and compact than the current design. Components will be attached directly to the unibody. The fragility of the glass screen should also be less of a factor. The 4/4S had glass on both sides of the device that was raised above the steel, only protected on its edges by a thin strip of plastic. The new design removes most of the glass from the backplate (only two small pieces remain at the top and bottom for the Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and, potentially, NFC antennas) and the front piece now sits flush within the unibody frame. Additionally, the new glass will most likely be Gorilla Glass 2, which is stronger and thinner than the glass used on the 4/4S. This will be a pretty robust housing.
Lehman also talks in detail about other design decisions made by Apple based on the leaked components. Check it out at this link.
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