Citing Taiwanese sources from Apple’s (Swiss-cheese-security) supply line, DigiTimes says Apple has made the significant decision to bypass its main manufacturer Foxconn in order to attain forged stainless steel iPhone chassis from fellow supplier Jabil. The chassis would be used to sandwich together front and rear glass panels (sound familiar?).
Of course Apple has been here before. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S used stainless steel to a similar effect, but major differences are expected between them and the 2017 iPhone.
THEY KEY CHANGE IS A SWITCH FROM BILLET MILLING TO METAL FORGING
The key change is a switch from ‘billet milling’ to ‘metal forging’. Milling essentially cuts the chassis from a piece of aluminium, while forging essentially squeezes the metal alloy into the mould using extreme pressure. The benefit of this latter method is the metal is much stronger.
This is unlikely to mean the next iPhone has military grade toughness. After all anything with glass front and back – even toughened glass – puts paid to that, but it will allow Apple to create a slimmer and thinner core chassis without losing any structural integrity. This should mean substance and style, though how much space this leaves for a larger battery remains to be seen.
How much trust should we put in this report? I’d suggest cautious optimism.
DigiTimes’ track record is hit and miss, but its information via supply chains tends to be mostly accurate. Furthermore the motivation for the leak here is clear: suppliers love to brag about winning business from one another and this would be a big coup for Jabil as it looks to challenge Foxconn’s dominance.
Pair this major external redesign with other expected ‘iPhone 8’ upgrades – including a new display type, camera overhaul, no home button – and 2017 is poised to see one of the biggest upgrades in iPhone history. The flipside is after three incremental upgrades in a row, it’s about time too…