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Designer profiles unibody iPhone 5 case design, antenna changes

post #1 of 51
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Industrial designer Don Lehman has posed a detailed analysis of shell components thought to be the final design or a late prototype of the coming iPhone 5, particularly examining changes to the back plate.

Lehman examined rumored iPhone 5 components on The Tech Block, noting "two things stand out right away: A 'taller' proportion compared to traditional iPhones and the wraparound metal backplate."

Evolution of the iPhone 4 antennas

Rumors of a taller, 4 inch screen have been widely discussed, but Lehman focuses on the progression of Apple's iPhone 4 design, which Steve Jobs first unveiled in 2010 (after the new design had leaked following the loss of a prototype).



While the initial iPhone 4 (GSM) model used its "exoskeleton" metal band as two long antenna segments, Apple revised the design when it introduced a CDMA version for Verizon Wireless in order to accommodate Verizon's requirements of a dual-antenna design for its cellular network.

The subsequent iPhone 4S design retained the same top and bottom, dual cellular antenna design, while transmitting GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth radio signals through the phone's rear glass panel.

New unibody case design

Lehman notes that "the leaked [iPhone 5] 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."

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

As with Apple's unibody MacBooks and iPad shells, it appears the iPhone 5's new one piece backplate and sides is milled from a single piece of metal, with integrated "bosses" that provide points to screw down the logic board and other internal components.



The new design eliminates the full glass back of the phone, and reduces its thickness considerably, essentially making it as thin as the band, about 2-3 mm thinner than today's iPhone 4S.

"That sounds small, but it?s a huge difference," Lehman writes. "That?s as much as 32 percent thinner. As a point of comparison, the Retina MacBook Pro is only 25 percent thinner than the old MacBook Pro."

Lehman adds, "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."

Polished chamfer edge



Lehman also noted "the chamfer that runs along the edge of the metal appears to be polished, as opposed to the side, which is buffed or sand blasted.

"The polished chamfer helps the edge look more continuous and will make this design appear to be even thinner than it already is."

Bringing up the rear



Additionally, the two round speaker grills on either side of the lower Dock Connector of the existing iPhone 4S design have also been replaced with asymmetric pin hole areas on either side of the smaller new Dock Connector replacement port, and a headphone jack has been added to the bottom (visible above). The pin hole speaker grills "integrate better into the asymmetrical space," Lehman noted.
post #2 of 51

I love the thin factor but hate the bezels. The screen is still perceived as a tiny window compared to the entire front panel :(

post #3 of 51

Whenever I see this article in every other sites, I hear Job's "Impressive Engineering."

post #4 of 51

I'm hoping that the glass will be easily replaceable if broken like the non-retina MacBooks, iMacs and current iPhone 4 and 4S designs. From the looks of it, the new design certainly makes it appear that way. :-) 

 

Funny...why don't I see the name iPhone in the pic showing the chamfered edge like I can see it in the video?

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post #5 of 51
Originally Posted by jason98 View Post
I love the thin factor but hate the bezels. The screen is still perceived as a tiny window compared to the entire front panel :(

 

Except they're necessary. Let's not get into that again.

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post #6 of 51

IMO from what we've seen I personally think the new phone looks gorgeous. The aluminum should also be very resilient. 

post #7 of 51
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post
IMO from what we've seen I personally think the new phone looks gorgeous. The aluminum should also be very resilient. 

 

I hope that the release version of the black glass model swaps the darker aluminum panel for a lighter one as a throwback to the original. 

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post #8 of 51
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Originally Posted by jason98 View Post

I love the thin factor but hate the bezels. The screen is still perceived as a tiny window compared to the entire front panel 1frown.gif
Don't mind the chamfered bezel. But I do wonder exactly how a piece of solid metal is going to be able to utilize the top and bottom as antennas ... It appears as though the top and bottom have been cut off and glued back on with a thin band separating them ... But that can't be right!

Agreed on the front panel, they should have reduced the height of the end sections, put the camera, sensors and earpiece all in the same line, not take advantage of the extra room, and made the home button smaller and touch sensitive.

I keep imagining my iPhone 4 longer in my hands and it just looks wrong ...so narrow ...
post #9 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

I hope that the release version of the black glass model swaps the darker aluminum panel for a lighter one as a throwback to the original. 

 

Dunno, kind of like the dark aluminum. It's unique and looks classy, as well as fitting in well with the rest of the phone and potentially being able to hold up to visible wear/tear better. 

post #10 of 51

Final judgement reserved until I can get some hands on time with it.  

post #11 of 51
I love the notion of metal and unibody construction, but hope the final implementation of the back panel is better because the lines when the metal stops and plastic or glass top and bottom areas is truly horrible - the first Apple design I've had a negative reaction to since the iPod nano. It looks like a removable battery back. I hope (trust) the integration of the back panel will be more elegant than the photos. Hopefully the metal part has a protective film on it that will removed in the final production units. The elegance of the matching front and back of the 3GS and 4/4S is one of its key differentiators. Lines, splits, multi materials is a huge step back.
post #12 of 51
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post
Dunno, kind of like the dark aluminum. It's unique and looks classy, as well as fitting in well with the rest of the phone and potentially being able to hold up to visible wear/tear better. 

 

And if it's LiquidMetal, their color options are slightly limited—true.

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post #13 of 51

I think this is a rejected prototype part, purposefully leaked by Apple.

 

The REAL iPhone 5 will look better than this.

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post #14 of 51

With a metal back I think we will be seeing some colors besides black and white.

post #15 of 51
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Originally Posted by amoradala View Post

I think this is a rejected prototype part, purposefully leaked by Apple.

 

The REAL iPhone 5 will look better than this.

 

Not sure why people set themselves up for dissapointment like that. There's a good chance it's real. Why not assume it is, and get your negative feelings out of the way so that when its officially revealed you can focus on the positive aspects? Remind me of all the bullshit 'LOL THIS CANT BE THE IPHONE 4 ITS A CONTROLLED LEAK' posts. 

post #16 of 51
Originally Posted by bdkennedy View Post
With a metal back I think we will be seeing some colors besides black and white.

 

Like off-black.

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post #17 of 51

Ok, mr. Obvious thanks for that "analysis."

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post #18 of 51

Well it does look like the opening will be through the front panel instead of the back one, like in the current 4S. So getting to the screen will be very easy, but getting to the battery will be almost impossible. Smart/Evil move by Apple.

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post #19 of 51
Not crazy about the abnormally tall iPhone design. I can't believe that Jonny Ive would approve it.
post #20 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

 

Not sure why people set themselves up for dissapointment like that. There's a good chance it's real. Why not assume it is, and get your negative feelings out of the way so that when its officially revealed you can focus on the positive aspects? Remind me of all the bullshit 'LOL THIS CANT BE THE IPHONE 4 ITS A CONTROLLED LEAK' posts. 

 

It's not a negative feeling, far from it.

I am remembering the ipad 2 'leaks' that came out, and the real iPad 2 looked so much better than any of the fake parts.

 

Apple designers are ahead of most wannabe designers with their 3d renders and machine shop fabrications.

This design just lacks something.

 

I might be wrong of course, but I'm honestly not too worried about dissapointment, (I'm a grown man, I can take it) ;)

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post #21 of 51
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Originally Posted by amoradala View Post

I think this is a rejected prototype part, purposefully leaked by Apple.

 

The REAL iPhone 5 will look better than this.

Are you often surprised in your life that things are different than you think the should be?

 

Because in this case your certainly will be again.

 

----

Or maybe to ask differently, if you have seen such detailed leaks for new products already a few dozen times and in all cases the released product looked like the leaks, shouldn't human pattern recognition tell you that history will almost certainly repeat itself once more?

post #22 of 51
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Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post

and made the home button smaller and touch sensitive.
 

If the home button were touch sensitive (like the display), putting it in your pocket, facing your skin, would activate it. It's a recessed mechanical button for precisely that reason.

post #23 of 51
Originally Posted by bsimpsen View Post
If the home button were touch sensitive (like the display), putting it in your pocket, facing your skin, would activate it. It's a recessed mechanical button for precisely that reason.

 

Capacitive areas don't work through cloth. They don't even work with your fingernail. But that's not the reason a non-physical Home Button is a terrible idea.

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post #24 of 51
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Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Capacitive areas don't work through cloth. They don't even work with your fingernail. But that's not the reason a non-physical Home Button is a terrible idea.

Not reliably, but they certainly do. Sometimes I listen to podcasts with my iPhone in my pocket, and I've had it annoyingly skip to the next episode when I'm walking. I've learned to make sure the screen is either turned off or turned away from my body.

post #25 of 51
I think Apple have inevitably arrived at this unibody structure to make it thinner and functionally perform well. But in terms of aesthetics, they can still play around with the finishing to make it look elegant such as giving a matte finish on the two pieces of glass that matches with the finish of the body. They've done such treatment on the trackpad of their existing laptops and they should be able to mimic that same effect on the upcoming iPhone and cut a little hole for the flashlight.

It's also quite possible that the piece of glass is actually a piece of ceramic in order to match the finish of the metal body even more as it will appear more solid than glass when light shines onto it. Being a designer myself, I've actually visited a large ceramics factory in China several months ago that said that Apple have approached them before to make some small and thin pieces of ceramic for the iPhone. I doubt that they actually supply those parts to them right now but at least it gives us some insight that they are looking into using ceramic. I'd bet they're going to end up using some ceramics that's similar to the toughness of those ceramic knives out there if in fact that they are going with this unibody design.
Edited by Guest20 - 8/10/12 at 6:15pm
post #26 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post

Don't mind the chamfered bezel. But I do wonder exactly how a piece of solid metal is going to be able to utilize the top and bottom as antennas ... It appears as though the top and bottom have been cut off and glued back on with a thin band separating them ... But that can't be right!

It's not a piece of solid metal. The casing is made of at least 3 distinct metal pieces. Note that the forehead and chin of the back of the casing is a different color. That is probably not metal, or at least not conductive. I'd guess a plastic or glass. Also, note the dividing lines on the sides of the casing right where that black forehead and chin meet the center of the casing. That's exactly how the external antenna has been separated from the other pieces in the past. Finally, take a gander at the inside of the casing and see screws right at those four points where the antenna ends. This, too, is exactly how all the iPhones with external antennas dealt with the design. The major difference here is the ability to make it appear more seamless instead of the sandwich shape of the iPhone 4/4S.
Quote:
Agreed on the front panel, they should have reduced the height of the end sections, put the camera, sensors and earpiece all in the same line, not take advantage of the extra room, and made the home button smaller and touch sensitive.
I keep imagining my iPhone 4 longer in my hands and it just looks wrong ...so narrow ...

I want the Home Button to be larger, not smaller. Elongated a bit would be my preference.


PS: Remember when people said that Apple was stupid for using an external antenna design when all these professional handset makers have using internal ones for decades/? What does Apple know about phone anyway? I guess Apple will never learn how fundamentally flawed their 4th, 5th and 6th generation iPhones are¡

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post #27 of 51

I quite like the gun-metal color and shiny chamfer or whatever that edge is called on the detail photos, but the full shot does look strange and not very unified.  I almost always have mine in a case anyway, so size matters more than color, but it would be nice to have a few kinds of anodized metal - I'd really go for copper!

 
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post #28 of 51

I thought I read somewhere....that the headphone jack on the bottom would also serve as bass port for the speakers next to it.

Similar to the way bass speakers are ported for better airflow and louder bass?? Cool design....not sure I dig the color.

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post #29 of 51
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Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Except they're necessary. Let's not get into that again.


Because there's no way to make a smartphone out of a non-conductive material that doesn't look cheap, right guys?

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post #30 of 51
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Originally Posted by DimMok View Post

I thought I read somewhere....that the headphone jack on the bottom would also serve as bass port for the speakers next to it.

Similar to the way bass speakers are ported for better airflow and louder bass?? Cool design....not sure I dig the color.

That would be badass.

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post #31 of 51
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Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post


Because there's no way to make a smartphone out of a non-conductive material that doesn't look cheap, right guys?

I have no idea what non-conductive materials have to do with bezels on the edge of the display but I'm still going to address your post as if there is a point about bezels that I'm missing. The Lumia's bezels are larger than the iPhone's....


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post #32 of 51

Wil be so funny when all these pics turn out to be either - prototypes that were abandoned or iTouch rather than iPhone parts. 

post #33 of 51
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Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

Wil be so funny when all these pics turn out to be either - prototypes that were abandoned or iTouch rather than iPhone parts. 


I'm guessing neither is the case. For this to be an iPod Touch it would mean the iPod Touch is getting cellular antennas. I don't have a technical reason this wouldn't be an old prototype but this seems very refined, it looks great, and in the past when this many leaks were seen it turned out to be the product and it was to be available shortly. I'd say the production is nearly in full swing at this point. So much so we could start using the available data to predict how many countries it'll sell in from day one, when that day will be and what the opening weekend will be.

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post #34 of 51
Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post
Because there's no way to make a smartphone out of a non-conductive material that doesn't look cheap, right guys?

 

It'd be nice if this reply had anything to do with what it's replying to.

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post #35 of 51

Why are the milling "Toolpath" lines so thick and deep?  Why not grind it smooth?

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post #36 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I have no idea what non-conductive materials have to do with bezels on the edge of the display but I'm still going to address your post as if there is a point about bezels that I'm missing. The Lumia's bezels are larger than the iPhone's....

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

It'd be nice if this reply had anything to do with what it's replying to.


For a moment I thought you were replying on an antenna window complain. Hence the whole non-conductive materials thing. My bad.

(However, the vertical bezel on the One X *is* smaller than the iPhone's and I've never heard anyone complaining about that)

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post #37 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post

However, the vertical bezel on the One X *is* smaller than the iPhone's and I've never heard anyone complaining about that

Is it? It doesn't look smaller to me. It has less of chin and forehead compared to the iPhone but it also has a much larger display. I think Apple is cutting the chin too close for comfort based on the images but they do have solid history of balancing out utility with usability.


That said, I was not a fan of the iPod Nano that got the elongated display. It pushed the scroll wheel further down. The problem comes in when you hold the Nano comfortably and the thumb's pivot point is now much higher than it was before thus making the scrolling a little less natural feeling. I found this to be noticeable to the point of being unpleasant in comparison.


Edited by SolipsismX - 8/12/12 at 7:12am

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post #38 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClementineOrange View Post

Why are the milling "Toolpath" lines so thick and deep?  Why not grind it smooth?

I remember JeffDM mentioning this as proof it's not a finished product. It seemed reasonable at the time but since it's refined for tool marks and it goes around the screw mounts like a Zen garden at this point I think we should assume it's intended and has a purpose. Rigidity? Air flow? Any other ideas?

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post #39 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Capacitive areas don't work through cloth. They don't even work with your fingernail. But that's not the reason a non-physical Home Button is a terrible idea.

Wrong. Capacitive areas do indeed work through cloth and other insulating materials, such as the protective plastic sheets placed over touch screens. The reason they don't work with a fingernail is that you must tip your finger up and away from the surface to use your nail, so the flesh of your fingertip is much farther away from the glass surface than if it were pressed up hard against your fanny through the lining of your pocket. This is why swipe to unlock was implemented. Even with a mechanical wake switch, devices can be accidentally powered on in the pocket. The touch surface then responds to your skin in random and potentially undesirable ways. So a particular motion is required to activate the phone. If that motion isn't detected, the device goes back to sleep.

 

If you don't believe me, place a layer of cloth or a couple sheets of paper over the surface of your iDevice, turn it on, then do the swipe to unlock. I just did it successfully through both my tee shirt and my denim jeans.

post #40 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I remember JeffDM mentioning this as proof it's not a finished product. It seemed reasonable at the time but since it's refined for tool marks and it goes around the screw mounts like a Zen garden at this point I think we should assume it's intended and has a purpose. Rigidity? Air flow? Any other ideas?

I would think there are multiple benefits to it. First, it would definitely make it more rigid, which is important for a large flat piece of metal which is likely quite thin. Second, it probably cuts down on the amount of time needed to mill each case considerably. Downsides would be slightly more weight and I would also think that components wouldn't be packaged as efficiently as possible with those grooves in there.

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