Here is what the iPhone 5 will (probably) look like: two-tone, taller screen, smaller dock and unibody design. Soak it in, because you, your friends and millions of people around the world will carry it in their pockets.
Ever since the first part leaked for Apple’s upcoming handset, the Internet has chimed in as to why it sucks, why it’s not innovative, “I’m never buying an Apple device again,” etc., and that kind of thing. But there’s a reason Tim Cook and Co. are going with the design you see above. Many reasons.
Don Lehman, an industrial designer, explains why the iPhone 5 looks the way it does, and extrapolates his experience to reach conclusions that make perfect sense. Simple, it’s about refinement and functionality, and a big reason why Apple chose not to start from scratch.
The upcoming iPhone 5, with its unibody backplate, is an evolution on what first began with the first-gen iPhone in 2007. Lehman explains why there’s now a “wraparound metal back,” and how it incorporates — and improves upon — the stainless steel antenna design first introduced in the iPhone 4.
Basically, the top and bottom stainless steel U brackets will act as the iPhone 5’s cell antenna, just as they have in the past two iterations of Apple’s handset. The only difference in the company’s next device will be the side steel pieces, which are being replaced by one big piece of aluminum/stainless steel (it’s unclear from the photos what material Apple used).
The unibody design, according to Lehman, will contribute to a stronger, lighter and thinner iPhone. Thin because of the unibody, stretched out design. Light because of the materials and overall thinness. And strong because, again, of the unibody backplate. No more fragile back piece of glass and, in addition, the front piece — rumored to be Gorilla Glass 2 — sits flush “within the unibody frame.”
That brings up the question why, if Apple is going with a unibody form, the entirety of the back isn’t one big piece? Lehman explains:
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.
Lehman goes on to explain the finer details of the alleged iPhone 5 design, like why Apple chose to tint the metal housing in the black model (hint: it’s about design integration), or why a smaller dock connector won’t be such a difficult transition.
The argument is for refinement, and everything Lehman says is quite convincing. Just because Apple is sticking with a design similar to what the iPhone 4/4S looks like doesn’t mean users won’t get an innovative product. The unibody design will lead to a stronger, thinner, and lighter device, while also allowing Apple to improve functionality and aesthetics.
“If you aren’t excited about [the design] now, you will be when you see one in person,” Lehman said. “Classic Apple design refinement.”