A new report from Asia indicates that Apple may use steel in an iPhone again this year. The iPhone 8, which is already expected to feature a “glass sandwich” design, will apparently have a stainless steel chassis.
Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s were the last iPhones to have a glass and steel design. Since then, Apple has used an aluminum unibody design for the iPhone, with glass being found only on the front of the phone. With the iPhone 8, Apple is tipped to bring wireless charging to the iPhone, a feature that requires the use of glass on the back of that handset so that radio waves can pass through.
According to Digitimes, Apple has placed orders for stainless steel iPhone parts with Jabil, bypassing its usual supplier Foxconn. Jabil and Foxconn both made stainless steel chassis for Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s.
The report notes that the iPhone 8 chassis will be made of forged stainless steel. Forging stainless steel, Apple Insider explains, is a process that involves squeezing a metal alloy between two halves of a mold to form a finished part. The resulting component has a better structural rigidity than other manufacturing processes. The stainless steel used in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s was CNC-machined.
Sources also told Digitimes that forging stainless steel is 30% to 50% cheaper than the current unibody CNC machine process, and quality control is more reliable. The method should also reduce manufacturing time. It’s unclear at this time what kind of glass Apple will use for the front and back of the iPhone 8 — in fact, the glass sandwich design and the use of stainless steel are yet to be confirmed.
But considering Apple’s way of building iPhones, it’s likely the company is looking to both offer novel features — such as wireless charging — and also to ensure the structural integrity of the handset. Nobody wants anymore Bendgate issues with the iPhone.
Apple is rumored to be planning three new iPhones this year, including the radically redesigned iPhone 8, as well as iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus successors. It’s unclear whether the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus will also be made of glass and steel, or if they’ll stick to aluminum unibodies.
Whatever the case, it’s likely that Apple will explain in detail how it built its 2017 iPhones in future videos, complete with Jony Ive voiceovers.