Apple hasn’t substantially changed the design of its phones for the last few models, with the biggest alteration being the camera on the iPhone 11 range, but another change could be coming for the iPhone 12, this time focused on the frame.
According to Ming-Chi Kuo (a respected analyst) in a research note seen by MacRumors (opens in new tab), Apple is likely to stick with a glass back and a metal frame, but change the design of the metal frame so that it’s more like the frame used on the iPhone 4. That presumably means flat rather than rounded edges, but it goes beyond that.
Kuo claims it will have "a more complex segmentation design, new trenching and injection molding procedures, and sapphire or glass cover assembly to protect the trench injection molding structure."
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The injection molding will apparently reduce the negative impact that metal can have on high-frequency transmission from the internal antenna, suggesting that unlike the iPhone 4, this shouldn’t suffer any signal issues.
Harder to break and more expensive to buy
The use of a sapphire or tempered glass cover meanwhile should help with durability - though it's not clear to us whether he means a cover over the frame, or whether he's talking about the back of the phone here.
Regardless, Kuo also states that these changes could substantially increase the cost of materials, with the metal frame potentially costing up to 50-60% more and the cover up to 40-50% more. He doesn’t say whether this will lead to a higher cost at retail, but it seems likely.
Still, the end result will apparently be a “significantly” different design, which coupled with 5G support – something which he’s claimed we’ll see on all three 2020 iPhone models – could go some way to justifying it.