KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, he of the many connections in the Apple supply chain, predicts the popularity of this year’s Jet Black iPhone models will encourage Apple to make the move back to glass casings for next year’s model. Glass tends to have a glossier finish than metal.
While a glossy finish is possible for metal casing, we identify two prerequisites for the 2017 new iPhone to be competitive in terms of casing design, considering competitors will definitely launch smartphone models with glossy metal or glass casing prior to Apple’s launch: (1) adoption of a glossy finish design; (2) enhanced productivity and higher yield will prevent a supply shortage, as has happened with jet black casing, which is manufactured at an unsatisfactory yield rate of 60-70% due to the metal material; and (3) better scratch resistance will improve user satisfaction. All things considered, we see glass casing as the only option.
Kuo says he believes Apple will likely stick with a slightly curved 2.5D cover glass on next year’s iPhone, rather than go for a fully curved 3D design. Kuo sites production concerns and drop test performance as the reasoning behind such a move.
The report indicates the new glass casing will be reinforced with an aluminum or stainless steel frame, with the latter metal being used for the higher-end model devices.
Metal frame can be stainless steel or aluminum, with former more likely for high-end models. As all-glass casing is not possible at present given technological bottlenecks, a metal frame surrounding the edge is necessary for reinforced structure design. As stainless steel has a better look than aluminum and costs more, we expect only high-end new iPhone models to come with a stainless steel frame next year.
The KGI analyst says Foxconn will likely be the sole supplier of the high-end iPhone models in 2017, as they will be the exclusive maker of the stainless steel frames. Corning Glass and glass casing manufacturers Lens Technology and Biel Crystal are expected to see their businesses benefit from the new glass design.