The next-generation version of the Apple’s smartphone, iPhone 5, is due out later this year, and is expected to feature a slightly larger screen, people familiar with the matter said, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Production of the new screens is set to begin in June and are expected to measure at least 4-inches diagonally compared with 3.5 inches on Apple’s latest model, the iPhone 4S. However, an Apple spokesman declined to comment.
The sources said Apple Inc. is working with several screen makers on the new iPhone’s screen, including South Korea’s LG Display Co., Japan’s Sharp Corp. and Display Inc., which was created last month by three Japanese companies and the government.
Since Apple Inc. launched its first iPhone in 2007, it has never changed the size of the screen. However, as the mobile market becomes increasingly competitive and rival businesses, such as Samsung Electronics Co., release more sophisticated smartphones with larger display screens.
Apple is trying to keep one step ahead. Last month, rumours began circulating suggesting that the next iPhone, expected to be released during autumn of this year, would have a Liquidmetal case. Liquidmetal is a new alloy, also known as metallic glass, which Apple licensed in 2010.
Atakan Peker, one of the inventors of the technology, told Business Insider: “I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies.”
Liquidmetal has been used by other manufacturers, including Samsung and Nokia, in the past but only for smaller components. Since 2010, Apple has had an exclusive licence to use the technology in consumer electronics but so far it has used it only for the iPhone SIM card ejector pin.
Mr Peker said: “Liquidmetal is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes. The benefits will be in the form of strong and aesthetic structural components, such as casing and frames.”
He said that it was unlikely that Apple would be able to make an entire product casing from Liquidmetal “in the near term”.
He said: “It’s more likely in the form of a small component such as a hinge or bracket. A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement.”
Mr Peker said Liquidmetal was not yet perfected and Apple would need to “spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million – and three to five years – to mature the technology before it can be used in large scale.”
His comments suggest that Apple might not be ready to make an iPhone case out of Liquidmetal. However, reports from a Korean news outlet last month suggest that a new breakthrough in ‘superspeed pulse mould technology’ had made it possible to use the material for phone casings.