A Closer Look at Apple's Next-Generation 'Unibody' iPhone Design
Industrial designer Don Lehman has analyzed the leaked photos of the rumored iPhone 5 unibody design that should make the device stronger, lighter, and thinner than previous models, using a high-quality, thin metal shell wherever possible on the back of the device.
With the iPhone needing to send and receive Wi-Fi, cellular, GPS, Bluetooth, and perhaps NFC signals, Lehman notes that Apple redesigned the antenna system in order to push the antennas to the top and bottom portions of the stainless steel band wrapping around the device and avoid the "Antennagate" controversy that first took place with the iPhone 4. Lehman notes that even the bosses where screws for other components will attach are machined out of the single rear shell piece, increasing strength while reducing thickness and weight.
The leaked design has three pieces of metal instead of four. It still has two U-shaped pieces at the top and bottom, but this time the two flat sides become one single piece of metal that also comprises the back of the device. That single piece of metal is the unibody backplate.
The same properties that unibody designs give to Apple’s laptops apply to this design as well: stronger, lighter, and thinner. You can see from this picture the tool path of the CNC machine that made the unibody backplate of this design. The tool path sort of looks like the lines that are made when a farmer plows a field. This started out as a single block of metal and the CNC carved that metal out until you have what you see here.
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