Labeled "Glassgate," recent reports suggest the iPhone 4's glass back is prone to cracking when slipped inside of slider cases. If that's true, you can bet the iPhone will get a major redesign when it comes time for the next model. But what would replace the glass?
The issue is caused by dirt or dust particles that can get trapped between the phone's glass back and the inside of the case, which over time could start scratching the glass and lead to full-blown cracks or shattered backs.
In light of all the "design flaws" that Apple is experiencing with the iPhone 4, the Wall Street Journal also coyly reported that the next iPhone might have a different form factor. No one knows what that means, but we can make some logical leaps of speculation. Below are our picks for what Apple will use for the exterior iPhone 4.5 or 5 or whatever it will be called.
Back to Plastic: There's a reason most phones are made of plastic — it's cheap and allows antenna signals to pass right through it with ease. One of the reasons iPhone 3GS owners didn't report the same problems as iPhone 4 owners did is because the signal from the 3GS's internal antenna can zip right through the phone's plastic back, with no attenuation issues. Plastic also holds up really well against drops to the concrete — it might even bounce. A few ticks off the plastic is better than a completely shattered back. As the saying goes: if ain't broke, don't fix it. A return to plastic wouldn't be completely shameful for Apple and consumers.
Aluminum: The iPad's unibody design is made of aluminum. Macs are made from it and so was the original iPhone from 2007. So why not? Like the original, the phone signal doesn't pass through aluminum as well as other materials. That's why there was a plastic strip at the bottom of the original iPhone — to improve signal strength. The same plastic strip applies to the iPad with 3G. A lot of improvements have been made in the last three years, so there's no reason to believe Apple's love for aluminum is off the chop block for good.
Liquidmetal: In August, Apple purchased the rights to use compounds made by Liquidmetal Technologies. As of right now, the only thing Apple has made out of liquidmetal is the SIM ejector pin that comes with the iPhone 3GS. Liquidmetal is known for its ability to remain scratch-free longer than regular metals like steel — take that iPod touches! Apple could replace the iPhone 4's steel band with liquidmetal in future models, which may end Antennagate. Stronger than aluminum or titanium, an iPhone made from liquidmetal would be a complete 180-degree turn from the iPhone 4 — scratch resistant.
Titanium: Extremely light and durable, titanium would make a great material to build the next iPhone out of. Picture this: iPhone 5. Half as light. Twice as strong. There's only one problem: titanium is super-expensive. However, earlier this year modder Martin Schrotz molded his own iPhone 3GS replacement case out of titanium. Apple could take a cue from Schrotz.
Carbon Fiber: Like Titanium, carbon fiber is extremely light but crazy expensive. It also doesn't help that it's vulnerable to pressure and shock — which would lead to cracks just as bad if not worse than the iPhone 4's glass back. It's entirely possible that Apple could pioneer a new chemistry to strengthen carbon fiber, but I'm not sure how they would reduce the price to a consumer-friendly one. This is one of the reasons why gadgets made out of carbon fiber are few, and usually priced for luxurious buyers.
Whatever Apple decides to use to build its next iPhone, one thing is for sure: it had better be more durable than the iPhone 4's current design.