Apple won’t talk about its plans for the future, but that hasn’t stopped one of its suppliers from doing so.
Speaking to reporters in Taiwan on Friday, Catcher Technology CEO Allen Horng seemed to confirm what has been speculated for quite some time: Apple (AAPL) is working on an all-glass iPhone that would launch next year. His comments came at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, where he was forced to allay fears that his company, which supplies metal casing for current iPhones, wouldn’t be hurt by Apple’s decision.
“As far as I know, only one [iPhone] model will adopt glass casing next year,” Horng told reporters, according to Nikkei, which was in attendance at the event. “I don’t think this move will have an impact on Catcher’s revenue as glass casing still needs a durable metal frame which requires advanced processing technology and would not be cheaper than the current model.”
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Rumors have been swirling that Apple has plans to dramatically change the look and feel of its flagship iPhone. The company’s current devices are metal and have come with that finish since the iPhone 5 launched in 2012. Since then, all of its smartphones, including Apple’s most recent launch, the iPhone SE, have featured an aluminum chassis.
Apple offered a glass enclosure in its iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. However, when those models fell on a hard surface, it wasn’t uncommon for the back panel to shatter, similar to the way an iPhone’s screen might shatter in a similar circumstance. The shattering issue forced Apple to quickly move to its familiar aluminum-based design.
In April, KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo, who has been one of the most accurate analysts at predicting Apple’s future moves, said that the company was working on an all-glass iPhone. However, rather than launch the redesigned iPhone this year, it would instead push back its launch to 2017.
Horng’s comments confirm the same launch timeframe.
That said, it’s unknown whether Apple would indeed share its plans for the future with its manufacturing partners so far off from a possible launch. The company is notoriously secretive and has in the past kept plans for new devices under wraps until the last possible moment.
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Still, the idea makes some sense. Next year marks the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, which originally launched in 2007. Apple might want to make a big splash to commemorate that anniversary. A glass enclosure, as well as the possibility of a curved screen, which has also been rumored, could help the company do just that.
However, Apple has historically unveiled new designs every other year and offered so-called “S” versions with the same design in the interim periods. Since Apple launched the iPhone 6s last year, it’s expected to offer something new in the iPhone 7 in 2016. Now with Horng’s comments, more evidence is piling up that Apple might have changed tack.
Apple declined to comment on Horng’s comments.