When the first leaks of Apple's (AAPL -0.14%) then-unreleased iPhone 6 and 6 Plus started to hit the Web, one thing that seemed to perturb a lot of folks was the presence of the antenna lines at the top and the bottom of the rear shell of the device.
Those antenna lines are there to allow RF signals to pass through the device -- as such, signals cannot easily pass through metal. It's an unfortunate consequence of building an all-metal smartphone.
However, according to a recent rumor (courtesy of The Commercial Times via DigiTimes ), Apple's next-generation iPhone will use "new compound materials" in a bid to "hide" these antenna lines.
Does this rumor seem plausible? Let's take a closer look.
Remember this Apple patent?
Back in June, Business Insiderpublished an article highlighting an Apple patent application in which the company described a material that's radio-frequency transparent (i.e., wireless signals can pass through it) that looks like anodized metal.
If Apple's materials engineering team is able to put such a technology into high-volume manufacturing in time for the iPhone 7 (based on the application date, Apple has had a few years to work on it), then this would allow Apple to "solve" its antenna band problem.
Wait, didn't you tell us a while back that this wasn't at all likely?
A while ago, there was a rumor that the iPhone 6s/6s Plus would be the last iPhone to feature a metal casing. My regular readers will probably remember that, in this article, I said that investors should dismiss that particular rumor in light of the fact that Apple metal casing supplier, Catcher Technology, was continuing to expand its manufacturing capacity (and it would be silly to do this if Apple were going to stop needing Catcher's services).
However, what makes that previous rumor so much more credible now is the fact that the latest report says that Catcher will actually participate in building these new cases made of "compound materials" for Apple. This would square nicely with Catcher's plans to continue to build out manufacturing capacity.
This could be an interesting selling point/competitive advantage for iPhone 7
If this rumor is true then the lack of the antenna bands (which some have referred to as "ugly" and "unsightly"), coupled with prior (very credible) rumors that the iPhone 7/7 Plus will be Apple's thinnest phones yet, then iPhone buyers may be in for a real treat when it comes to industrial design.
Although it seems almost silly to think that how a phone looks will make a difference to buyers, there's a reason why the company spends so much on developing cutting edge industrial designs. That same reason is why you will see companies like HTC and Lenovo draw significant inspiration from the latest iPhone designs with phones such as the HTC One A9 and the Lenovo Sisley, respectively.
Additionally, if the new iPhone is much better looking as a result of the lack of plastic antenna lines (enabled by a unique, Apple-designed material), then this could serve as a real competitive advantage for the company as such a design might be much harder for competitors to replicate.
And, in a smartphone market that's quickly reaching saturation, any and all competitive advantages to help Apple capture even more market segment share would be a good thing for Apple and its shareholders alike.