It’s being hypothesized that the next generation iPhone will leave behind its aluminum unibody construction, which has served it well since the release of the iPhone 5 in 2012, in favor or a ceramic housing. A patent, which was filed on September 8th, shows an iPhone-like the device that is constructed of a ceramic exterior housing that is co-molded with an inner polymer layer (which makes contact with the device’s innards).
The benefits of such an arrangement are plentiful, as a ceramic housing would negate the need for unsightly antenna lines that mar the current iPhones (the radio signals can pass through ceramic materials). Apple says that ceramics are highly scratch resistant, are lightweight, and can achieve “a high degree of surface polish making them particularly aesthetically pleasing.”
Apple uses a combination of high-strength zirconia powder and alumina, which can be easily pigmented in a wide variety of colors. This could allow for some never before seen colors in the “flagship” iPhone family like red, blue, yellow and green — the plastic iPhone 5c doesn’t count. In addition, the use of ceramic material allows for a cooler device since it doesn’t conduct heat easily.
The Cupertino-based company is already using ceramic materials in its new Apple Watch Edition. Apple claims that the Apple Watch Edition’s ceramic "is more than four times as hard as stainless steel — with a pearly, lustrous finish that won’t scratch or tarnish.” However, this high quality finish means that each housing takes days to make, which explains why the Apple Watch Edition starts at $1,249 compared to the Apple Watch Series 2 that starts at $369 (with an aluminum housing).
In addition, ceramics are more brittle, which means that a nasty drop could result in a shattered device. The last thing you want is for your iPhone 8 to go all T-1000 on you at the wrong time. Apple, however, still has time to work out the cost and durability concerns for a future iPhone launch.
But of course, this is all just speculation at this point. Nobody but Apple knows what in store for the iPhone 8… for now. But within the next 6 months or so, supply channel leaks will no doubt start firing up and we’ll get a better picture of what to expect for the next iPhone keynote.