Apple iPhone rumor roundup: Liquidmetal, in-cell touch panels and more

April 20, 2012

New iPhone rumors are popping up everywhere this week, with the latest crop suggesting that Apple will be sticking to its new release schedule and making some major design changes to the new iPhone.

One exciting new rumor is that the phone will be cased in Liquidmetal, a metal alloy that has a smooth surface, according to a report from KoreaIT News. According to Wired, Liquidmetal is a strong material that essentially acts like metal glass, and can be used to manufacture the phones in a different way. The report says that parts made with Liquidmetal can be produced using a process similar to plastic injection molding rather than by die-casting. There have been several rumors that Apple would be considering a unibody case for the iPhone, indicating that there is strong speculation that Apple will move away from the form factor it chose for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

More could be changing about the iPhone than its outer shell. Digitimes, a near-constant supply of Apple rumors, reports this week that Apple’s next iPhone will adopt in-cell touch panels made by Sharp and Toshiba. The paper has a spotty-at-best record on iPhone rumors, but the change would make the phone lighter, according to Focus Taiwan. The technology would allow Apple to make its touchpanels thinner because the touch sensors would be placed inside color filters on the screen rather than on top of them. If the switch is true, then the move would be a blow to Taiwanese companies such as Wintek, which make Apple’s current displays.

So when, theoretically, can you get your hands on what appears to be a super-light, metal-backed iPhone?

As Apple watchers know, ever since the company switched its iPhone releases from the summer to the fall with the iPhone 4, Apple fans have been looking for any clues that it will switch back.

There had been some rumors of a summer release sparked by a hiring spree at Apple manufacturer Foxconn and other reports of increased production, but analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray released a note Thursday that advises consumers to plan for the fall.

Bloomberg reported that Munster has changed his mind about Apple’s release after Qualcomm announced it was having trouble meeting demand for LTE chips that will likely be used in the next phone. Although the analyst had previously expected an August release for the iPhone, he now believes the big day will fall in October.

Nothing, of course, is set in stone — even the name of the next iPhone, which could just be the “iPhone” — so don’t take any of these as a given until Apple announces the features itself.

Related stories:

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Foxconn hiring points to summer iPhone 5, report says

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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