Apple will debut three glass-backed iPhone 8 models in 2017

The three new iPhone models to be launched next year are likely to sport glass backs supplied by China’s Biel Crystal Manufactory and Lens Technology, an industry source told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Apple is preparing to unveil a made-over iPhone at the device’s 10th anniversary in 2017. The source said however, that the U.S. tech titan could change its plans for the new backs, given that it ceased production of the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 model bearing a single lens less than six months before launch.

“Apple has tentatively decided that all the 5.5-inch, 5-inch and 4.7-inch models will have glass backs, departing from metal casings adopted by current iPhones, and Biel and Lens are likely to be providing all the glass backs for the new iPhones next year,” the source said.

The new iPhone 8 range is now expected to also bear glass covers supplied by Biel and Lens. The glass front and back will be held together by a metal frame.

Apple is in a drive to woo potential customers and nudge its existing fans into buying the new range by coming up with a radically different look after its iPhone 7s were criticized for being too similar to previous models and lacking innovative features.

The source said that while key iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn Technology Group, and its subsidiaries have been working to develop glass backs, it is unlikely the Taiwanese manufacturing mammoth will be able to secure orders for this component for the iPhone 8 series because its Chinese rivals have the technological edge.

Foxconn is also a major metal casing supplier to Apple, its biggest customer that accounts for over 50% of its total sales. Foxconn is the key metal casing maker for iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone SE and splits iPhone 7 orders with Catcher Technology and U.S.-based Jabil.

The source said that it was unclear if Foxconn’s revenue would be affected next year as Apple had not made a final decision on the design of the new metal frames.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comments. Biel Crystal, which is reportedly preparing for a listing in Hong Kong, Foxconn and Shenzhen-listed Lens all declined to comment.

Nikkei Asian Review reported late August that Apple’s iPhone overhaul will also see the premium 5.5-inch iPhone 8 model sporting a curved display using advanced organic light-emitting diode panels, reportedly to be supplied by embattled Samsung Electronics, while the other two handsets will stick with low-temperature poly-silicon panels adopted by iPhone 7.

Vincent Chen, an analyst at Yuanta Investment Consulting, wrote in an Oct. 20 note that another major improvement in the iPhone 8 series would be the inclusion of a wireless charging feature.

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