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Post-Holiday Leak Hints at Apple Surprise in 2017

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Dec. 4 2020, Updated 10:52 a.m. ET

An iPhone with a forged steel frame?

If Apple (AAPL) doesn’t unveil a radically redesigned iPhone this year, analysts say the company will find it difficult to return to its previous sales growth and defend its share of the smartphone market.

Apple is facing pressure in the premium smartphone market from traditional rival Samsung (SSNLF) and emerging threats like Alphabet (GOOGL), Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE), Huawei, and Xiaomi. Notably, Nokia (NOK) is returning to the handset business after a nearly two-year break.

Apple sales dropped to $215.6 billion in fiscal 2016 compared to $233.7 billion in 2015.

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Apple returning to steel in iPhone chassis

However, if leaks from Apple supply chain are anything to go by, the company could confound these rivals and give the iPhone the boost it needs. According to a fresh leak obtained by DigiTimes, Apple might adopt a forged stainless chassis in one of its new 2017 iPhones.

Recent iPhones have featured aluminum alloy chassis, which Apple favored because of its structural rigidity and lightweight. Apple also used stainless steel frames in earlier iPhones, specifically iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. But forged stainless steel frame for the next iPhone would mark a major departure from what Apple has done in the past, potentially leading to a more toughened, slimmer iPhone.

Ensuring hardware strength

The rumor about a forged steel frame for top-tier iPhones in 2017 appears to back earlier claims that the device could also feature an all-glass surface on both sides. If that’s the case, Apple needs a tougher frame to ensure that it maintains the hardware strength and quality that customers have come to associate with the iPhone brand.

As part of design upgrade, Apple is also expected to do away with physical buttons in the premium 2017 iPhone that some speculate will be called iPhone 8. The device is further expected to come with more curved OLED display. Apple has traditionally built iPhones with LCD screens.

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