iPhone 5 set to abandon glass back in favor of aluminum?

According to a translated Chinese source (I know, a little sketchy to say the least) the iPhone 5 will revert to an aluminum back panel, in place of the latest generation's entire glass affair. The picture above is a concept however we would expect Apple to also provide a flash for the camera!

The source claims that Apple will dump the glass panel due to problems with scratching, breaking and the weight of the panel. The iPhone 5 is claimed to more resemble the latest iPod touch design. The original iPhone also had an aluminum rear panel and many still believe this model had the best build quality.

The antennae will also face a redesign according to the same source; the new placement will be on the rear of the phone via a resin made Apple logo. The side exposed antennas will be abandoned. This is not much of a surprise after all the bad press Apple received over the death grip/touch.

What do you think? Would you prefer an aluminum back panel? Do you like the iPhone 4 glass back panel? Let us know in the comments!


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UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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iPhone 5 set to abandon glass back in favor of aluminum?


I hate cases and don't use them. But i'd like to be able to place iphone down without worry. Not a fan of glass back.
If anyone remembers, i mentioned how i liked the 3GS form factor better when the iphone 4 launched. While i've gotten used to the iphone 4, i'd still prefer a redesign.

Where do you set your phone down? A gravel road? A cinder track? How are you scratching the back? I've had mine since launch day with no case (I go unprotected, it feels better) and I have no scratches.

I disagree that Apple needs to redesign the antenna. I've had my iPhone 4 since launch day and I've never had a dropped call, or even call/signal degradation due to "antennagate". Some of you must have some pretty thick hands.

just because you have no problems doesn't mean they don't exist. My ip4 is useable as long as I have a case, otherwise forget it. As much as I like the design of the ip4 and redesign with a better antenna is needed.

Disagree. If I don't have any issues then issues don't exist to me. If you're having issues, that's your problem.

Looks like a current gen iPod Touch... DO NOT WANT.
Seriously, this can't be real. It would essentially be a step backwards in design. I don't care if it has an aluminum back or one made out of feathers... that looks like crap.

I got to agree with you there, this would be a step backwards, and one that not welcome, the look is old and dated, i think i stay with my iphone 4 if this is what is planned.

Yeah exactly. I don't really care about the material as much as the shape. I don't want that tasteless palm pre roundedness. The current iPhone design is years ahead.

come on guys... this is just a render, everybody said the same thing when the iphone 4 prototype came out, wait until you have the final products in your hands, that's something different.

Nope. I think that story is BS. I will not move to the new iPhone if it doesnt have a glass back. The aluminum is dated. Apple moves forward, not back.

Just a way Apple can save on the redesign! Just reusing the iPod touch backing to cut costs. I like the the glass back on the iPhone 4, Glassy!! I mean Classy!!! Lol.

I agree it needs an antenna redesign. But I like the current design with the glass back accept for the weight, its to heavy. Also think the overall size of phone should be a little larger too.

The thought of a redesigned back, in aluminum, doesnt bother me. I have enough faith in Apple that their design will be considerably better than the photo above.

The picture is another sites interpretation of the rumor,that is all. It is not supposed to be an actual picture of iPhone 5. It is the original iPhone back modified, see the recessed headphone jack too and no flash?

I personally like the glass.. then again some adults are capable of handling nice toys without breaking them.
As long as they don't go back to plastic crappy phones like most others though it will be ok.

You can see where they photoshopped the white iPhone on top of an iPod touch. I'm going to stop reading rumors!!!

I think the glass back was a huge design flaw and had it replaced with a stainless steel panel. Will be very glad if they ditch it for the next iPhone.

This is obviously a photoshopped iPod just to have a graphic, not a representation of what the iPhone 5 will look like.

Keep the current design but make the screen 4.3 inches with a customizable UI and alluminum casing also LTE capable.

I like the glass back and design of iphone 4, iphone 5 should stay the same. Just add dual corez, 1 gig of ramz, double the memoryz, faster graphicz and 4gz, I'll be happy.

I don't think it would be all aluminum, because of the antenna requirements, but maybe a new material. I'm all for the bevelled edges, though. I loved how the 3G & Gs felt in the hand, and hate the slabby feel of the 4. Besides the antenna issue, you need a case just to make it comfortable to hold. I hope this is the direction they go in shape.

Some of you guys are crazy especially whoever said the iPhone 4 was to heavy.. It is perfect I don't have signal issues, a zagg and bumper handles my phone through drop after drop with no crack screen. The iPhone 4 is a strong industrial design that makes the competition look like a joke. Apple can redesign the internals take it out of the band make the screen bigger and boom im sold glass back is perfect.

I totally agree. If an iPhone 4 is too heavy, it might be time to hit the gym. I personally like the solid feel. As far as cracking or breaking goes, my wife and I also have Zaggs and cases with no damage issues at all.

Well if it's thinner, that's always a bonus. I'm not too bothered about glass or aluminium. Just make sure it ain't plastic.

You can check out many website like CNN.CN for the back replacement piece that's metal. eBay has tons of them...but it does void your warranty. It's super easy, remove the two screws at the bottom, and with your thumbs...press the back up about 1/4". Lift it straight off.

Looks like a iPad 2 mini. Also looks like a iPhone 3G with a aluminum back. Apple will redesign but it won't look like this.

The iPhone 2g had the best feel in my opinion, though the iPhone 4 is definitely a sexy form factor

I'm not a fan of this. I don't think Apple would completely abandon their new design so quickly, as long as they find a solution for the antenna.

heck id take an iphone with 4 inch screen and the same size/thickness as an ipod touch.
That would be sweet

I disagree on this, "Aluminum"? the same material which makes soda cans... Come on just leave it the way it is. I don't think Apple will go in that route... You know apple they want the same materials as NASA... Apple just gotta move the Antennas  around or Apple might just even make a new product for the Antenna.. Time will only tell...

As far as the aluminum backing is concerned, I'm all for it! However I personally don't like the iPod Touches as they are TOO thin IMO. Changing the antenna system on the next iPhone is almost a given, but I really hope they keep with a different design. Why have a phone that looks the same as the iPods they're trying to sell?

The iPhone 4 to date is the best design I've seen on an iPhone. The whole antenna-gate issue got completely blown out of proportion. I have the iPhone 4 and I had the iPhone 3GS, and I've had less calls dropped on an iPhone 4 than the iPhone 3GS. I think Apple should improve the iPhone 4 design, give it an aluminum back, but I like the steel antenna on the side.

If they had just inverted it, there would probably never have been a problem. I could see right away in the keynote that it would be a problem, everyone knows that touching or shorting an uninsulated antenna changes the reception.

I mean that along with the glass back and no menu button are just more of Steve Jobs' counterproductive art-over-function agenda.

I agree with many of the commenters here - the iPhone 4 is a solid-feel device. Granted, the glass back is scratch-prone, especially if you don't feel like covering up it's clean design with a case of any sort.
On the other hand, the idea of aluminum is not bad. I'd like to see Apple move towards a unibody LiquidMetal design that more closely resembles the bottom portion of a MacBook Pro. Light, flexible, and durable, while maintaining a consistent design aesthetic across within their product lines.

Yep. LiquidMetal is a strong, yet flexible, metal fabrication technology that allows for a metal to be light and have some degree of flexibility while maintaining shape and strength. This would be useful because were you to drop the iPhone with a LiquidMetal backing, not only would it absorb some shock to avoid cracking the glass, but would likely minimize denting.

I would like to believe that Apple can make an antenna that works with an aluminum back but I do not think that they can't sigh I wait for the day the I hear that the iPhone has an unibody and metal like the MacBooks can't they steal the people from Nokia who can because I am sure that some of them might have even quite because they do/did not like the new CEO what better way to piss of the old boss but to come work for Apple and make metal phones that work.

What good is a glass back? So it can break and be heavier and less comfortable to hold? It's the main reason I didn't buy the phone. With a glass back and border antennae you need a case, so will never see that glass or stainless steel. It's just for the showroom, get rid of it! If the iP5 has a glass back, or lacks a flashlight (main thing I use that LED for), or has stupid uninsulated antennae, I will not buy it! It would also help if a 30-cent plastic case wasn't $29.

Agreed. My back glass broke. So far I've bought 2 back replacements recommended on either here or tuaw, and there was an issue with each (hole for plash painted off, or plastic threaded tabs instead of metal ones). If it were aluminum, it would probably have been fine.

It's about $20 a pound, and an iPhone only weighs about 5oz. Given that there's 16oz per pound, you could probably get 16 to 32 backs out of a pound of titanium if you only make the back weigh an ounce to half an ounce. Which would cost 80 to 40 cents per back depending on how much the back weighed (1oz to .5oz). And that's going with pure titanium, so it wouldn't cost much. And Apple would buy it in bulk, therefore it would probably be cheaper, so they could probably get 100lb for $1500 instead of $2000.

F*** THAT! Love the glass back. The new iPod isn't that great. That would be taking two steps backwards.

All of you will buy iP5 regardless.
No glass back.
Thin like iPodTouch4.
8mp Camera with dual flash.
3.7" Screen, hopefully still a RD.
Less Bezel on the Front.
Option for a Smart Cover.

SO UGLY! iPod touch is ugly too.
I much prefer the flat style of the iPhone 4. Glass vs metal ... Really, who cares if the BACK of your PHONE picks up a couple tiny scratches. Are you that OCD?
Oh and thinner, really? Say GOODBYE to having a decent camera, in that case.

Scratches are a problem; not for usability, but for aesthetic value when reselling for an upgrade. If you were buying an iPhone from eBay or craigslist and there were two similarly-priced units of which one had a few scratches and one was in pristine condition, which would you buy? By using a non-Gorilla Glass backing on the iPhone, it reduces the overall potential resale value of the phone. Hence why Apple's design, while beautiful, is a point of contention for some people who are scratch-avoidant.

Also -- when you use a glass cutter, what do you do? Merely scratch the glass, and then a moderate hit breaks it along that line. So any scratches in the glass become stress points and it's more likely to break when dropped, even in a "bumper".
To me there's only one material for the back. Not glass, because it's heavy and breaks. Not any sort of metal, because it must interfere with reception. Not common plastic, because it's scratch and scuff prone.
Polycarbonate. The same material as your eyeglasses. It transmits light BETTER than glass, weighs much less, and is freakin' bulletproof. Just come up with a way to manufacture it so it looks nice, maybe tint it except over the camera. It could revert somewhat to Apple's original iMac look that had the whole electronics industry trying to copy that translucent look. I think it would even be cool if you could see inside the phone like the orig iMac, and Jobs should be happy because it would show what a completely unnecessary beautiful job his engineers did on the aesthetic design of the functional internals.
It could be ergonomic, instead of edgy. More likely to stay in the hand and make you want to hold the phone. And could eliminate the need for a stupid $29 case covering up your iJewel. Just make the whole thing out of polycarbonate, including the screen, and no-one will ever break an iPhone again.

They need to move away from the glass, this is a good step and hopefully it will also resolve the bluetooth issues as well as the "death grip" problem.

I would like a two-piece iPhone, with a hook, so I can slam it down on people so hard that I'd hear the ring... just like the good ol' days. :)

I personally like the design of the iPhone 4. I never liked the "curved" back of the iPod Touch or the older iPhone models. I like the flat back. So this would not be something I'd like. I have no problems with the glass back because I use a case. I hope they keep the design of the iPhone 4 because I like the more "angular" design.

I'm kinda happy for the aluminum but I hope it looks nothing like that mockup. I think it would looks nice if it was matte instead of skinny because the skinny metals scratch the easiest - if that's something apple is trying to avoid.
However the glass does look very nice but it made the phone more of a delicate sculpture that you should leave in a cabinate than a cell phone constantly in use.
I wanted to get the 4 for the antenna thinking I would get better service to the phone , lucky I waited.

Yay, aluminum. Cuz we all know aluminum doesn't scratch. Plus this is an old design. Unless they call this the iphone retro, I don't buy it and won't.

Keep current look. Glass looks good. Improvement in materials is always welcome though. I would just move the antennas.

I like the aluminum back, but I also like the flatness of the iPhone 4's back panel. It allows the phone to be used on a desk or tabletop without rocking back and forth.
I keep my iPhone 4 in an Otterbox Defender case, so svelteness is kinda wasted for me.

I like the current design it leave apple open for touch panel on the back and possibly if the patents dont lie a solar charging panel as well so you phone will never be out of juice.

I've grown to prefer the flat back on the 4. If they revert back to an aluminum back, it should be a totally new design not resembling the touch. It will feel like going back to a 3GS.

If I love it, I'm getting one. If I hate it, I'm getting one. I'm after buttery smooth and fast. That, it will be for sure!

The iPhone 4 is my first iPhone, and while i love the tech specs on it, i find myself appreciating the feel of the 3Gs. The glass back is a bit of a pain...i'm so caution it's ridiculous. So if Apple decides to loose the brick look for a more sleek curved design, and it comes with an aluminum back them I'm all for it.

I'm thinking more Liquid Metal than Aluminum. But I haven't seen anything saying that they're ramping up production (they always had issues till Apple showed up).

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. They bought (or was it invested?) that company for a reason. Time to put it in their products!

I should have also said that I don't care if its glass or metal. I keep my iPhone in a case so I can resell it in the future for the highest possible price each year.

The iPhone 4 design is beautiful. However, this mock design looks great and very Apple-esque. I doubt that it will look entirely like this, but it does give hope. I'm not a fan of all the glass, so this aluminum type of design looks real nice!

Not a huge fan as I think every iPod Touch I've seen is covered in scratches on its back plate. I know a lot of people with the iP 4 though and no scratches. I just think this would lessen the sleek look of the iPhone.

I personally I prefer the old body better, so to say It'd make me happy to see them going back to it!

If that is right it sounds very good but I hope apple can make it much more ascethetic(which I don't think it is in this moment) then YES

Jeez Can the iPad 2 get here first... Well I guess I'll be hanging my iPhone 4 up with all my other Apple products

I can see them moving toward a more iPad 2-esque design, much like everyone expected the iPad 2 to follow the form of the iPhone 4. And +1 on liquid metal. There was a reason they moved from aluminum.

Well, I don't know about iPad 2 rumors, but I think it would have been dumb to think they would make it like the IPhone 4, rather than the iPod touch, since the iPad IS just a big iPod Touch; aside from that, I think Apple learned from the 1st gen, that an iPhone that looks exactly like the lesser, cheaper iPod Touch is a stupid move...
And even if there are some detractors from the iPhone 4 form-factor, I think it has earned Apple more than a couple MILLION sales through this generation, since it's the year the iPhone has had the most competition...

I think the aluminum back would be great. I have the 4 now and I need a case on it to protect it and fix that antenna issue. I wouldn't mind the iPhone looking like a smaller version of the iPad. That's just my opinion though.

personally I love the iphone 4 style and double glass...i love the weight of the device as well..this is my first iphone but love it all around.. switched from droid 2 which was kind of a brick so..i really like a solid feeling device..when ios5 is released will go to the ip4 as well so i get to keep my solid device along with the new ios..as for 4g and all that stuff.. not concerned..3g is just fine for me atm... apps run great on this device so.. little faster is not a big deal..as 4 scratches..as long as you take care of your device.. shouldnt be a worry...and i like most people do keep a cover and screen protectors on my device..cept for droid 2..lol.. screen is extremely scratch resistent.. trust me its been put to the test..lol.

Totally agree - I love the current iPhone 4 form factor. What an excellent expression of elegance and modernism: two clean pieces of glass joined by a silver-colored metal band.
I couldn't bear to hide the suberb design, or thicken it, with a case, so I've placed front and back screen protectors on it, and am hoping I won't drop it during my two year contract. :-) Another thing I love about the design is that the flat back gives you the chance to set it down on a flat surface without the worry that it will rock, or be too quick slide, if bumped. Also, the solid construction and weight gives it a super feel in your hand.
I think it would be cool if there was an iP4 version identical to the current black and white models, but with clear, unpainted glass (except perhaps around the camera lenses to prevent light leakage) so you can see what's inside! I hope they stick with flat glass back design for a number of iPhone iterations to come!

i could sincerely say, i bought the iphone 4 for aesthetic purposes... i really find the glass composition of it super beautiful! going back to aluminum will only make it HOT.. remember that issue? try burning your ear again with a flat iron hahaha

I personally really like the iPhone 4's look and feel, and think the glass back makes it really stand out from the competition. I also bought my son a iTouch 4 for Christmas, and to me it feels cheaper (I know, but I'm just talking "feel"). Technically I'm on the hook with AT&T until iPhone 6 anyway, but if the iPhone 5 is more iTouch like, even the faster processer and (possibly) slightly bigger screen won't be enough to make me upgrade early.
That said, I will be buying an iTouch-ized iPad 2, (can't decide whether to go 3G or 64GB as I want to stay around $700) so maybe I'll change my mind once I get to play with that for a while....

I too am looking forward to Apple's first iDevice with a Liquid Metal enclosure. But I don't see how iPhone 5 could get a Liquid Metal case. The timing is wrong.
To ship millions of iPhone 5s this summer, Foxconn needs to start mass-producing it by May. That means pre-production assembly line testing should start by next month. Which means final testing has to be done already, which means the final design had to be finished months ago. Possibly as early as last fall. The hardware needs to be done long before the software because the software can take much longer.
Apple bought Liquid Metal in August 2010, so they simply didn't have time to perfect a Liquid Metal case for iPhone 5. From what I've read about the Liquid Metal process, it's not easy to implement. And Apple seems to like to advance the state of the art and then perfect it, which takes multiple design iterations and process refinements.
Maybe the 2011 iPods will get Liquid Metal cases first. Followed by the 2012 iPad, MacBook, and/or MacBook Air lines. (If the platinum-based metal itself isn't too expensive...) And finally the 2012 iPhone.

The thing that attracted me to the Iphone when I first saw one and wanted one but can't literally stand AT&T was the elegant look. The Iphone 4 even looked better and this thing just looks cheap. Will keep my Iphone 4 if this is the case. Verizon version by the way.

Sounds likely since the iPad 2 has an ugly metal back also. It won't stop me or anyone else from buying it but it's cheaper to produce so I'm sure they'll do it. It just looks like a tin can.

Swapped out my glass back for a metal one anyway on the 4. Hope they stay with the same shape and not revert to the old ones..much prefare this shape to any of the older models I had.

If the iPhone 5 does look more like the iPod touch or iPad 2, I wonder if it will be uncomfortable to hold as a phone because you won't have as much to hold on to. Other than that, I would like the design.

I like the glass back, but I understand that the average user is tough on their iPhone. I like the look, but the antennas need to be redesigned. I don't mind the weight, but if they can build improved performance and lighten the phone, I'd be in favor. Either way I'll probably buy the 5 just because I like having the latest and greatest and because so many others like to buy my gently used gear on eBay!

If this is (or resembles) the iPhone 5... I'm glad I caved and got the ViP4. That thing's got a back only a mother could love.
Definitely would prefer the up/down mute toggle vs. the current side to side... it's hard to toggle with one hand currently (but I also have small hands).
And I would hope Apple would include the camera's flash - otherwise there'd be TWO flashes the iPhone doesn't have :D :D :D
I call BS, but it's interesting, anyway.

Wait a second... haven't several sources proved aluminum interferes with cellphone reception on the first iPhone? Why go back to worse reception? The reception is bad enough as it is without aluminum! :|

If they revert to a somewhat inspired 3GS backing design, but use aluminum instead of plastic, I'll be all for it! I feel that the 3GS was most secure in one's hand rather than this new 4 (although now I've grown accustomed to it). I just hope, rather pray, that they don't give it a similar look to the Touch. I absolutely HATE how that device feels, but a similar 3GS backing with a much slimmer and sleeker bezel with an aluminum back in white might be just what we need. :p

I've no doubt iPhone 5 will ditch the glass back and external antenna. It was an exercise in poor design to begin with, and it SHOULD be revised.
I say good on Apple--this is the right move.

That aluminum back would be so lovely! I miss the aluminum of the original iPhone, and would be thrilled to have it back! "Liquid metal" would be even better!

Metal backs are pretty horrid compared to glass, never keen on it on the Touch. They get messed up with ugly fingerprints in days
Surely Apple need to maximise reception this time, not shield the antennae?

After iPad 2, now iPhone 5 will be the object of rumors. Keep livin' in dreams, guys. I'm waiting for the real thing.

oh yessss finally back to the design that actually looked like an apple design....like seriously what's with American designers and squares first their laptops then their cars and then the apple...jk
Welcome switch.....can't wait to dump my 3G, Claude could do better than 4.2.1 on a 3G seriously, if you get what I mean

the iphone for design is very cool.
i would suggest not simmilarizing it to the latest ipod, but keeping the shape of ios for but just replacing the glass to aluminum.
thats just an idea, but i love the glass panel.

I like the glass...but my ipad aluminum is cool but got dented when I dropped it for a short distance. Glass is durable

the iphones glass panal is perfect, aluminium gets scratched eisily, have u seen what happens to ipod touches?

They Absolutely need to abandon the glass back, I've never had a cracked screen in the first 3 phones I had in 3 years and I've already cracked the back once and the front twice in less than 90 days. I use velcrove so the phone stays attached to my wallet but the velcrove wont stick to the glass so the phone keeps falling out of my wallet and cracking the damn glass. I'm about to give up and go back to my Iphone 3