Two new Patents published on the 19th of April suggests that apple will be ditching the conventional charging method and going with a smaller connector in order to make more space. One of the filed patents was titled “Shallow Depth Connector Having Contact Protection” and the other was “Connector Having Self-Wiping Contacts”. While it appears that this is technology is intended for use on all Apple devices it is especially clear that the connector is intended to reduce the size of the receptacle on the device itself.
It is clear that the form factor of the conventional iPhone charging systems that exist today is much too bulky and will need to be changed in order to make future phones any thinner. Looking at the images of the receptacle published on USPTO.Gov. The particular connector they are trying to patent(Fig. 1) looks to save depth space by putting part of the component into the Printed circuit board(PCB) itself as a through-hole design. This new connector at the very minimum will save the depth of a single PCB, which doesn’t sound much but depending on how thick Apple’s PCB’s currently are could save up to 2mm of depth. 2mm would be a thickness reduction of around 20 percent from the current iPhone 4s.
The patent for self wiping contacts reinforces the fact that this connector is intended primarily for mobile devices where pocket lint and other debris may be an issue. It is very probable that the next iPhone will have this new connection. I don’t see why Apple would release the patent until they were ready to release the technology.
In addition to the new patents, iPhone has also been rumored by Digitimes.com to have In-Cell technology for the Multi-Touch interface. This would most likely give apple the capability to reduce size and maybe even save production cost. Current Touchscreen technology requires two layers for the touch screen LCD interface; one for the Color LCD and one for the touch sensing. In-Cell technology allows the combination of these two technologies and will most likely reduce the thickness.
Liquidmetal is another bit of rumored technology to appear in next generation of iPhones that could decrease the thickness as well. Liquidmetal is an amorphous performance metal that behaves similiar to plastics allowing the production of intricate pieces with much higher strength than plastic. Using this technology, Apple could reduce the size of the phone even more by going to a uni-body design where much of the thickness of the rear glass can be eliminated. Liquidmetal is also shown to be much harder than aluminum, which would be a good thing for combating scrapes and scuffs. Looking at the design of the new patented connector, Liquidmetal would also be ideally suited to manufacture the intricate next generation connector as well.
Yet another way that the thickness of iPhone can be reduced could be by expanding the real estate of the circuit board. That is, make the phone wider or taller. Given the popularity of some of the phones on the Android Market with larger screens, it is not unreasonable for Apple to follow suit. There are limitations set by the developer market for what size the screen could be, so apple would most likely expand the screen size in both height and width. It is not likely they would deviate too far from their existing size as the iPhone already outsells everything else on the market.
There are a lot of viable options for apple on the next generation iPhone. It will be interesting to see which methods they use to engineer the ever more thin offspring. Whether they use Liquidmetal, New Connectors, or a new screen, the new iPhone will definitely be thinner and better than anything yet.