Apple supplier Catcher CEO: One iPhone model will adopt glass casing next year

“Apple Inc. has decided that it will change iPhone casings from metal to glass to differentiate itself in the saturated global smartphone market in 2017, according to Allen Horng, chairman and chief executive of Catcher Technology, a key supplier,” Cheng Ting-Fang reports for Nikkei. “There has been media speculation that the Taiwanese metal casing maker will lose Apple business next year to China’s Biel Crystal Manufactory and Lens Technology, which already supplies glass screen covers for iPhones.”

“‘As far as I know, only one [iPhone] model will adopt glass casing next year,’ Horng told reporters after the annual shareholder meeting on Thursday. ‘I don’t think this move will have an impact on Catcher’s revenue as glass casing still needs a durable metal frame which requires advanced processing technology and would not be cheaper than the current model,'” Ting-Fang reports. “Horng said there will be no Apple handsets using glass-only casings without metal frames next year.”

“Catcher is now deciding whether to supply smartphone makers in China to mitigate the risk of Apple’s move to glass casing,” Ting-Fang reports. “One reason for Apple to phase in glass casings is pressure on Chief Executive Tim Cook to improve sales by making iPhones more distinctive, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Yuanta Investment Consulting. ‘Apple’s decision would definitely hurt Catcher while giving a major boost to Biel Crystal Manufactory and Lens Technology,’ said Pu.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Make that “former Apple supplier.” Well, if Steve were alive.

Now, is this “glass” Gorilla glass or is it bulk metallic glass (as in: Liquidmetal) or both?

The timeframe would be right for Apple to begin using Liquidmetal in earnest.

I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million — and three to five years — to mature the technology before it can used in large scale. — Dr. Atakan Peker, one of the Caltech researchers who invented Liquidmetal, May 2012

SEE ALSO:
Apple granted key U.S patent for Touch ID fingerprint recognition integrated into Multi-Touch display – May 18, 2016
Apple supplier LG Innotek embeds fingerprint sensor into display – May 4, 2016
Why the 2017 iPhone will be made of Liquidmetal – April 18, 2016
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple’s 2017 iPhone to feature new ‘all glass’ enclosure – April 18, 2016
Professor behind Liquidmorphium Turing Phone invests in Liquidmetal, named to Board, enters into cross-licensing agreement – March 14, 2016
3D fingerprint sensors under Gorilla Glass may let Apple kill iPhone’s Home button – July 21, 2015
The Turing Phone is not made out of Liquidmetal – July 15, 2015
Why does Apple keep extending their partnership with Liquidmetal? – June 25, 2015
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2016 – June 23, 2015
Apple working on eliminating the Home button on iPhone, iPad, sources say – June 22, 2015
Two new Liquidmetal patent filings from Apple revealed; list watch and jewelry among potential uses – April 23, 2015
Apple files for patent to move Touch ID fingerprint scanner from home button to display – February 9, 2015
Liquidmetal’s Apple alliance yet to bear fruit – September 30, 2014
Apple’s new Liquidmetal-related patent sparks speculation – July 7, 2014
Apple patents method for embedding sapphire displays in LiquidMetal device chassis – May 27, 2014
Liquidmetal-Visser agreement paves the way for more rapid adoption of amorphous metal manufacturing – May 21, 2014
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2015 – May 21, 2014

12 Comments

  1. Or is it gorilla glass with liquidmetal as the “thin metallic frame” which to my mind is very likely. Liquidmetal is still expensive. A whole metallic phone body doesn’t make financial sense yet. But a super thin frame, super strong, molded into its exact specification requiring zero machining? Yep, Mark that box likely.

    1. This sounds plausible. I don’t think Apple will ever make the entire iPhone out of liquidmetal unless it becomes ridiculously cheap. After all they want people buying new phones every 2-3 years. It doesn’t need to be built like a tank, just resistant to inevitable drops.

  2. I’m astonished that any Apple supplier is prepared to talk on the record and so openly about Apple’s future plans. I would have thought that Tim Cook would be having quite an acrimonious discussion with him as a matter of urgency.

    MDN’s comment about ‘former supplier’ may indeed become true for Catcher. They were expecting to lose production of metal casings for one model of iPhone, but they may lose rather more than that now.

    1. It all depends on how many options Apple has for weaning itself from a component supplier. It was one thing to do so in the SJ days when annual unit sales were in the low millions. It is an entirely different situation now when unit sales are in the tens of millions per quarter or approximately 200M per year. Apple does not necessarily have the luxury of being able to react as quickly and decisively as in the past.

      However, that does not mean that Apple cannot alter its forward plan to divert to a new component supplier over the course of several years. It is unwise for any company to give Apple any reason to doubt their discretion.

      1. I agree. It’s not easy for Apple to switch suppliers when Apple need massive supplies and incredibly high quantities, but on the other hand, Apple also demand client confidentiality. Comments like this are way out of order and no supplier should ever say anything like that. To specifically refer to Apple was the big mistake. Most similar quotes usually refer to ‘a major manufacturer’ and then people try to put two and two together, but there is no confirmation that their conclusion is correct.

        However I can’t imagine this episode passing without there being significant consequences for Catcher.

  3. BTW, love that bouncing ball video, MDN! I am looking forward to the eventual emergence of amorphous metallic glass as a differentiator for iPhones and other Apple products such as watches, earbuds, headphones, connectors, buttons, etc…whatever can benefit from the strength and hardness of the material.

    People who don’t know Apple are seemingly preparing (with no real justification) to write Apple off and crown a new king of innovation. I look forward to their shock when Apple once again turns their worldview upside down. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

  4. Tim Cook is trying to figure how to differentiate a commodity? Truly innovative Little Timmy. The Apple of old could look different because it worked different. Instead of laed Apple follows and worries about lipstick on a pig. Under Steve we got things that worked and were cool and we could afford. Now its gold versus aluminum for profits. Metal vs glass fir the upper class. I just dont get it.

  5. If they offer a liquid metal case, with waterproofing, I’ll buy. Otherwise, I’ll wait one more year. Hopefully. By that time, those features will arrive, along with edge to edge glass and TouchID on the glass. That tech would allow for many cool security and other features.

    1. From a marketing point of view, I think Apple would have to be careful about using the terms ‘liquid metal’ and ‘waterproof’ together. You and I know what they mean, but many people may become somewhat confused and imagine some degree of contradiction.

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