The iPhone 5’s Greatest Innovation Is The Industrial Design

Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 this morning, and there’s the usual improved feature set to look at with 4” screen, LTE, and A6 processor, but Apple’s greatest innovation isn’t seen on a spec sheet or feature list. The iPhone 5 is a ground breaking product when it comes to industrial design, and it took some engineering wizardry to pull it off. Apple was able to increase the screen size, improve the processor, add LTE, and enhance battery life while making a thinner & lighter device. That’s quite an achievement, especially when the entire device has great structural integrity.

To simply think of any device getting stronger with improvements across the board, and getting considerably thinner and lighter at the same time, is amazing to think of. Any new features you can add to a smartphone these days have been seen before in one way or another, and there’s only so much excitement to be drawn from processors, camera, screens, etc. They have all relatively blended together because you’re using a phone, and it can only use so many processes that aren’t the most resource intensive. That’s why Apple’s iPhone 5 is so interesting as it gives the feature list which offers easy bullet points, but innovates on a level that may not be appreciated entirely.

The device is crafted so precisely with such deluxe manufacturing processes that use cutting edge machines to craft the various parts. Apple’s innovation in the iPhone 5 is in making the device itself. They begin with the same aluminum used on Macbooks, and craft a unibody enclosure that features the metal back and side in one piece. The next step is to machine all of the surfaces for polish and texture on the edges. They then follow it up with crystalline diamonds to go over the seams. Next, the manufacturing process uses two 29MP cameras to photograph each iPhone 5 aluminum enclosure. Machines then examine the images, and compare them to 725 unique ceramic glass inlays to find the most precise match, down to the micrometer.

In the back is also the new camera lens, which is made of sapphire crystal for twice the durability, and yet an even thinner layer over the camera. Then there’s the new display, that offers the first in-cell display which combines the LCD and touch layer into one. Now, the display pixels act as touch-sensing electrodes while displaying the image at the same time, for a 30% thinner screen with greater clarity. Additionally, there are all of the components on the inside that are the first time in use in a smartphone with the Nano-SIM, Lighting connector, and A6 chip. The camera lens is 20% smaller, the A6 chip is 22% smaller, the nano-SIM is 44% smaller, and the Lightning connector is 80% smaller. The LTE chip is the Qualcomm MDM9615M, which was just released this quarter, and this is the iPhone 5 is the first device it’s being used in. It combines voice and data into one chip to save space, and offer vastly improved power management.

Adding features with new specs, software, hardware, and services that are easy to assemble in a list is one thing. Implementing a completely new manufacturing process with amazing precision in clarity is completely different. The result is a 7.6mm, 112 gram device that is crafted like no other phone on the market. The iPhone 5’s greatest innovation is how it’s made, in an unrivaled manufacturing process that uses cutting edge automated machines.


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2 Comments on "The iPhone 5’s Greatest Innovation Is The Industrial Design"

  1. realist September 14, 2012 at 12:05 PM -

    Why does the robot have to select one of 725 different inlays? Must be because they want to save money on machining and use die cast parts. Instead of leaving this a manufacturing bandaid, they tout it as miraculous. I’m not impressed.

    • Trevor Sheridan September 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM -

      They’re combining the die cast aluminum enclosure that includes the majority of the back and the side panels into one piece. They have to make matches with the glass windows at the top and bottom for the antennas to work. They make unibody macbooks, and iphone could be completely unibody aluminum, but there are too many antennas at work. You normally impressed by all of those plastic devices out there?

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