Apple could turn to a page from yesteryear when it comes to the next major form factor change in the iPhone, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo [via 9to5Mac]. The analyst said that Apple is planning to ditch aluminum for an iPhone refresh and return to an all-glass enclosure—but interestingly he says Apple will do so in 2017.
In other words, the newest rumor from this analyst who has a solid record of leaks from Apple's supply chain is for the iPhone after the next iPhone, a device we are also just getting leaks about. If so, it could mean that the iPhone refresh this fall will see only modest changes from the iPhone 6/6s, a departure from prior years that saw a major form factor changes in the iPhone every other generation.
Other tidbits from the analyst's research note include the display from this 2017 iPhone will be an active matrix organic LED (AMOLED) display, a next-generation display technology that Apple has criticized in the past as not being perfect enough—yet—for an iPhone. AMOLED displays have been tooling around on Android devices for a couple of years, and the first AMOLED smartphone was 2008's Nokia N85 (a Symbian device).
In any event, an all-glass enclosure like the iPhone 4/4S married to curvier stylings Apple has been exploring in recent years could be very compelling. This will especially be the case as more Android devices hit the market with aluminum enclosures, as noted by 9to5Mac.
The trick, however, is that this is so early in the rumor cycle. There is no doubt that Apple is working on the next-next generation of device, but that doesn't necessarily mean the company has locked anything down yet. If Ming-Chi Kuo has this one right, it would be the absolute earliest that I can recall a leak being borne out.
That said, there is a growing body of evidence that the 2016 iPhone refresh will be an update of the iPhone 6/6s form factor rather than the expected complete overhaul. We are a good 3-4 months away from that point in the Apple product development cycle where the the leaks usually achieve what I think of as critical mass, but we're getting there.
Accordingly, it's easy to imagine Apple needed the extra year to do something significantly different. An all-glass enclosure is as significantly different as anything else, even if we've seen it before.