Apple Discontinued Bumper Rumor Suggests Aluminum-Back iPhone 5

A new report indicates that Apple may be preparing to discontinue the bumper for the iPhone 4, suggesting the iPhone 5 may sport an aluminum or LiquidMetal back — or that we may indeed be getting two new models. But where would this leave the iPhone 4?

In 2010, Apple’s foray into the iPhone case game became more of a PR necessity than new revenue stream last summer, when the iPhone 4′s bumper was offered by Cupertino as a work-around to the antennagate issue. Now, it appears that Apple is set to phase out the bumper, which suggests that the next iPhone will feature a fix to any of the iPhone 4′s antenna problem.

According to 9to5Mac, “As Apple’s next-generation iPhone festivities come closer to reality, Apple appears set to discontinue their Bumper case – the controversial $ 30 accessory which Apple provided free of charge to users complaining about their iPhone 4 antenna connection.”

9to5Mac suggests that the phasing out of the iPhone 4 bumper may be an indication of an iPhone 5 will feature a new form factor, shape, and dimensions, seeing this possible development as more evidence that the next iPhone will diverse in design enough from the iPhone 4 that either a new Apple-branded case would need to be developed.

Of course, there are some other possibilities to consider as well.

For one, a discontinuation of the bumper could suggest that the next iPhone will indeed retain the iPhone 4′s form factor sans the glass back. It has been rumored for quite some time now that Apple would utilize either an aluminum or LiquidMetal back, which would in turn curtail the antenna issues. If this is the plan, then there would be little need for a bumper.

Second, it is also possible that this fairly innocuous rumor suggests the “two model” theory that 9to5Mac is rolling out today, which circumstantially connects with Case-Mate’s leaked iPhone 5 cases yesterday: “We’ve heard that there are indeed two different models of iPhone coming out next month (announced this month?)  We still think October 7th is the scheduled release date give or take any delays.  We’ve heard the low-end model, which is essentially an iPhone 4 look-alike (glass front and back), is rolling off the assembly line in big numbers right now.  Apple expects to have 10+ million of these things on hand for launch and full ramped production into the holiday shopping season.  These will be priced aggressively and be everywhere.”

The reason why the bumper phase-out might support this rumor is that, if Apple offers both the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 in the last quarter of 2011, then maybe the iPhone 4 will be discontinued along with the 3Gs? We’ve talked on the Blog before about the possible difficulties of Apple offering three iPhone models, and how it could confuse customers and undercut Apple’s sales models for the U.S., much like how “Plus”-grade gasoline gets overlooked at the pump. Thus, making a clean break of the iPhone 3Gs and 4 would put both new models in the limelight.

In any case, it would seem more and more likely that Apple will be altering the next iPhone (or iPhones) enough to make the bumper obsolete. For all we know, Apple will continue to innovate with covers, cases, and accessories, as they have done with the iPad 2′s Smart Cover. Perhaps we can expect a similar-styled protective accessory for the iPhone 5 as well.

By Michael Nace


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