Apple will switch to modified-PI material, or MPI, for most antennas in 2019 iPhones, says noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, rather than the liquid crystal polymer material, or LCP material, currently found on the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.
In Kuo's latest research note, as obtained by MacRumors, he says he believes that LCP limits the RF performance of the current-generation iPhones due to current technology limitations and production issues. This puts MPI at least on par with LCP even though MPI is easier and cheaper to manufacture.
Apple To Use MPI Instead Of LCP, But Not Forever
LCP will still be the primary material for 5G iPhones in 2020, according to Kuo. He believes that the production issues limiting the RF performance of LCP will be resolved by then. Kuo expects Apple to use LCP in future iPad models, starting from the late fourth quarter of 2019.
One of the reported benefits of switching to MPI is the addition of more antenna suppliers for negotiating leverage, a more reliable production process, and easier, more flexible printed circuit board technology iterations moving forward.
Will This Raise The Price?
The switch might affect iPhone pricing, though. According to Kuo, if 2019 iPhone shipments are about the same year over year, the dollar content of the new antenna will grow between 10 and 20 percent.
But switching back to LCP makes sense too, as it's a low-cost organic flexible substrate with a few unique electrical properties, making it desirable for antennas. LCP behaves consistently across the entire radio frequency range. It also has very low loss, which makes it useful for millimeter-wave applications. In addition, it has a low thermal expansion coefficient, which means it remains stable across temperatures.
In typical Apple fashion, the company hasn't said much about this year's slate of iPhones. But plenty of rumors have surfaced about the handsets, including their camera improvements, their screens, and others.
Apple is allegedly putting a super-wide camera on the back, along with a couple more sensors. There might also be an improved 12-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies.
Three versions could be released, similar to last year. Kuo predicts Apple will carry over OLED displays for the 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch variants, but stick with LCD for the rumored low-cost model. Some say Apple might put an OLED screen on this budget variant as well, though.
Make sure to check back with Tech Times as we learn more.