The iPhone 5, though some will argue that it looks similar, is a major departure from its predecessor. It has a larger screen, upgraded internals, and a new unibody design.

And as it turns out, that design could spell trouble for aftermarket back panels. Because instead of a single piece of glass — like on the iPhone 4 and 4S, you have this part-aluminum, part-glass back panel directly attached to internal components….

CultofMac, speaking with mod kit-maker Monolith:

“It’s a tough one for the iPhone 5. It looks like it’s a different animal than the iPhone 4,” Monolith told us. “Similar to the iPhone 3G/3GS, it looks like the structure of the phone consists of the internal components being directly attached to the back. Although the 5 looks to be more unibody than the 3G. I think that makes it impossible to actually replace it, short of a crazy hack.”

This makes custom back plates a lot more difficult, if not impossible. Instead of simply removing two screws on the bottom of the handset and sliding off the back panel, like you could with previous iPhones, you’ll have to completely dismantle the thing. Yikes.

The good news is, it doesn’t sound like personalization will be completely lost with the iPhone 5. Our friends over at mendmyi say they’re already working on different ways to customize the handset, and they’re already having some success in their coulourlab.

It’ll be interesting to see how Apple’s new smartphone ends up affecting the third-party iPhone customization space. At minimum, things just got a lot more complicated.

What’s your take on this, big deal/not a big deal?