How Liquidmetal could give the next iPhone its special swagger

“After releasing two generations of iPhones with exactly the same form factor, Apple is expected to show off a new chassis design — and possibly new materials — in its sixth-generation smartphone. And a little-known alloy that Apple has quietly been using for the past two years could be just the ticket to make consumers swoon,” Christina Bonnington reports for Wired.

“Korea IT News reported Wednesday that the iPhone 5 is likely to be housed in Liquidmetal [LQMT], the commercial name for an alloy of titanium, zirconium, nickel, copper and other metals,” Bonnington reports. “Liquidmetal was discovered at the California Institute of Technology in 1992. It’s a class of patented amorphous metal alloys (basically metallic glass) with unique properties including high strength, high wear resistance against scratching and denting, and a good strength-to-weight ratio. Apple was granted rights to use it in August of 2010.”

Bonnington reports, “Liquidmetal’s injection molding process is still a relatively new technology, and it’s fairly expensive — but that’s not necessarily anything that Apple would shy away from. ‘We expect Apple and other manufacturers to start using this not only for larger and more visible portions of devices, but also entire enclosures,’ IHS senior principal analyst Kevin Keller said. Thus, a Liquidmetal iPhone chassis seems entirely reasonable to expect in the not-too-distant future.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s next-gen iPhone main body to shift from Gorilla Glass to Liquidmetal, say industry sources – April 18, 2012
Liquidmetal Technologies filing outlines its multimillion dollar agreement with Apple – March 31, 2012
Apple granted its first Liquidmetal patent – January 5, 2011
Apple patent application describes scratch-resistant stainless steel – October 29, 2010
Join the dots on six future Apple technologies – September 22, 2010
Apple already using Liquidmetal in their… – August 17, 2010
Inventor says Liquidmetal may be used for new iPhone antenna – August 13, 2010
Apple already uses Liquidmetal; Guess which product and win a Magic Trackpad – August 13, 2010
How will Apple use their exclusive Liquidmetal alloy? – August 12, 2010
Apple’s exclusive Liquidmetal pact could see future Apple products encased in metallic glass – August 11, 2010
Apple inks deal for exclusive rights to custom, super-durable metal alloy – August 09, 2010


        1. Sadly, liquid metal has nothing to do with this aluminium armour thing — it is totally different alloy and it is not transparent at all. Apple makes SIM card openers from this liquid metal.

          Since this material is not transparent, of course Apple will not be able to use it instead of glass of the screen, nor for back — since it is not radio transparent.

          The only way they could use it is to manufacture metal frame of it instead of from steel. This would make iPhone lighter — though not dramatically, since main weight is screen and the battery.

          Also, the article is totally wrong about “and other manufacturers” thing since Apple has exclusive licence for this material for electronic devices category.

  1. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple finally started using Liquidmetal in a significant way, although I can’t see it being used as a unibody structure, for exactly the reason that the first iPhone changed form, unless Liquidmetal proves to be radio transparent, which would be neat, but I think it’s highly unlikely. Unless Apple have developed new antenna tech which would allow a separate Liquidmetal back panel.

    1. At Apple, where there is a will…there is a way. If it was me, and I design ‘things’, I would cast a circumferential recess on the liquidmetal case and embed the antennas in resin in the recess, possibly giving the resin a silicone rubber type friction so you don’t have so many issues with a slippery iPhone in your hand.

      They are pushing the limits to create exactly what end users want to use.

      Small, light, durable high performance handheld devices are the order of the day.

      1. I too hope the next design will not ignore the problem of the phone being too slippery. The original phone, the 4 and the 4S were too slippery for my taste unless you use a bumper. The 3G and 3GS were best for how they felt and stuck to your hand.

  2. The Liquidmetal is no doubt the backside of the phone, Gorilla Glass in front. I don’t know what difference it really makes since it’s hidden in a protective case anyway, at least for me. Don’t think they’ve quite cracked the “transparent aluminum” idea yet.

    1. Back will not be made of liquid metal for the same reason why Apple did not make it of steel — both are not radio transparent.

      Even with cell antenna being brought out to the frame — contrary to typical design — back is big enough to screen significant areas from normal radio signal transmission. So Jobs had to agree to use glass there.

      In iPhone 4S this became even more prohibitive since Wi-Fi antenna came back inside of the phone.

  3. You could also use your Liquidmetal iPhone as a golf club head. Stick the shaft adapter into the headphone jack and voila, golf club.

    I actually had a liquid metal golf club driver, a decade ago, that I picked up for $50 on clearance. Presumably, they injection molded those driver heads, so it must be doable.

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