A new patent granted to Apple today by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) describes an invention called “microslot antennas,” which would integrate cellular and wireless radio antennas directly into case materials, which could both reduce the size requirements of internal elements of a device, and also make it so that there’s no evidence on a gadget’s external case of the antenna’s presence, to the naked eye at least.
If you’ve been paying attention to Apple over the past decade or so, then you can probably tell that the company likes a certain design ethic (all-aluminum case construction) that it hasn’t been able to achieve with the iPhone. From plastic backing, to glass with an antenna built into a strip along the outside of the phone, to glass “windows” top and bottom, the iPhone has always been an exception to this preferred design aesthetic, owing to the need for radio communications to flow freely.
The patent was originally filed in 2007, which likely explains why all the example drawings depict a notebook computer instead of an iPhone or portable device. But the tech, which allows micron-wide antennas (of varying lengths, depending on needs) to be built into a device housing, would be able to communicate over cellular, Wi-Fi GPS, Bluetooth and other wireless frequencies, making it ideal for use in an iPhone design. The slots cut into the case are filled with epoxy or plastic to help prevent dirt and other material from getting in, meaning they should fare just fine in a purse or pocket, too.
This tech likely isn’t as easy as it sounds to implement, since otherwise we’d have seen it used already in iPhone and iPad models released to date. The black bar on the back of iPad models with cellular connectivity, and the windows on the back of the iPhone 5 at the top and bottom stick out like sore thumbs on otherwise unbroken surfaces, even though with the iPhone Apple managed to make it mostly work in its favor. But if Apple can bring this to shipping products, it could significantly help their ability to push the envelope with design. An iPhone carved out of a single block of aluminum? Yes please.
Top image source link: iPhone Pro