Apple has just renewed its exclusive licensing deal with LiquidMetal, a fairly exotic metal alloy that behaves like plastic, and today it was granted a patent by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) for use of that material combined with glass displays, including those made by sapphire. The patent describes the process of bonding a display to a LiquidMetal device case, which could form the basis for a LiquidMetal-built future iPhone, iPad or iWatch.
The patent provides renewed reason to believe Apple might use LiquidMetal in the construction of future devices. Already, it’s rumored that the company will employ sapphire glass in its upcoming iPhone 6. Apple has an arrangement with GT Advanced Technologies in place that will see it build and run a massive sapphire production plant in the U.S., and this has been taken by many observers as a sure sign it wants to make use of the material in future products. Sapphire has an extremely high scratch resistance factor, even when compared to Corning’s engineered Gorilla Glass.
LiquidMetal has been rumored as a material for use in previous iPhones, including the iPhone 5, but it hasn’t yet been used for that purpose. It’s a technology that has been used in military and medial applications, and even some previous consumer devices. It’s a high-strength alloy, with terrific abilities to resist wear and corrosion, and what amounts to an elastic property that allow it to make particularly bouncy ball bearings, for instance. In consumer electronics, it has benefits in terms of manufacturing process and extending the durability of consumer gadgets.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see LiquidMetal used to make the next iPhone, as there probably would’ve been more chatter about that from the supply chain at this point. But Apple has recommitted to the tech, and now it has this patent that involves another material key to its future, so that’s a strong sign it has plans for the tech down the road.