With the new iPhone debuting a cool aluminum back, as well as Apple re-upping its licensing agreement with LiquidMetal technologies for another two years, it would appear that we can expect the next-generation alloy to be used on the iPhone 6.
LiquidMetal Technologies certainly did their part in 2012 to ratchet up speculation that their ingenious metal alloy would make it onto an Apple product. After a late-breaking press release on the day of the iPad 3 that suggested LiquidMetal may have been secretly used in its form factor — a short-lived rumor, to be sure — to several reports out of Asia that LiquidMetal would be used on the iPhone 5′s metal back, the Delaware-based company enjoyed stock surges and plenty of tech news cycles where their name was excitedly bandied about.
In the end, the iPhone 5 of course only used basic aluminum for its back. That being said, however, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Apple has LiquidMetal in mind for the iPhone 6.
In an article on The Christian Post back in April, Vincent Funaro noted that Apple:
. . . still seems adamant about using the technology on its devices since it extended its agreement with LiquidMetal Technologies this month that will license its ongoing intellectual property to Apple for another two years. This provides Apple with a full license to all of Liquidmetal’s intellectual property for commercialization in consumer electronics for another two years.
Just as we have seen with patents, the tech media and Apple enthusiasts often make the mistake of assuming a new patent or partnership means that a groundbreaking, new feature is imminent for the next iOS iteration. This was the error that many made in assuming that the iPhone 5 would feature LiquidMetal. However, given Apple’s renewed, two-year extension with LiquidMetal, it would seem apparent that their time on the iPhone is getting closer.
LiquidMetal On the “iPhone 5S”
Even if the 2013 iPhone turns out to be a refreshed “iPhone 5S,” there is a possibility that the current aluminum used on the 5 could be changed out for LiquidMetal. You’ll recall that one of the really cool things about the LiquidMetal alloy s that etched holographic images can be emblazoned into the metal itself. Many iPhone concept artists have imagined a day when the Apple logo on the back of the iPhone would be illuminated, as it is on the MacBooks. While it remains to be seen if Apple would use up precious battery life to light up the Apple logo on a future iPhone, LiquidMetal could allow the Apple logo to appear holographic.
To be sure, this would be only an aesthetic change. But if the plan is to simply refresh the current iPhone, it could be Apple’s unique way of upgrading the form factor without making any fundamental changes to it. And since aesthetics are important to Apple users, a LiquidMetal-backed iPhone 5S would be differentiated from the current iPhone 5.
The iPhone 6 — Pure LiquidMetal, Baby
Back on August 6th, 2011, an iPhone 5 News Blog reader sent me an article that led to an early posting here entitled, “Could the iPhone 6 Be Cut From A Single Piece of Metal?” The cited article presumed that a future iPhone would be not just a combination of glass and metal, but rather a completely metal chassis that it both light and seamless. There is enough technology out there already to make the iPhone 6 a completely wireless, completely seamless mobile device — and LiquidMetal would be the perfect alloy to use in creating something like this.
Because of its ability to be molded like a plastic, as well as its combination of strength and lightness, LiquidMetal could be “poured” into a seamless form. The result would most likely be a return to the more curvaceous form factor of the iPhone 3 and an abandonment of the more “square” iPhone 4 design that seems to have become a new standard for the iPhone over at Cupertino.
But it’s worth noting that Tim Cook went out of his way to boast about the feel of the metal-backed iPhone 5.
In his comments, he talked specifically about how good the weight and texture of the aluminum back feels in the pal of the user’s hand, together with the slimmer profile. This tells us that Apple thinks about texture and ergonomics, as well as aesthetics.
Also, the prospect of a concave iPhone display is still floating around in the iPhone speculation pool. Remember all those fancy glass-cutting machines Apple invested in?
No one really knows how far Apple intends to take its licensing arrangement with LiquidMetal. But one thing is for sure, Apple didn’t deem the current iPhone’s metal back as being worthy of LiquidMetal. Once we see it implemented — whether on a 5S or 6 — I suspect its debut will be pretty spectacular.
By Michael Nace