John Kang | Is Liquidmetal Coming to Apple for Real?
John Kang Liquidmetal has been an observer since the groundbreaking material was announced by Caltech more than a decade ago. Since then, the metal has found use in a variety of applications, including surgical implants and sports equipment. However, more industries are only beginning to touch Liquidmetal’s potential. Most electronic devices being marketed nowadays, for instance, do not have Liquidmetal in them, and if they do, they are seen as novelties more than anything.
However, John Kang Liquidmetal believes coming to consumer electronics in a big way soon. Since 2010, Apple has had an exclusive agreement with Liquidmetal that allows them to use the metal in their products. While Liquidmetal has been used in the iPhone’s SIM removal tool since the iPhone 3G came out in, it has been used sparingly elsewhere – most notably in the iPhones’ antenna stripe. Image Source: Core77
It is only quite recently that John Kang Liquidmetal actually becoming a major component of Apple products. For instance, in August this year, Apple was granted a patent for “Metallic glass meshes, actuators, sensors, and methods for constructing the same”. John Kang found Liquidmetal components in illustrations for the patent application. These components include a Liquidmetal mesh within a device’s housing. It seems that the mesh will be visible through the speaker holes at the bottom of the iPhone.
What does John Kang think of Liquidmetal being mentioned as a potential material for iPhones?
It appears that Liquidmetal might be on its way to supplanting aluminum, glass, and steel as the base for the iPhone. The mesh might be included as a test to allow Apple to experiment with using new materials. John Kang Liquidmetal has already figured that new phone casings might already contain some Liquidmetal, and that the Liquidmetal mesh in the upcoming iPhones, should it push through, might be the first stage of converting the iPhone casings to 100% Liquidmetal.
Should Apple prove that using metallic glass alloys in iPhones is cost-efficient, the company might apply it to other products. John Kang sees Liquidmetal being used in MacBooks and iMacs and other peripherals, such as keyboards and the Magic Mouse. This goes beyond making casings scratch- and crack-free; Apple might also be looking at actually improving product capabilities over mere cosmetic improvements.
A Liquidmetal case, for instance, might be able to accommodate wireless charging, as a patent filed by Apple in the third quarter of 2016 claims. Most industry observers were speculating that the iPhone 8 would be the first model to feature both a Liquidmetal body and wireless charging. While the current iPhone 8 line already uses the Qi wireless charging standard, it uses a glass back instead of the Liquidmetal housing that was predicted in 2017. While glass might seem pretty, it is still prone to scratches and breaking. Fortunately, says John Kang, Liquidmetal has none of those issues. It’s now up to Apple’s engineers and product designers to come up with an iPhone that has a body that feels like metal, but is able to charge without cables.