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Apple Granted Patent for Liquidmetal Home Button on iOS Devices

liquidmetal.pngThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple a series of 40 new patents, including one that describes various implementations and benefits of a Liquidmetal home button on iPhones and iPads.

Liquidmetal alloys, otherwise known as "bulk solidifying amorphous alloys" in the patent filing (via Patently Apple), have a number of unique properties, including high strength, corrosion resistance, light weight, and malleability.

Apple has annually renewed its exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal since 2010, but how it plans to use the alloys remains unclear. Early speculation centered around Apple using Liquidmetal for the iPhone SIM Tool, while other Liquidmetal home button patents have surfaced as early as 2014. Meanwhile, Steve Zadesky, named on this and other Liquidmetal patents, recently announced he was leaving Apple.

Today's patent explains how Liquidmetal's high elasticity makes it an ideal material for a pressure-sensitive home button that would deform slightly when pressed, but return to its normal shape when you remove your finger or thumb. Liquidmetal would always retain this elasticity, while other materials like titanium or stainless steel could become irreversibly deformed and adversely affect the home button.

Liquidmetal-home-button-patent
A second embodiment of the patent details a home button with a switch comprising a small actuator positioned adjacent to Liquidmetal material, whereby pressing the actuator deforms the bulk solidifying amorphous alloy. The efficient design could be easier for Apple to manufacture compared to conventional pressure-sensitive home buttons that use dome switches placed on a substrate with or without an actuation nub.

It does not appear that Apple's upcoming products, including the rumored iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, will adopt Liquidmetal, given the absence of any recent rumors surrounding the alloys, but Apple's continuous renewal of the material implies it remains interested. It is common for Apple to patent inventions that are not publicly released until years later, if ever.

United States Patent No. 9,279,733 describes Apple's invention in more detail.



Top Rated Comments

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16 weeks ago
Liquidmetal: A solution looking for a problem.
Rating: 25 Votes
16 weeks ago
Remember that rumour of an iPhone with Liquidmetal body? Doesn't time fly...
Rating: 9 Votes
16 weeks ago
I was hoping they would kill of the homebutton all together. And put the fingerprint sensor beneath the screen.
Rating: 9 Votes
16 weeks ago

Can someone explain the "exclusive use" part of this?


Apple has paid Liquid Metal (tm) Technologies for the exclusive perpetual right to use their inventions... ones created between certain dates... in consumer electronics devices only.

While the license is perpetual, the invention coverage dates run out every few years, and Apple renews so they can get the perpetual rights to later innovations.

In other words, if they stopped renewing the license, Apple would still have perpetual rights to all inventions up to now, but not for any LM developments that came later on.

Does this effectively mean that apple is holding this product back until there's a real use or marketing angle for apple alone?


I sometimes halfway think they bought up the rights simply as part of Jobs' "thermonuclear war" against Android and Samsung, since Samsung had been using Liquid Metal in their phones for ding/corrosion resistant hinges and bezels since around 2002.

Samsung had even made a luxury phone with a Liquid Metal chassis in 2008, a couple of years before Apple grabbed their exclusive and blocked Samsung from using that particular brand of amorphous alloy any more.

To be fair, if a way could be found to make large quantities of LM blanks cheaply so they could be used in say, iPhones, it would be a dream material for Ive because of its plastic-like molding characteristic and corrosion resistance.

I'd hate to think that just because Apple had the cash to buy up the whole company that it means the metal is being held back for use in artificial hearts, scuba regulators, aircraft parts.


It's just an exclusive for use in consumer electronics, and we don't even know how broad that category goes.

For example, The Swatch Group owns similar exclusive rights to using Liquid Metal in watches. So if Apple wanted to use it in their own consumer smartwatch, analysts believe Apple would probably have to sublicense from Swatch.
Rating: 4 Votes
16 weeks ago
Stop patenting physical home button technology. If you haven't used it already, then you missed the boat. We're all looking forward to Touch ID being imbedded into the screen, and the home button bezel is getting to be ridiculous. Cut the chin apple.
Rating: 4 Votes
16 weeks ago
Oh snap the home button is turning Terminator on us:rolleyes:
Rating: 4 Votes
16 weeks ago
Well this rumor takes me back to 2011.
Rating: 4 Votes
16 weeks ago

omg - a patent for a round metal ring :-/!

this cannot be better than stainless still ring with sapphire, right ??

Actually, this patent is for a bending strip of metal that goes under the button. One that doesn't wear out, so the home button never loses its 'clickiness'.
Rating: 3 Votes
16 weeks ago

No, I think what is going on is liquid metal shows tons of promise - including not interfering with radio signals yet having high strength -


Not for your fault for repeating it, but that was an internet myth. Liquid Metal is conductive and so of course interferes with radio signals.

The myth arose when one of the inventors commented that an phone case made of LM could be used as an antenna itself, and some readers totally misunderstood what he meant.

but is still being developed. It's not ready for prime time in a mass market consumer product.


It's been used in mass consumer products (Samsung used it for years in their own phones) for relatively small parts, and even in low quantity luxury phones for much larger parts, but not as a major component in anything mass consumer. It's still cost prohibitive to do that.

The exclusivity probably only applies to consumer electronics and not health devices, etc.

Apple has never bought the company as far as anyone knows. I believe they are still independent.


Both correct.
Rating: 3 Votes
16 weeks ago
Who had March 8th as the first Liquid Metal Rumor of 2016 in the rumor pool?
Rating: 3 Votes

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