A series of freshly unearthed Apple patents suggest the Cupertino company may use LiquidMetal alloy in home buttons, touch sensors and tamper-resistant screws in future devices. The company signed an agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies back in 2010, but has only tested the alloys in the SIM card eject tool of the iPhone 3G, which was ages ago considering we’re now onto the iPhone 5s. But new evidence reveals Apple could introduce more alloy components, following up on a report from last July that revealed a way to mass produce thin sheets of the Liquidmetal alloys, as noted by MacRumors.
While the use of Liquidmetal alloys doesn’t sound like it will change the functionality of a device, using it in pressure sensors could improve the durability under repeated use. When you consider users probably press the iPhone’s home button hundreds of times each day, you can expect plenty of wear and tear over the device’s life. But a proposed solution found in one of the patents solidify the home button by using alloy, so that the button itself doesn’t deform over repeated use.
For touch sensors, Apple’s patent describes using the Liquidmetal alloys as a substrate, potentially allowing for greater control and higher density of touch sensing arrays, MacRumors notes, making a device’s touch screen even more precise. This is beneficial for obvious reasons, but it could make a device like the iPhone even more accurate, thus increasing the functionality.
Most of the patents revealed by MacRumors were filed all the way back in June and July of 2012, so there’s no telling how close Apple is to implementing the Liquidmetal alloys in future iOS devices. Even still, Apple has had plenty of time to work on incorporating the technology into its devices—perhaps we’ll see the alloys appear in the company’s next flagship handset, which we’re expecting to come with a larger screen.