iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5s-7

One of the few design complaints we have with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus concerns their antenna bands, which spoil an otherwise seamless aluminum unibody. But a new Apple patent suggests the company is working to eliminate those bands with a metal-like material that doesn't block wireless signals.

Those antenna bands on the latest iPhones — and the glass panels on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s — are there to allow them to send and receive Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular waves. So as ugly as they are on the latest devices, they're a necessary evil; your iPhone wouldn't be much use without them.

"Since metal is not radio frequency transparent, metal is generally a poor choice of material when the devices utilize electromagnetic wave transmission, such as radio frequency transmission for communication," Apple explains in its patent application.

"Accordingly, portions of the housings that cover antennas and touch sensors are made of a non-metallic material such as plastic or glass. Unfortunately, plastic surfaces and glass surfaces have different visual qualities than metallic surfaces, which result in a visible break in the metallic surface of the housing."

But the brains at Apple have been hard at work developing new materials that hope to change this. The Cupertino company has applied for a patent on a new composite metal material that looks and feels just like the anodized aluminum on today's iPhones, but allows wireless signals to pass through.

If it works, it means those plastic antenna bands would no longer be necessary. And the material may not be exclusively used for iPhones, either.

Apple also hints at using the metal for notebook touchpads, perhaps to replace the glass panels it currently uses on its MacBooks to deliver a more seamless design without those "visible breaks in the metallic surface."

Of course, like all Apple patents, there's no guarantee this one will ever lead to anything — but it's nice to know the company is at least exploring the possibility of new metals that could make future Apple gadgets even prettier.