Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Apple with a stack of 40 new patents, including one that describes various implementations and benefits of a Liquidmetal home button on iPhones and iPads.
As first reported by Patently Apple, the patent application indicates liquidmetal alloys, or “bulk solidifying amorphous alloys”, as it is called in the patent app, are unique in offering corrosion resistance, malleability, and high strength properties while also being lightweight.
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.
What Apple would actually use this for, though, remains unknown. Of course, it leaves plenty of room for speculation. It’s not expected that Apple will use this technology in any of its upcoming devices this year, including the iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the iPhone 7, or the iPhone 7 Plus. Then again, Apple might not ever use this in any of its products, but is simply covering its bases.
Apple has annually renewed its exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal since 2010, 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.
Source: Patently Apple
Apple Earns Patent for Liquid Metal Home Button on iOS Devices