Apple Granted Patent for Liquidmetal Home Button on iOS Devices

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Mar 8, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    The 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.

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    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.

    Article Link: Apple Granted Patent for Liquidmetal Home Button on iOS Devices
     
  2. bpeeps macrumors 68030

    bpeeps

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  3. ReneR macrumors 6502

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    #3
    omg - a patent for a round metal ring :-/!
     
  4. KazKam macrumors 6502

    KazKam

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  5. William Gates macrumors 6502

    William Gates

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    #5
    Who had March 8th as the first Liquid Metal Rumor of 2016 in the rumor pool?
     
  6. Ballis macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    I was hoping they would kill of the homebutton all together. And put the fingerprint sensor beneath the screen.
     
  7. LordQ Suspended

    LordQ

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    #7
    Remember that rumour of an iPhone with Liquidmetal body? Doesn't time fly...
     
  8. scott911 macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    Can someone explain the "exclusive use" part of this?

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

    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.

    I remember thinking way back how neat this material was before being sold to Apple, and had hoped it would have already trickled into the world in some interesting ways...
     
  9. polee macrumors 6502a

    polee

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    #9
    Yes that home button should go
     
  10. Serban Suspended

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    #10
    this cannot be better than stainless still ring with sapphire, right ??
     
  11. Iconoclysm macrumors 68020

    Iconoclysm

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    #11
    It's the metal version of plastic....it is pretty much the solution for all of those very same problems.
     
  12. ReneR macrumors 6502

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    #12
    bigger, full body display, force press at bottom for home button function, ...
     
  13. iOSFangirl6001 macrumors 6502

    iOSFangirl6001

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    #13
    Oh snap the home button is turning Terminator on us:rolleyes:
     
  14. JeffyTheQuik macrumors 68020

    JeffyTheQuik

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    #14
    Up next:

    Apple patents the gaseous metal home button.

    Then, in 2024:
    Apple patents the plasma metal home button.
     
  15. pushingrobot macrumors member

    pushingrobot

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    #15
    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'.
     
  16. Mac 128 macrumors 603

    Mac 128

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    #16
    It's interesting this patent was filed in 2012 when the iPhone 5 was released, as Apple surely knew that Touch ID would be replacing the home button at that time. However, the Home button illustarates the properties they are patenting, without necessarily giving away their plans. Obviously now there's no way the home button would be made out of liquidmetal which would obscure the fingerprint scanner. So this patent applies to tech as it likely stood 4 years ago, and not to anything Apple is likely to do in the future.
     
  17. chabig macrumors 601

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    #17
    Yes. This can be waterproof.
     
  18. cmichaelb macrumors 68020

    cmichaelb

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    #18
    No, I think what is going on is liquid metal shows tons of promise - including not interfering with radio signals yet having high strength - but is still being developed. It's not ready for prime time in a mass market consumer product.

    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.
     
  19. John Mcgregor Suspended

    John Mcgregor

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    #19
    Would be really interesting to see it being used not only for SIM card tool.
     
  20. Vanilla35 macrumors 68040

    Vanilla35

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    #20
    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.
     
  21. kdarling, Mar 8, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016

    kdarling macrumors P6

    kdarling

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    #21
    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.

    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.

    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.
     
  22. Oblivious.Robot, Mar 8, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016

    Oblivious.Robot macrumors 6502a

    Oblivious.Robot

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    #22
    If only the home button is integrated on to the screen itself, the size of the devices would shrink, and I for one would be definitely getting the Plus/Pro devices then!

    Oh the future looks promising, unless it's going to kill me by sending a terminator. :D

    image.jpeg
     
  23. ReneR macrumors 6502

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    #23
    if you bend regular old fashioned metal in the elastic zone of the material also does not wear out, though, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress–strain_curve
     
  24. Tummy macrumors regular

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    #24
    In 2010 Apple acquired an exclusive license to use its technology in consumer electronics and has been extending that agreement every February for a year at a time. Liquid Metal has gone on to be used in things light Omega watches and golf clubs, but Apple has not brought anything to market using the material in the consumer electronics space yet.
     
  25. Bubba Satori Suspended

    Bubba Satori

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    #25
    Forget about updated Cinema displays, Mac Pros, Minis and Macbook Pros.
    This button is the epicenter of magical innovation.
    We are not worthy.
    Well, I'm not anyway.
     

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