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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Apple is researching how it can reduce the appearance of fingerprints and smudges on the metal surfaces of its products and has hinted yet again at the use of titanium for future Apple devices, according to newly-granted patent filings.

Image via Dbrand

The patent, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Oxide coatings for metal surfaces" and explains in detail how a thin coating can significantly reduce the appearance of fingerprints on devices.

Last month, patents for titanium device enclosures came to light, revealing Apple's interest in how various devices, including MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones, could adopt titanium casings with a distinctive textured finish. Now, Apple's patent for oxide coatings has again stressed the advantages of using titanium on consumer electronics, such as "high strength, stiffness, and hardness."

For example, the relatively high hardness of titanium makes it resistant to scratches, and its stiffness makes it durable enough to withstand bending. In addition, titanium is inherently more corrosion-resistant than certain other alloys.

Apple highlights that, compared to other metals, titanium easily shows fingerprints when handled. This is partially due to the relatively low reflectivity of titanium and titanium alloy surfaces.

One of the disadvantages of using titanium and its alloys, however, is that oil from fingerprints can be readily seen on bare titanium and titanium alloy surfaces, leaving unattractive marks on consumer electronics. The nature and volume of the fingerprints can be factors, but even clean fingers can leave a relatively dramatic mark on titanium surfaces.


Conventional oleophobic coatings are usually used to reduce fingerprinting on glass surfaces such as the front and back of iPhones, but these types of coatings are much less effective on titanium surfaces. The patent suggests that Apple's interest in using titanium for its devices has led to the need for new, more effective solutions for the prevention of fingerprinting.

What are needed therefore are improved cosmetic surface finishes for titanium and its alloys.


This has led the company to research the use of a thin oxide coating or film "configured to reduce or eliminate interference-coloring effects brought upon by fingerprints or other thin film options." Apple's oxide coating allows the surface of a device to continue reflecting light as though there is no fingerprint present, thereby hiding oily smudges.

In some embodiments, the oxide coatings are sufficiently thick to increase the optical path difference of incident light, thereby reducing any inference coloring by the fingerprint to a non-visible level. In some embodiments, the oxide coatings have a non-uniform thickness that changes the way light reflects off interfaces of the oxide coating, thereby reducing or eliminating any thin film interference coloring.


Apple also notes that an oxide coating could be used on surfaces including "aluminum, aluminum alloy, steel, magnesium, magnesium alloys, zirconium, or zirconium alloys," even though it was developed primarily to address titanium or titanium alloys.

The filing also highlights that the oxide coating can be used "to form durable and cosmetically appealing finishes" on a wide range of Apple devices, including the iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and MacBook.


Following last month's news of Apple's curiosity about expanding the use of titanium for its devices, which is currently only available on the Apple Watch Edition, it is interesting that research in the area is leading to other technological innovations.

Apple's research suggests that the company is looking to move beyond standard anodized aluminum casings, but there is no telling if and when this may happen. Nonetheless, patent filings can provide insight into what Apple is exploring and developing behind the scenes, and hint at what we could see in the future.

Article Link: Apple's Research on Anti-Fingerprint Coatings Again Hints at Future Titanium Devices
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macrumors 6502
Apr 21, 2015
I really want a titanium iPhone. Stainless steel looked great on the X but on the 12 Pro it's a nightmare. It shines way too much and fingerprints and scratches are too visible, especially on the Silver model.
Plus, titanium is a lighter material.


macrumors 6502
Nov 13, 2011
That's a phenomenal amount of detailed and microscopic research. Carry on, Apple.

I was particularly impressed with the graphic of "Sebum" in the patent application. ?



macrumors member
Oct 31, 2020
I can tell you 3 months after this comes out they’ll be ‘wide’ scale reports of the coating chipping off. I can see the article now ‘multiple users are reporting their MacBooks are chipping’.

Then titanium becomes stainless steel, thats how Apple designed it.


macrumors G4
Oct 24, 2014
Better to focus on making it lighter. ~3lb is a brick and what gaming laptops with discrete GPU weigh now. Lightweight should be ~2lb.
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Mar 31, 2020
Better to focus on making it lighter. ~3lb is a brick and what gaming laptops with discrete GPU weigh now. Lightweight should be ~2lb.

The same gaming laptops with a dGPU that sound like a 747 taking off and cook your testicles?

Yeah, lets go even thinner.

Suckfest 9001

May 31, 2015
Whatever they go with I just want a grippier back. I’m tired of this thing slowly sliding off of any slightly angled surface I put it on like a bar of soap. Also lighter materials would be welcomed
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Sep 25, 2018
Titanium (metal) on the back of an iPhone ... say good bye to wireless charging ...
Titanium as a case for a MBP - add $$$, and not just 100 ...

so be careful what you're asking for ...
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macrumors G4
Oct 24, 2014
The same gaming laptops with a dGPU that sound like a 747 taking off and cook your testicles?

Sounds like Intel MBP iGPU but with dGPU so some progress.

AMD mobile Ryzen 5000 CPU and 6000 dGPU with Infinity Cache is where fan sound level will be tamed due to higher performance per watt.


macrumors 68030
Having a MBP or MBA made with titanium could make sense, even with the added cost, at least for those that keep their devices for 5+ years. The added strength and lightness, coupled with Apple Silicon‘s benefits (battery life, speed, cool running), should mean longer usable lifespan, so having a case material that holds up over time would help pay for itself.

I personally like the look and feel of titanium, so it’s certainly of interest to me.
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