Apple tech-grab suggests future iPhones will be waterproof and ruggedised

New Apple patents and retention of exclusive Liquidmetal rights suggest iPhones are going to get much, much hardier

Do you think your iPhone is tough enough? Apple’s phones are in many ways the best constructed handsets on the market – but they’re still prone to damage from water, dust and shock. A lot of the iPhones we see on pub tables these days have a cracked screen or malfunctioning home button.

Well, it seems like that might be set to change. Apple has applied for a patent that would toughen up weak points in its mobile devices – speakers, microphones etc. – with clever mechanical shutters. When sensors detect the phone is falling, pressure on the phone is increasing or perhaps the presence of water, these shutters would slam closed and protect the openings from damage.

Currently, Apple attempts to lessen the weakness of openings by protecting them with mesh or making them very small, but shutters could allow them to be larger: something which could mean wider speaker openings, for instance. Wider speakers openings could mean better audio performance, so there’s more than just the anti-damage angle here.

Liquidmetal alloy finally coming to iPhones?

On a related note, Apple has retained exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal’s alloys in its consumer devices. These alloys can theoretically be used in certain parts of mobile devices (home buttons, touch sensors and the like) where their lightness, high strength and resistance to corrosion would come in useful.

Cupertino has held the rights since 2010 – although it has yet to use the metals in any released product – and will maintain its grip on them until at least February 2015. Of course, retention of the license does not necessarily mean the materials will be used in the iPhone 6 or other future Apple mobile products – but it's a good hint that the company sees exclusive access to them as a potentially useful advantage to hold over rivals.

[Via AppleInsider and MacRumors]

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