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Trio of Apple sapphire-related inventions point to iOS device displays, illuminated buttons

post #1 of 64
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Ahead of Apple's expected iPhone announcement this fall, the company has filed for three sapphire-related patents pointing to a handset with front cover and illuminated buttons crafted from the exotic material.


Source: USPTO


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published Apple patent applications covering a method of strengthening weak regions in sapphire display cover, illuminated sapphire physical controls and implanting of markings beneath a sapphire surface.

Perhaps most relatable to current rumor and speculation is Apple's invention for a "Sapphire component with residual compressive stress," which describes a method of shaping and selectively generating residual compressive stress in aluminum oxide ceramic (sapphire) material to strengthen specific regions prone to breakage.

Earlier this week, a video hit the Web showing a purported "iPhone 6" display cover glass supposedly made from manufactured sapphire. While the material is in question, the actual part showed resilience to both knife stabs, scratches and extreme bending, suggesting it may not be made of industry standard Gorilla Glass.

The properties outlined in the invention are very similar to those seen in the video. For example, the filing specifically points out that incorporating residual compressive stress to sapphire provides impact resistance, enhanced strain performance and overall durability. Regions with compressive stress are substantially more resilient than regions not treated by the procedure.


Illustration of regional residual compressive stress applcation.


As detailed, the invention applies to a device's cover glass components -- front, back or both -- formed from a sapphire crystal material. To improve shock and impact resistance, compressive residual stress regions can be formed on the inner or outer surface of the glass window.

Any suitable method can be used to create compressive residual stress, such as annealing, tempering, quenching or other such techniques. Laser heating or strengthening may also be used for more exact applications.

For example, in some embodiments, the depth of residual compressive stress regions can be varied to provide customized strengthened layers for high loading conditions. In cases where damage is unavoidable, a failure guide may be applied through the process to define a fracture pattern.

Depending on the type of device in which the sapphire is mounted, the residual compressive stress treatment may be applied on corners and edges, or the center portion of the glass.


Various treatment techniques including laser heating process (bottom).


Apple's second sapphire invention deals with ceramic inserts, or sapphire buttons and physical controls that can be integrated within a device housing. Titled "Ceramic insert control mechanism," the application outlines techniques by which physical control members like home buttons and volume rockers can be made of sapphire material.

Like current iPhone controls, the patent filing describes sapphire parts that operate actuators by pressing, sliding or toggling the component manually. These controls can be mounted within a device housing or inserted into a sapphire display, like the iPhone's home button.


Illustration of button actuator (top) and sliding switch.


To prevent damage, bearings, insulators or shims may be positioned around the sapphire part. These parts can be opaque or made of a material that shares the same index of refraction as the sapphire, forming a matching structure.

Apple has already introduced a variation of this patent in the current Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which uses a sapphire cover glass to protect the sensitive circuitry embedded in the component.




The filing also mentions the use of LED lighting to illuminate the sapphire part, either by being located near the mechanism's opening or channeled there through a light guide.

Finally, the third patent application deals with the more mundane task of creating markings like serial numbers and trademarks that are visible through a sapphire glass structure.

As described in Apple's "Ion implant indicia for cover glass or display component" invention, a subsurface pattern or marking is embedded into either the face or back of a sapphire glass pane.




Using ion implantation, the method alters an optical or chromatic property of the sapphire material at a subsurface layer, leaving a mark that is both easily readable and protected from the elements. Possible ions to be used with the process include chromium, titanium, or iron, which are then accelerated in an electric field and implanted in the sapphire component. Different ions can be used to create different indicia colors, while certain applications may just slightly change the perceived optical qualities in the glass.

The indicia can show a device's make and model number, or other pertinent information. In other embodiments, ion implantation can be used as labels for switches and other operational components.

All three Apple patent applications were filed for in January 2013 and credit Kelvin Kwong as an inventor. The ceramic insert property also cites Benjamin J. Pope and Nicholas G. Merz as inventors.
post #2 of 64
It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.
post #3 of 64
Sounds like the back of a future iPhone could be made of sapphire as well. Probably not the 6 due to production constraints.
The Apple logo could be etched in from behind and illuminated by an LED. The regulatory details could also be etched into the sapphire from behind.
We could be seeing an iPhone that is 100% Sapphire on the exterior in a year or two.
post #4 of 64

Annealing, tempering and quenching are techniques 'honed' over 100's of years or more... ion implantation however, now that's recent (last century) and very exciting. Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, pauses for breath, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, (said with a Steve Balmer like, breathless, expression hahahaha).

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post #5 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.

Cheaper (energy wise) than bringing the display up. :rolleyes:

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post #6 of 64

I think the process for strengthen spots in Sapphire is due to the fact the cut home in the display for the home button and the speaker. It probably creates stress points that nee to be relieved.

 

If in fact the iphone 6 will have some kind of sapphire display no competitor can follow quickly since Apple has exclusive rights to the technologies as well as their own patents. I yeah I forgot that never stopped Samsung.

post #7 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

Sounds like the back of a future iPhone could be made of sapphire as well. Probably not the 6 due to production constraints.
The Apple logo could be etched in from behind and illuminated by an LED. The regulatory details could also be etched into the sapphire from behind.
We could be seeing an iPhone that is 100% Sapphire on the exterior in a year or two.

That would a real gem of a phone 1wink.gif
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post #8 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

Annealing, tempering and quenching are techniques 'honed' over 100's of years or more... ion implantation however, now that's recent (last century) and very exciting. Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, pauses for breath, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, (said with a Steve Balmer like, breathless, expression hahahaha).

You forgot the ... 'and sweating profusely '. 1biggrin.gif
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post #9 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.

Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

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post #10 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post
 

Cheaper (energy wise) than bringing the display up. :rolleyes:


The screen would still light up actually. The notification light is if you missed the screen notification.

post #11 of 64
"Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?".

I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.
post #12 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

Kinda hard to see the LED on the back when the phone is lying screen side up. Besides, the LED flash light is rather bright and piercing. Sometimes, I want to put my phone down in a way where I know it will not be disruptive (like during a meeting or having lunch with a friend). Using the back LED essentially renders your phone an attention hog regardless of the way you set down the phone.

 

Anyhow, the home button as a notification light is a no-go with the Touch ID sensor array underneath.

 

A single, multi-colored LED somewhere in the front bezel would be an interesting idea, with the notion that different colors would indicate different notifications (white for mail, green for voice/text messages, etc.).

post #13 of 64
(Tongue in cheek) Proposed new names:

iPhire
sapPhone
'saFone
TryNCopyThisUBastardsPhone

The possibilities are endless! 1smile.gif
post #14 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

That would a real gem of a phone 1wink.gif

You said it. Like a large diamond!

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post #15 of 64
Originally Posted by Roly View Post
I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.


Then it’s out on a table somewhere and the point becomes moot.

post #16 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roly View Post

"Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?".

I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.

What about if the phone "knew" which side was showing and it flashed a light there?

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post #17 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

 

Because it faces down and/or away from the user

post #18 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 


Then it’s out on a table somewhere and the point becomes moot.

 

In what scenario would you have the back of your phone facing you? 

post #19 of 64
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

In what scenario would you have the back of your phone facing you? 


You’d be surprised how many people put their phones on the table face down. It’s insane.

 

But that’s not the point; it’s more “light in a purse” notification.

post #20 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 


You’d be surprised how many people put their phones on the table face down. It’s insane.

 

But that’s not the point; it’s more “light in a purse” notification.

 

I'd agree it would be insane

 

Yes, if you don't think the illumination from a home button would be sufficient, then a much brighter back light would be. But isn't that what the iWatch is for? ;) 

post #21 of 64

Patent 2 reminds me of the Contax T2 camera from the 90s which incorporated a synthetic sapphire shutter release button.

post #22 of 64
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

Yes, if you don't think the illumination from a home button would be sufficient, then a much brighter back light would be. But isn't that what the iWatch is for? ;) 

 

Here’s my take on this topic: 

 

Use the LED as a notification light because… you know… IT’S ALREADY A LIGHT. You set your phone face up? Have it in your purse? Not on you at all times? Huh. Well, maybe that notification isn’t all that important to you, anyway. If it really matters, you’d keep your device on you. And if it doesn’t, why not try taking five dozen steps back and evaluating your life, which has become a miasma of instant gratification and undiagnosed ADD-like symptoms.

 

People and “technology” these days, geez.

post #23 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

Here’s my take on this topic: 

 

Use the LED as a notification light because… you know… IT’S ALREADY A LIGHT. You set your phone face up? Have it in your purse? Not on you at all times? Huh. Well, maybe that notification isn’t all that important to you, anyway. If it really matters, you’d keep your device on you. And if it doesn’t, why not try taking five dozen steps back and evaluating your life, which has become a miasma of instant gratification and undiagnosed ADD-like symptoms.

 

People and “technology” these days, geez.

 

Because something has the functionality, does not mean it is the best use in all cases.  Having a notification light that faces down or away 99% of the time for the majority of users is not a logical use of existing functionality. 

 

Being able to have the home button light instead of the entire screen is logical alternative as it saves energy, and is more desecrate. Very nice for meeting rooms. 

 

You lost me on the latter part of your rant :) 

post #24 of 64
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

Having a notification light that faces down or away 99% of the time for the majority of users

 

Seems like an incorrect assessment.

 

Again, if the notification really matters, you’ll have the device on your person or be checking it with a frequency as to make the light redundant.

post #25 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

Seems like an incorrect assessment.

 

Again, if the notification really matters, you’ll have the device on your person or be checking it with a frequency as to make the light redundant.

 

As the flash is on the back of the phone, it could hardly be an incorrect assessment, but a logical presumption. 

 

Notifications do matter, but I also don't need the entire phone lighting up or me clicking the home screen every 15 seconds to receive them. My phone sits (face up) on my desk most of the day as I work, so this would be a nice UX for me. 

 

If you are the person that has their phone in a pocket/purse most of the time, then you have some manual effort to checking for notifications anyway, so I can see any light being less convenient. 

post #26 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

 

Because most people don't place their phones facedown. 

post #27 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

Use the LED as a notification light because… you know… IT’S ALREADY A LIGHT.

 

My boss has an Android phone that does this (actually as a silent ringer, not a notifier), and it's darned annoying/distracting.  He even apologizes for it in meetings.

post #28 of 64
How about something simple like using the home-button light when a touch-id input is expected?
post #29 of 64

I think the most recent case design article I read on Samsung was that they were thinking of moving from plastic to metal (for the back panel).

 

These kinds of patent filings leave me with the feeling that in these types of design aspects that Apple is to Samsung as an Olympic sprinter is to a toddler who is taking its first step.

 

I know Samsung plays the spec game w/ megapixels and processor speed and screen resolution - but those demonstrate no outside-the-box thinking like these filings do.  Apple is coming up with radically different and new ideas for how to approach aspects of device design and manufacture that seem like they wouldn't ever occur to Samsung.  Hat's off.

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post #30 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

It's on the BACK of the phone. Strike 1

No one wants a disco light when a subtle LED would do. The camera flash is very bright and very distracting. Strike 2

While I applaud Apple for adding that capability to the iPhone... it's not exactly the solution people were looking for. It was poorly thought out.

I want a notification light that I can simply see when I return to my desk... not something that lights up the whole room.

Other phones have had simple LED lights for notifications for year... my old Blackberry comes to mind.

Do you honestly think Apple's strobe light on the back of the phone is the ideal solution?
post #31 of 64
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
Using ion implantation, the method alters an optical or chromatic property of the sapphire material at a subsurface layer, leaving a mark that is both easily readable and protected from the elements.

 

And it might allow for a cool subsurface glowing effect if sidelit.

Maybe for the rounded square on the home button.  

Or, better yet, for the Apple logo on the back of the enclosure.

Just a thought.

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post #32 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by jinglesthula View Post

I think the most recent case design article I read on Samsung was that they were thinking of moving from plastic to metal (for the back panel).

These kinds of patent filings leave me with the feeling that in these types of design aspects that Apple is to Samsung as an Olympic sprinter is to a toddler who is taking its first step.

I know Samsung plays the spec game w/ megapixels and processor speed and screen resolution - but those demonstrate no outside-the-box thinking like these filings do.  Apple is coming up with radically different and new ideas for how to approach aspects of device design and manufacture that seem like they wouldn't ever occur to Samsung.  Hat's off.

That's because Samsung is being reactive, and tends to never actually know which direction Apple is going when they are unable to peek at the parts in-house. Even then, they have no idea what to make of things. Apple recently switched to 64bit, but not quad-core CPU. Samsung went to quadcore but stayed 32bit... because Android isn't 64bit. If you casually look around news sites, Android is "moving to 64bit by christmas" . Know what that means? More fragmentation.

If we use the PC industry as a barometer of what is to come, there will be 64bit OS's but developers will be unwilling to develop 64bit software so long as older OS's are 32bit (eg Windows XP.) So we have at least a 3 year window for 32bit OS's to cease sales, and a 10 year window before users finally throw away devices. Unlike the PC market, "Cell phone" users, at least in the US, are under the impression that 1000$ phones are free to them on two year contracts, and are thus have incentive to throw away their devices every 2 years, regardless of the device still being usable.

Phones made of new materials but not new hardware or software don't really give customers a reason to upgrade. The mobile phone upgrade process kinda went like this:
a) Analog Suitcase phones
b) Analog Car Phones
c) Analog handheld (1990's)
c) Digital (fractured into CDMA and TDMA, late 90's)
d) Digital that can do text messaging and ringtones
e) Digital that has color screens and polyphonic midi (around 2003)
f) GSM "2G or 2.5G or 3G" depending on how blatant the carrier was willing to lie to you
g) GSM Camera phones, picture messaging/multimedia messaging
h) First generation "smartphones" (Windows Mobile, Treo, Blackberry) around 2005/2006
i) Second generation smartphones (iPhone) 2007, which is more like a computer, and doesn't require "mobile" versions of sites to use.
From that point forward the iPhone has always been a little behind the curve in technical specs. (The iPhone 4 introduced a 5 megapixel camera, the iPhone 3G introduced UMTS, both of these features were available on the Nokia N95 which was released in early 2007)

I don't know about anyone else, but the only incentive I have to replace a phone is when a new technology (eg UMTS, LTE) or a reasonable improvement in battery life (which hasn't happened in any model since the iPhone 4) necessitates replacement. As it is I haven't replaced my 2007 phone because it still works, but it's not supported any more, Google had some apps for it a few years ago, but now they don't work anymore. So it's getting to the point where it's only useful as a phone and camera. Once the map application gives up, I'll have to replace it. Hopefully by then there is is a reasonable sized iPhone that I can justify the cost of.
post #33 of 64
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post
It's on the BACK of the phone. Strike 1

 

So?

 

If you can see the front, you can see the screen, and the notifications show up there already.

 
No one wants a disco light when a subtle LED would do.

 

Because no LED has ever been able to change brightness¡

 
Do you honestly think Apple's strobe light on the back of the phone is the ideal solution? 

 

Do you honestly think that full brightness is the only option for that light? 

post #34 of 64

The phone has sensors, it knows if it's face up or face down. Depending on what is facing up, the notification could appear in a particular place.

Plus, if the phone is face down it could be a private (DND) mode and/or not light the screen with the notification as it's be a waste of power.

post #35 of 64

They talk about illuminated buttons and buttons with markings... so if we were going to have an illuminated button for notifications... and if we didn't want something on the back like the LED... then  why not an illuminated sleep/wake or volume button?

post #36 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

So?

If you can see the front, you can see the screen, and the notifications show up there already.

There were notification lights on the front of phones for years. The reason was so a tiny light would blink periodically to indicate you have a new message or whatever.

Otherwise... you have to wake up the entire screen to check missed messages.

Yes... you see notifications on the iPhone screen immediately as they come in. But if you were away from the phone.... you don't see them.

That's where a tiny blinking light would come in handy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Because no LED has ever been able to change brightness¡

Do you honestly think that full brightness is the only option for that light? 

So you're saying make the camera flash LED on the back dimmer? That's the solution? 1biggrin.gif

Yes... Apple took the only light they had and made it into a makeshift notification light. But it was hardly an ideal solution.

It was on the back of the phone.
post #37 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

There were notification lights on the front of phones for years. The reason was so a tiny light would blink periodically to indicate you have a new message or whatever.

Otherwise... you have to wake up the entire screen to check missed messages.

Yes... you see notifications on the iPhone screen immediately as they come in. But if you were away from the phone.... you don't see them.

That's where a tiny blinking light would come in handy.

OK, I see you aren't looking for simple visual solution but wanting a very specific option. Do you think this is a big issue for people that Apple will include it even though they didn't add it in 2007 when that (and profiles) were common? Do you think that the Home Button is a good place for it even if that means getting rid of Touch ID?

From my PoV, if I'm leaving my desk I'm not leaving my phone anywhere. It's in my pocket or in my hand when I'm not home or in my car. At work, if I do have to, say, charge it up at my desk and I leave for a meeting for an hour I'll just tap the Home Button or wait for my phone to vibrate again.

I have nothing against a light on the front of the device — so long as it's not affecting Touch ID usage — but I have to think it's probably not going to happen if it hasn't at 8 years.


PS: You do know you can have vibration and audible alert for Messages repeat 10x at 2 minute intervals, right?

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post #38 of 64
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post
So you're saying make the camera flash LED on the back dimmer? That's the solution? 1biggrin.gif

 

I’m not sure if you’re joking.

post #39 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

OK, I see you aren't looking for simple visual solution but wanting a very specific option. Do you think this is a big issue for people that Apple will include it even though they didn't add it in 2007 when that (and profiles) were common? Do you think that the Home Button is a good place for it even if that means getting rid of Touch ID?

From my PoV, if I'm leaving my desk I'm not leaving my phone anywhere. It's in my pocket or in my hand when I'm not home or in my car. At work, if I do have to, say, charge it up at my desk and I leave for a meeting for an hour I'll just tap the Home Button or wait for my phone to vibrate again.

I have nothing against a light on the front of the device — so long as it's not affecting Touch ID usage — but I have to think it's probably not going to happen if it hasn't at 8 years.


PS: You do know you can have vibration and audible alert for Messages repeat 10x at 2 minute intervals, right?

Understood.

But I hope you realize that front notification lights do have a purpose. There are use cases for them.

Yes... the iPhone has never had them... and I don't think they ever will. I'm fine with that.

I was just suggesting that if Apple were to make a button light up... it would be cool to have a notification light on the front.

But no... I won't give up TouchID for that! 1smile.gif

I never expected this love-affair with the back camera flash functioning as a notification light. Yes it's there... but it seems to an idea that Apple haphazardly added to iOS.
post #40 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I’m not sure if you’re joking.

Here was my train of thought:

Notification LED... Yes or No?

If yes.... Front or Back?

I'm just trying to figure out why you think the BACK of the phone is the proper place to put a notification LED?

Yes... the iPhone already had an LED there... so why not. No harm done.

But that's not where I would put a notification LED if I was designing a phone from scratch.

This article talks about the possibility of illuminated buttons... there is a button on the front... so a notification light was my first thought.

That's all.

We probably won't EVER see this come to fruition anyway. Next rumor?
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