The iPhone's home button could get a Liquidmetal makeover, new Apple patent shows

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2016
A recently granted Apple patent points to a new use for Liquidmetal -- a simplified home button design that would cut down on complexity and last longer than conventional components.


A cross-section of the simplified design.


The patent, aptly titled "bulk amorphous alloy pressure sensor," discusses ways of replacing materials currently used in dome switches with new Liquidmetal-like options. The latter is a better choice, Apple argues, because of its enhanced elasticity.

In short, that means that Liquidmetal is better at repeatedly deforming and bouncing back to its initial state than titanium or stainless steel, which are often used now.

Apple would take advantage of this by making the home button -- which is currently backed by a relatively standard dome switch -- pressure sensitive.

When you press down on a regular dome switch, the top of the dome makes contact with a small piece of metal below, completing an electrical circuit. Apple would instead treat it more like a strain gauge than a button.


An exploded view of the simplified design.


The patent describes a method of determining the deflection of a Liquidmetal dome by measuring the change in resistance as it deflects, rather than when it makes contact. This approach that would both make the mechanism simpler and allow for more flexibility.

This marks the second time in as many months that Apple has hinted at adding something like Force Touch to the home button. In February, a separate patent detailed a method of using capacitance to detect pressure in the fingerprint sensor.

Apple credits Christopher D. Prest, Matthew S. Scott, Stephen P. Zadesky, Dermot J. Stratton, Joseph C. Poole, and Theodore A. Waniuk with the invention of U.S. Patent No. 9,279,733.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 180member
    Go LQMT
    netmage
  • Reply 2 of 20
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,459member
    hmlongco said:
    Go LQMT
    Go stock price!!  Cheap, bought quite a few
  • Reply 3 of 20
    bill42bill42 Posts: 129member
    mimetic poly-alloy?
    sockrolid
  • Reply 4 of 20
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    It's about time, hopefully.  When was the last time they made something out of LM?  Yeah, a while back.
  • Reply 5 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,801member
    My response to this is - big deal! Honestly, Apple and Liquidmetal have heaved mightily over the past few years, and have come up with what, a tiny dome on the switch? Assuming this is even going to be used?

    While I don't believe we'll see Liquidmetal for a phone chassis, because of the cost, I would have expected to see a watch case, which is far smaller. The case material could push the price up, but that's fine. Making a bracelet for the watch out of this would be expensive as well, but that's fine too. A watch is a fashion statement, after all, and Apple already has the far more expensive gold watch models. I'm very interested in buying the black SS watch and bracelet when the new version comes out later this year, and I might be willing to pop extra for a Liquidmetal version, depending on how much more that would be.

    But remember, a few years ago, when the inventor of Liquidmetal stated that it would be several years before the product could be used commercially by Apple, and people here jumped all over him, saying that he was full of it? Some of us stood up for his statement, and he was right. I just don't understand why Apple just doesn't buy the company already. They could have bought it for less than they keep renewing their exclusive contract for. Even though it doesn't cover other uses for the product, it doesn't matter.

    Bjt I'd like to see something more than the possibility of a tiny part that we won't be able to actually see.
    gatorguycnocbuinetmagejustadcomics
  • Reply 6 of 20
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,300member
    Liquidmetal, Liquidmetal, Liquidmetal.... every few months there is an AI story that raises forlorn hope to a small (getting smaller) and neglected part of my portfolio.

    Solidbummer is what I call it. :-/
    icoco3gatorguy
  • Reply 7 of 20
    loquiturloquitur Posts: 113member
    Although Liquidmetal has been a solution looking for a problem for many moons, it's fun to watch the Apple patent action here, as well as the stock, stuck in "cry wolf" mode while niche markets are pursued. A useful summary appears here: http://www.microcapdaily.com/liquidmetal-technologies-inc-otcbblqmt-heats-up/114512/ Further, regarding Apple alloy specialist personnel, two of those who appear on the patents (Zadesky, Kuehmann) have flown the coop to Tesla.
  • Reply 8 of 20
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,687member
    Wasn't the sim card tray on certain iPhones made from liquid metal? I remember reading something about that a long time ago.

    Do new iPhones still have a liquid metal sim card tray? 
  • Reply 9 of 20
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 938member
    apple ][ said:
    Wasn't the sim card tray on certain iPhones made from liquid metal? I remember reading something about that a long time ago.

    Do new iPhones still have a liquid metal sim card tray? 
    I thought it was the sim ejector tool...?
    icoco3gatorguyjustadcomics
  • Reply 10 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,801member
    apple ][ said:
    Wasn't the sim card tray on certain iPhones made from liquid metal? I remember reading something about that a long time ago.

    Do new iPhones still have a liquid metal sim card tray? 
    I thought it was the sim ejector tool...?
    Yes. I have one
    netmage
  • Reply 11 of 20
    ac1234ac1234 Posts: 138member
    What a huge YAWN.

    Apple ponders:

    What the hell do we do to capture the huge potential of cord cutting / streaming video?

    Are Healthkit and Homekit and Apple Watch really going to drive meaningful margin to us?

    How do we leverage our "ecosystem" to rapidly boost revenue growth & margin?

    Where are the innovations?

    Don't worry - we may have a lead on Liquid Metal as a better "spring" for the home button.  That coupled with our limited distribution of the SIMM ejector tool will calm the markets.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 12 of 20
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,300member
    apple ][ said:
    Wasn't the sim card tray on certain iPhones made from liquid metal? I remember reading something about that a long time ago.

    Do new iPhones still have a liquid metal sim card tray? 
    I thought it was the sim ejector tool...?
    Yeah, it was. A paper clip substitute (and you could not clip paper with it).
    cnocbui
  • Reply 13 of 20
    Okay...i'll be suing Apple if my iphone turns into T-1000.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    Me: "3D Touch ID?"

    Siri: "I have detailed files."
    justadcomics
  • Reply 15 of 20
    Sounds like a useless change that would never even be known till ifixit tears up that I device with it.
  • Reply 16 of 20
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,985member
    melgross said:
    My response to this is - big deal! Honestly, Apple and Liquidmetal have heaved mightily over the past few years, and have come up with what, a tiny dome on the switch? Assuming this is even going to be used?

    While I don't believe we'll see Liquidmetal for a phone chassis, because of the cost, I would have expected to see a watch case, which is far smaller. The case material could push the price up, but that's fine. Making a bracelet for the watch out of this would be expensive as well, but that's fine too. A watch is a fashion statement, after all, and Apple already has the far more expensive gold watch models. I'm very interested in buying the black SS watch and bracelet when the new version comes out later this year, and I might be willing to pop extra for a Liquidmetal version, depending on how much more that would be.

    But remember, a few years ago, when the inventor of Liquidmetal stated that it would be several years before the product could be used commercially by Apple, and people here jumped all over him, saying that he was full of it? Some of us stood up for his statement, and he was right. I just don't understand why Apple just doesn't buy the company already. They could have bought it for less than they keep renewing their exclusive contract for. Even though it doesn't cover other uses for the product, it doesn't matter.

    Bjt I'd like to see something more than the possibility of a tiny part that we won't be able to actually see.
    They can't use it for the watch. Swatch also has an exclusivity deal, and it pertains to using LM on watches. 
  • Reply 17 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,801member
    melgross said:
    My response to this is - big deal! Honestly, Apple and Liquidmetal have heaved mightily over the past few years, and have come up with what, a tiny dome on the switch? Assuming this is even going to be used?

    While I don't believe we'll see Liquidmetal for a phone chassis, because of the cost, I would have expected to see a watch case, which is far smaller. The case material could push the price up, but that's fine. Making a bracelet for the watch out of this would be expensive as well, but that's fine too. A watch is a fashion statement, after all, and Apple already has the far more expensive gold watch models. I'm very interested in buying the black SS watch and bracelet when the new version comes out later this year, and I might be willing to pop extra for a Liquidmetal version, depending on how much more that would be.

    But remember, a few years ago, when the inventor of Liquidmetal stated that it would be several years before the product could be used commercially by Apple, and people here jumped all over him, saying that he was full of it? Some of us stood up for his statement, and he was right. I just don't understand why Apple just doesn't buy the company already. They could have bought it for less than they keep renewing their exclusive contract for. Even though it doesn't cover other uses for the product, it doesn't matter.

    Bjt I'd like to see something more than the possibility of a tiny part that we won't be able to actually see.
    They can't use it for the watch. Swatch also has an exclusivity deal, and it pertains to using LM on watches. 
    That deal is over with, or will be soon.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,985member
    melgross said:
    They can't use it for the watch. Swatch also has an exclusivity deal, and it pertains to using LM on watches. 
    That deal is over with, or will be soon.
    They could always renew just like Apple did. 
  • Reply 19 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,801member
    melgross said:
    That deal is over with, or will be soon.
    They could always renew just like Apple did. 
    No. Apple has priority. Once the Swatch deal is done, it's done.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    loquiturloquitur Posts: 113member
    For the still curious, this verbiage arises from the LQMT 10K report, dated March 17, 2016:

    In March 2009, we entered into a license agreement with Swatch Group, Ltd. ("Swatch") under which Swatch was granted a non-exclusive license to our technology to produce and market watches and certain other luxury products. In March 2011, this license agreement was amended to grant Swatch exclusive rights as to watches and all third parties (including us), but non-exclusive as to Apple, and our license agreement with LLPG was simultaneously amended to exclude watches from LLPG's rights. We will receive royalty payments over the life of the contract on all Liquidmetal products produced and sold by Swatch. The license agreement with Swatch will expire on the expiration date of the last licensed patent.

    Looks like some sort of "co-exclusivity" for the life of the underlying patents,
    perhaps relating to separate fields-of-use for watches, and "consumer electronic products".
    (An Apple watch is both.)

    I wonder how a 3rd-party Apple-compatible watch band, say a Liquidmetal link bracelet, treads upon these patents.  
    At any rate, It looks the new near-majority owner of LQMT has big plans in China...
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