Unsurprisingly, the Apple Card isn't 100% titanium

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2019
The physical Apple Card is not made entirely of titanium, a report claims, but while Apple uses an alloy to produce the highly-sought-after credit card's real-world counterpart, it's hardly a surprise that some form of alloy is being used in its manufacture.

Apple Card


Apple Card exists primarily as a virtual credit, with payments made either via contactless payments on an iPhone over Apple Pay or as online transactions. In order to facilitate the few swipe-based and chip-and-pin transactions that may be required from time to time, a physical token is also provided, consisting of a white card made from titanium bearing a magnetic strip, a chip, a few company logos, and the account holder's name.

Since its launch, Apple Card has become the subject of a few stories relating to the physical version, including Apple's guidance on cleaning and using the card, warnings not to bring it in contact with leather and denim, and signs of wear and tear on the outside after mere weeks of carrying it around.

Capitalizing on the trend, Bloomberg Businessweek decided to produce its own, investigating what the card is actually made from. Documentation describing the "multi-layer coating process" for the matte white finish as well as the repeated mention of titanium being used in its construction is highlighted, with the latter being a main focus for the report.

Apple advises against storing Apple Card in leather wallets
Apple advises against storing Apple Card in leather wallets


The publication sent an Apple Card to University of California, Berkeley professor Hans-Rudolf Wenk, a mineral specialist, to analyze it using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The equipment is used to determine the atomic makeup of materials.

According to Professor Wenk, approximately 90% of Apple Card's material is titanium, with the remaining 10% of the alloy made up of aluminum. Like every other metal-cased products it makes, Apple has elected to use an alloy for Apple Card.

What is an alloy?

Very, very simply, an alloy is the combination of multiple metals, or metals with non-metallic elements, to make a new metal-like material. The aim of the alloy is to produce a metal or material that has a more desirable set of properties, such as combining iron and carbon to produce steel, or for gold and silver to be combined into white gold.

The property changes can include making the material harder or stronger, to make it softer, to increase shine, change color, or simply to make the cost of the material cheaper to produce.

What does it all mean in the real world?

If you've watched any science fiction in the last 50 years, you've probably heard titanium bandied about as a miracle metal, impervious to any damage. Titanium is a great metal -- it is very strong, and maintains what's called ductility at low temperatures where many other metals would be extremely brittle, making it good for cryogenics.

But, the same aspects of the metal that make it good for extremely low temperature applications have side effects for something that needs to be strong and scratch resistant. Materials with high ductility are prone to scratching and subject what's called plastic deformation when under load -- which can be good or bad. Without delving too far into material science and the science of material failure, that's why nearly everything consumer-facing, including the Apple Card and the Titanium PowerBook G4, are alloys of titanium and contain aluminum in some measure.

At the launch of the most recent Macbook Air and Mac mini, Apple revealed the use of a new alloy to enable the use of 100% recycled aluminum
At the launch of the most recent Macbook Air and Mac mini, Apple revealed the use of a new alloy to enable the use of 100% recycled aluminum


There are lots of other aspects about how to make an alloy and why manufacturers should, like corrosion resistance, percentages of metals and why, temperatures of alloying, point-defect rates, brittle fracture curves, and much, much more that are well, well beyond the scope of this article. The Apple Card isn't an aerospace surface, will never dive the Mariana Trench as a pressure surface, nor be launched into orbit holding back liquid nitrogen or similar, so they really aren't that relevant here.

In the case of the Apple Card, the aluminum hardens the card, and dials back on the ductility. In turn, this makes it less prone to bending, more resistant to scratching, and makes it slightly less porous.

"Unsurprisingly" it says up there in the headline. In short, the titanium Apple Card was never going to be all-titanium, and this 90/10 ratio shouldn't come as a big surprise. Beyond marketing, it doesn't really matter in any real measure that it is actually 90% titanium and 10% aluminum, versus 40% titanium and 60% aluminum.

But, had it been anything else but a majority of titanium, that would be something else for folks to get riled up about on social media.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    I'm holding out for the Spring 2020 card event. I heard they're changing it to Liquid Metal.
    bigtdsrandominternetpersoncaladanianMplsPcornchip1983
  • Reply 2 of 32
    I’m waiting for a clear aluminium card.  Scotty was able to create it on an original Mac. So how hard could it be ?  ;)
    netmagemikethemartianMplsPStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 32
    How much titanium was in the PowerBook G4?
  • Reply 4 of 32
    Even if it was 100% titanium, it still wouldn't be 100% titanium, because of the RFID tag built into it. That tag looks to be about 3% of the weight of the card. What elements of the periodic table make up that last 3%?
    edited September 2019
  • Reply 5 of 32
    Oh my!
    That is true of EVERY metal we use!

    I still see images of a steel plant I worked for with a worker hurling whole, entire bags of minerals and compounds into a blast furnace.  Steel is an alloy of iron.
    Or, at an aluminim extruder I worked for:   Our Pittsburgh plant used mostly 6063 alloy because it supplied the window and door industry.   Conversely, our Indianapolis facility used mostly harder 6061 alloy because it supplied mostly dump truck bodies and highway/bridge guardrail and handrail.

    Even the so called "gold ring" we buy for our weddings is an alloy.

    But regardless:  we still call them:   Steel, Aluminum*, and gold.

    * Unless your Jony Ives and then you call it "AlYouMinIum"
    jbdragonnetmagerandominternetpersoncornchip
  • Reply 6 of 32
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,987member
    Only Apple would have its credit card scrutinized and tested in a lab followed by articles spreading across the Internet about how it is NOT pure titanium but ONLY 90% titanium. Oh the humanity! Another propaganda lie put out by Apple to deceive its users! The company is doomed! Call the call action lawyers! Titanium-gate is just getting started!

    That even the techies are apparently ignorant of how metallurgy works means we have to have 500 word screeds about the subject is jaw dropping. It just gets funnier and funnier every day how Apple sits in the crosshairs of every swinging dick looking for clicks on their blogs.

    And speaking of Apple in the crosshairs, have you read the Tech Crunch report and Rene Ritchie’s YouTube video revealing how Google’s zero-day team conveniently left out the fact that A: Android and Windows were also attacked by those websites and B: those websites were targeting a specific political and religious minority in China, namely the Uyghur muslims. Well fancy that, there was more to the story than Google’s team reported. It was all about Apple. It implied it was only iOS, period. But google has pledged to “do no wrong”. My old white ass. And that didn’t stop the tech press from pouncing on it and writing headlines like “Apple just gave 1.4 billion of its users a reason to quit the company”. 
    edited September 2019 flyingdpnetmagechiarandominternetpersonStrangeDayslolliverbadmonk
  • Reply 7 of 32
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,987member
    Oh my!
    That is true of EVERY metal we use!

    I still see images of a steel plant I worked for with a worker hurling whole, entire bags of minerals and compounds into a blast furnace.  Steel is an alloy of iron.
    Or, at an aluminim extruder I worked for:   Our Pittsburgh plant used mostly 6063 alloy because it supplied the window and door industry.   Conversely, our Indianapolis facility used mostly harder 6061 alloy because it supplied mostly dump truck bodies and highway/bridge guardrail and handrail.

    Even the so called "gold ring" we buy for our weddings is an alloy.

    But regardless:  we still call them:   Steel, Aluminum*, and gold.

    * Unless your Jony Ives and then you call it "AlYouMinIum”
    My wife’s 91 year old aunt always pronounced it it “a (loon) (nee) um”. According to Wikipedia aluminium is becoming the standard spelling in the rest of the world so Jony is within bounds to pronounce it that way. My first name is Lawrence so I claim Lawrencium (Lr atomic weight 103) as my own even though it’s name for some dead scientist named Ernest Lawrence.
    edited September 2019 chialolliver
  • Reply 8 of 32
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 321member
    Literally who cares. It is a credit card and its sole purposes are to spend money and flash the Apple logo. It is white and will get dirty because your wallet is dirty, the card rubs against your wallet, people touch it with dirty fingers (including yourself), and the machines you stick it into are dirty. People are f'd in the head about a credit card.
    jbdragonGeorgeBMacpscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 32
    “In order to facilitate the few swipe-based and chip-and-pin transactions that may be required from time to time, a physical token is also provided, consisting of a white card made from titanium bearing a magnetic strip, a chip,”

    This statement, unfortunately, is utter nonsense or wishful thinking. I’m in the US and more  than half of my card transactions are by chip, swipe or actual card number input. Many merchants and vendors still require a chip or swipe including major hotel chains, food vendors, restaurants, and gas stations, to name a few.

    To be actually useful, I don’t think you can have an AppleCard account without getting a physical card.
  • Reply 10 of 32
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,987member
    flyingdp said:
    “In order to facilitate the few swipe-based and chip-and-pin transactions that may be required from time to time, a physical token is also provided, consisting of a white card made from titanium bearing a magnetic strip, a chip,”

    This statement, unfortunately, is utter nonsense or wishful thinking. I’m in the US and more  than half of my card transactions are by chip, swipe or actual card number input. Many merchants and vendors still require a chip or swipe including major hotel chains, food vendors, restaurants, and gas stations, to name a few.

    To be actually useful, I don’t think you can have an AppleCard account without getting a physical card.
    Well we have an ice cream parlor in my town that is CASH only. There’s also a very popular pizza parlor in Mesa Arizona that is CASH only but they have a third party ATM in their lobby for the poor souls that assume everybody takes credit cards these days. They surely get a cut from that ATM for the fees collected to get cash out. So there’s that.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    Hope Apple has a plan in place for recycling old cards. Cutting up all that titanium and throwing it in the trash would be tough on scissors and a terrible waste of a valuable resource. 
    netmagecornchip
  • Reply 12 of 32
    flyingdp said:
    “In order to facilitate the few swipe-based and chip-and-pin transactions that may be required from time to time, a physical token is also provided, consisting of a white card made from titanium bearing a magnetic strip, a chip,”

    This statement, unfortunately, is utter nonsense or wishful thinking. I’m in the US and more  than half of my card transactions are by chip, swipe or actual card number input. Many merchants and vendors still require a chip or swipe including major hotel chains, food vendors, restaurants, and gas stations, to name a few.

    To be actually useful, I don’t think you can have an AppleCard account without getting a physical card.
    Since, as you say, half of America doesn't have wireless payment devices, that will slow down adoption in the US, but the rest of the world is more technologically advanced than America's NFC grid, so the Apple Card using Apple Pay will be popular and successful out here.

    However the GDP of the US is so strong that even though they may be laggards in the deployment of NFC terminals, they are probably still the world's leader in terms of the amount of money spent on NFC terminals simply by virtue of how much money is spent there. So congratulations.
  • Reply 13 of 32
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,984member
    Hope Apple has a plan in place for recycling old cards. Cutting up all that titanium and throwing it in the trash would be tough on scissors and a terrible waste of a valuable resource. 
    Good question – what to do with your compromised or dropped Apple Card?

    First, notify Apple via the Wallet app and chat, if necessary.
    Second, erase the magnetic stripe with a strong magnet
    Third, microwave it for a few seconds to destroy the chip
    Fourth, use a solvent to remove you're name from the card.

    Now, it's no good to anybody. You could drop it off at an Apple Store. Or maybe repurpose it. Carry it and one day use it to pry open elevator doors when trapped inside. Or use it to hold the doors open to immobilize the elevator forcing assailants to use stairs in order to continue pursuing you. Sharpen the perimeter to use it as an edged weapon or shuriken in an emergency. Maybe there's a Liam just for Apple Cards.
  • Reply 14 of 32
    macgui said:
    Fourth, use a solvent to remove you're name from the card.
    And fifth, order a free replacement card from Apple.

    Also, I found it odd that a person who is worried about security or identity theft would use her real name on this website.
    edited September 2019
  • Reply 15 of 32
    In the article photo, the name Michael Ohara doesn't have an apostrophe. My question is this: are apostrophes unsupported characters in the Apple Card? What about dashes? I know lots of people with dashes and apostrophes in their names. Are there any other special symbols besides those two that are permitted? Does an Apple Card user from foreign countries where English isn't spoken have to use the Romanized version of his name, or can he use the local alphabet, including pictograph names? In some languages their names are written vertically, does the Apple Card support that? I'd like to see names printed on Apple Cards for people whose unromanized names are in Burmese, Sinhalese, Georgian, Tagalog and also Taa/!Xóõ.
  • Reply 16 of 32
    jimh2 said:
    Literally who cares. It is a credit card and its sole purposes are to spend money and flash the Apple logo. It is white and will get dirty because your wallet is dirty, the card rubs against your wallet, people touch it with dirty fingers (including yourself), and the machines you stick it into are dirty. People are f'd in the head about a credit card.
    I think it shows the higher standard to which Apple is held.
    My plastic cards all look like worn-out crap within a few months -- but I haven't heard any complaints about them.
  • Reply 17 of 32
    I paid an extra fee for the Edition Apple Card®. 100% Titanium, and it comes with an Apple Card Butler®.
    macgui
  • Reply 18 of 32
    1st1st Posts: 443member
    even 90% is high (possibly the location that construct the card using the alloy strip of Ti-Al is 90%, but not the whole card).  SEM has limited sensitivity for light elements.  I suspect something missing or the card use very little alloy.  IMHO.  We will never know unless we can get hold of the Lab report.  
  • Reply 19 of 32
    How much titanium was in the PowerBook G4?
    The PB G4 Ti case was CP (commercially pure) titanium. Essentially 100% pure. But that also meant it wasn't very strong, not that anyone needs superstrong laptop cases. Stiff, yes, but not strong.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    flyingdp said:
    “In order to facilitate the few swipe-based and chip-and-pin transactions that may be required from time to time, a physical token is also provided, consisting of a white card made from titanium bearing a magnetic strip, a chip,”

    This statement, unfortunately, is utter nonsense or wishful thinking. I’m in the US and more  than half of my card transactions are by chip, swipe or actual card number input. Many merchants and vendors still require a chip or swipe including major hotel chains, food vendors, restaurants, and gas stations, to name a few.

    To be actually useful, I don’t think you can have an AppleCard account without getting a physical card.
    Sure you can.  Do what I (and many other people) do: use the Apple Card only virtually (to get the 2%) and use whatever card you had before for everything else (where I get 1.5%).  I ordered a physical card because, hey it looks cool.  It's not in my wallet however.
    GeorgeBMaclolliver
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