We last year saw an Apple patent showing that the company was exploring the possibility of creating a titanium iPhone, iPad, and MacBook – and another one has been granted today.

Specifically, today’s patent grant describes a process for creating a textured surface on titanium, and one of Apple’s illustrations depicts an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and MacBook …

Background

Apple currently offers a titanium Apple Watch, and in the past has offered a titanium laptop: the PowerBook G4. This was sold between 2001 and 2003, when it was replaced by an aluminum model. Here’s how EveryMac describes it:

The PowerBook G4/400 (Titanium) features a 400 MHz PowerPC 7410 (G4) processor with the AltiVec “Velocity Engine” vector processing unit and 1 MB backside level 2 cache, 128 MB of PC100 SDRAM, a 10 GB Ultra ATA/66 hard drive, a slot-loading 6X DVD-ROM drive, and ATI Rage Mobility 128 (2X AGP) graphics with 8 MB of SDRAM in a 1-inch thick Titanium case with a 15.2″ TFT display (1152×768 native resolution). Custom configurations also were available. It also is worth noting that the PowerBook G4/400 (Titanium) is much thinner than the PowerBook G3/400 (Firewire) that it replaced, but lacks swappable drive bays.

In its raw state, titanium has a rather dull and uninteresting finish – so Apple has explored different ways of giving the material a more attractive look.

Back in January 2021, the company was granted a patent for a method of giving titanium a semi-gloss finish.

The patent is a technical one, dealing with the process of combining blasting and etching with a chemical anodization process in order to achieve the desired finish. Apple says that the former is better at hiding flaws in the metal, while the latter offers better protection […]

Titanium is heavier than aluminum, but is so much stronger that you can use a far thinner piece to achieve the same strength and stiffness. The net result is that a titanium casing would be lighter than an aluminum one.

Titanium iPhone

We’ve seen past rumors that Apple is working on a titanium iPhone – though the iPhone 13 prediction of course didn’t come to pass. Today’s patent opens by describing the challenge posed by titanium casings.

Portable electronic devices can include various operational components (e.g., display, processor, antenna, etc.). Enclosures for these portable electronic devices can be formed of various metals (e.g., anodized aluminum, etc.) having a high amount of strength and stiffness to protect these operational components. Additionally, it is preferable to process these enclosures such as to impart these enclosures with an attractive surface finish. However, specific types of metals, although having a high amount of strength and stiffness, are also difficult to process to impart an attractive surface finish. Accordingly, there is a need to implement techniques for processing these specific types of metals. 

It then goes on to describe different approaches to creating an interesting textured surface, which, rather confusingly, it describes as a matte surface (confusing because the metal is matte in its natural state, though it is frequently polished).

Of course, the usual Apple patent disclaimer applies: The company patents a huge number of things, only a small proportion of which ever make it into products. But the titanium Apple Watch provides some basis for optimism here, and Patently Apple notes that this makes the eighth patent relating to the material.

Would you like to see a titanium iPhone, iPad, or MacBook? Let us know in the comments.

PowerBook G4 photo: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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Published: 2022-05-24 14:54:45 ,

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