back to article Apple fans drool over Liquidmetal widget

It should come as no surprise that Apple fanboys are moistened by their favourite vendor's use of novel materials, and you can understand that excitement when a device uses a clever new compound in its construction. But it's downright scary when the discovery that a tiny, often overlooked iPhone accessory is formed from a …


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  1. Andy Hards

    Shouldn't this be in the RotM?

    Seriously Liquid Metal? It'll be turning into that fit burd with the blond hair before you can say some sort of clichéd one liner in an Austrian accent.

  2. kevjs


    A paperclip works just as well, and you might actually be able to find it when your 24 month contract is up...

    1. RichyS

      RE Paperclip

      Ah, but can you get a *LiquidMetal* paperclip?

      Just so long as it doesn't shapeshift -- Terminator 2 style -- into MS Clippy. RoTM, indeed...

  3. Magnus_Pym

    Could it be...

    ... that they plan to use the material more widely in future products but wanted to get production and reliability testing started on something non-essential?

    1. Martin Lyne


      If apple are wanting to test a material perhaps they coulddo it in sucha way that

      1) doesn't potentially break inside someone's expensive device

      2) at least do it on something that is used more than once a lifetime. How often do you swap sim-cards, even the most frequent swappers will struggle to wear out a steel ejector..

      3) PROFIT

  4. indicator
    Dead Vulture


    "But does it really warrant so many awestruck column inches?"

    The Reg certainly seems to think it does.

  5. T-Unit
    Jobs Horns

    Are Apple doing it on purpose?

    It almost feels like they are laying technology traps just so they can keep floating on a sea of law suits. I fully expect some company to make real, beneficial use of this tech somewhere down the line and Apple to spring out and sue them.

    Perhaps I'm just a big cynical Sally

  6. Anonymous Coward

    How utterly unuseful!

    Would be a load more useful to have an easily replacable SIM slot under the battery was easily replacable and user friendly...oh yeah, keep forgetting. These thing's aren't designed to be useful for the user, but a way of profiteering off the user!

  7. Barbarossa

    Advantages of LiquidMetal

    Apple now takes a huge block of aluminum and machines away 90% of it to make a body for the MacBook Pro or the Mac Mini. Of course, the waste metal is recycled but the machining takes time and energy. Using the ‘LiquidMetal’ alloys will allow the same parts to be cast in bulk like so many plastic spoons. However, Apple probably won't do this for large components as the alloy is much denser than aluminum, adding to the total weight.

    Aluminum dents easily. The LiquidMetal alloys are very “springy” – not only harder to deform but less likely to leave a permanent dent.

    The alloys themselves are not that expensive in small quantities – just the licensing, and Apple has already paid for that. The metal is easy to cast at a relatively low temperature and unlike other cast metals (Aluminum, Magnesium, Zinc, & other “white metal” alloys) the finished casting is very strong and very hard. Because the alloy is made of atoms of widely dissimilar sizes, a crystal structure cannot form as the metal cools. It ends up as an amorphous soild like glass. Without a crystal lattice there are no weak points to easily fail or to propagate cracks.

    Apple also has a patent for parts (casings, mostly) made of ceramics which are not only very hard and durable but totally transparent to radio frequency waves (RF) allowing signals to go through the case.

    The best of both worlds is to have a part made of a lightweight porous closed-cell ceramic and then to fill the spaces with a LiquidMetal alloy (think of a brick soaking up molten aluminum and then cooling.) This metal-reinforced ceramic would be literally bulletproof. Tiny parts could be press-formed from a ceramic paste, fired, and then filled with the alloy giving lightweight but immensely strong parts that were also corrosion resistant – think hinges, handles, buttons, antennas, cases, &c.

    1. It wasnt me


      .......Thoroughly interesting, all of that. A well formed article. Oh, just one thing- did you miss the bit about it being used to eject a sodding sim card ?

      Or didnt you get that far before you started slathering at the blashpemy this article really was, fanboi?

      I have specially coated my sim removal tool so that it is now invisible to radar. Take that Apple. Patent for stealth sim removal tool applied for.

      1. Robert Ramsay

        I thought his post...

        was a damn sight more interesting than the original article. And that your reaction was amazingly over the top.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      "ceramics which are [..] totally transparent to radio"

      Gosh, must be great to have that kind of patent lying around.

      Too bad they didn't think of actually using such a thing in making their Iphone.

    3. Velv


      "Apple also has a patent for parts (casings, mostly) made of ceramics which are not only very hard and durable but totally transparent to radio frequency waves (RF) allowing signals to go through the case."

      Errr, so why did they put the RF antenna on the outside where it can be shorted by holding the things the wrong way.

      But anyway, nice article - any excuse to take a pop at the Fanbois!

    4. lglethal Silver badge

      You forgot one thing...

      Casting of any metallic material is hugely more expensive then machining. Even if you machine away 95% of a metallic block and take hours to do it, it will still usually work out at roughly half the price of the casting. Hence why so much is machined, and why you dont see LiquidMetal MacBook cases.

      I'm also not sure i agree with your statement that without a crystal lattice there are no weak points for failures. Diamond, the hardest structure on the planet is made up of a crystal lattice of carbon atoms which is it what gives it its strength. Bucky balls derive there extreme long life from their crystalline lattice. Crystal lattice networks tend to propogate cracks more readily when there are excessive amounts of impurities present. I have no idea how a completely non-lattice structure would maintain its shape and strength.

      It does sound like a very interesting material and i think i will go away and read some more but i think some of your assumptions on the manufacturing side are a little overly optimistic...

    5. david wilson


      >>"Apple also has a patent for parts (casings, mostly) made of ceramics which are not only very hard and durable but totally transparent to radio frequency waves (RF) allowing signals to go through the case."

      Call me dumb, but the obvious questions would seem to be:

      a) How on earth can someone actually get a *patent* for using RF-transparent materials to avoid blocking RF signals?

      FFS, my granny had a bakelite radio from the 30s that used that amazingly innovative approach. I also have it on good authority that the 'Faraday Cage Radio Corporation' wasn't very successful.

      b) Why they don't use such wonderful tech properly in their latest mobile phones.

      >>"The best of both worlds is to have a part made of a lightweight porous closed-cell ceramic and then to fill the spaces with a LiquidMetal alloy.."

      Maybe we have different ideas about what 'closed-cell' means.

      Generally, I thought it related to things which were full of non-interconnected bubbles, (like a decent camping rollmat), and which were therefore hard to fill with anything.

  8. David Barrett


    I Use a paper clip. I have no idea what type of metal it's made of.

  9. Charles 9

    Outside the RDF, it's obvious...

    ...that, should the testbed ejector tools not break under usage, that Apple will likely use the material for a future iDevice--possibly the iPhone 5. Why else would they take out exclusive dibs on the material if not to deny others access to what is essentially a metallic glass that could well provide a nice weight advantage without compromising durability.

  10. Mike Powers

    It reproduces frequencies only dogs can hear.

    It's made of Damask steel, the same kind used in swords.

    It's a *tube* amp. Do you know how rare those are?

  11. AndyS

    Liquidmetal TM R C

    seems to be a company entirely built on buzz words, marketing a material (not even a product) which is not a liquid, with a trademark that is about as novel as belly button fluff.

    Their "technology" page starts with:

    "Liquidmetal® alloys are a revolutionary class of materials that redefines performance and cost paradigms."

    Forgive me if I don't get excited.

  12. Matthew 4


    My flashdrive casing is made from liquidmetal.. mabye I should recast it into iphone belt clips and make some cash.

  13. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Down

    This explains it

    Of course, what's really interesting here is that Apple has paid Liquidmetal Technologies, the company formed to licence the alloy, at least $11m for the exclusive right to use the material in consumer electronics kit. ®

    They didnt really care what they used it for just that nobody else can use it .....

    So they pay 11 Mill but have to use the product somehow due to contracts. so they think fine where can this be used that doesnt really matter

  14. Tricky Dicky

    Exclusive Rights?

    I assume that is from now on, I have a Sandisk Sansa mp3 player made of liquidmetal and a couple of their memory sticks.

  15. Weird_George

    I'm getting sick of this marketing shizzle

    If they marketed copper this well the fanboys would be drooling too, it's just a name, it's not actually liquid!

  16. Anthony2799

    Use it or lose it?

    Sounds like they bought the right for some future use and made the SIM ejectors to satisfy some form of "use it or lose it" clause.

  17. Anonymous Coward




  18. B B Beyer

    Liquidmetal = liquid for brains?

    Just looked at Liquidmetal's website and they do seem to be a bit muddled.

    "Amorphous" denotes that there is no long-range order of the positions of the atoms in the solid, as opposed to a "crystalline" structure in which such order is observed. This is nothing to do with "atomic structure", which of course is your protons, neutrons and electrons.

  19. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    "Steel Ejector"

    AKA a suitably bent paper clip.

    Rumour has it that Apple service points use such a device as the official SIM card remover.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wouldn't a paperclip do just as well?

  21. Steve Evans

    Are you sure...

    Are you sure it's LiquidMetal(tm) and not another rather well known liquid metal which is known to impaired cognitive skills?

    From the evidence I have seen (queues outside Apple stores) it looks very much like that more common form of liquid metal is used in copious quantities outside of the USA.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Quite possibly

    the biggest non story of the year..

    A fucking sim remover warrants THIS...

    Having a giraffe...

    Bet the fanbois are all nursing a semi as we speak.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't surprise me

    Wouldn't surprise me if the US had the metal on some export ban list as a high-technology which would explain why it is only on the US phones.

    Otherwise, it does seem strange that they would have a different build manifest for the same device in different countries. Do Apple have different manufacturers for their phones around the globe?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drooling fanboys

    I would have expected a less provocative title from Mr Smith. How do I cancel my subscription to El Reg?

  25. Charles Manning

    This is a perfect first run

    Of course a LM ejector pin is no more functional than a steel equivalent.

    But this is the perfect way to do a first trial. Molding an ejector pin is a good way to trial manufacturing with the stuff because it is small and tests flow through the molds etc. The material is still rather expensive, so you only want to make something very small. The material is thin and demonstrates how hard it is. Of course this then gives a small freebie that excites the punters and gets them wanting more....

    All up, a perfect trial run.

  26. Doug Glass

    Doesn't take much ...

    ... to grab these guys. Just give them a rubber hammer and some ball bearings. Tell them to crack the balls; they'll bang all day. Works with toddlers and democrats too.

  27. Leeroy

    You need a tool ?

    Most sensible phones keep the sim behind the battery and i have never needed a special "tool" to remove one. Then again you need a special set of tools to replace the battery on an iphone, perhaps apple could supply a set of these tools made from the "magical" material as well :)

  28. James O'Brien

    You answered it yourself Tony

    "The steel ejector that came with this reporter's UK-sourced iPhone 4 certainly does the job well enough, and we defy anyone outside the Reality Distortion Field to prove that Liquidmetal - as good as it may be for other applications - makes for a superior SIM ejection experience."

    The fact that it is made out of Liquidmetal and Apple just signed a licensing deal with Liquidmetal means that their iPhone is better then yours.

  29. Peter Lowden
    Jobs Horns


    There goes all opportunity to purchase consumer electronics based on this material unless its Apple. I guess my SanDisk Titanium USB key is now an endangered species.

    1. Dick Head

      It already was endangered...

      ...there hasn't been a new model Titanium SANDisk greater than 16GB for the last 9 months.

  30. Head
    Thumb Up


    Roflcopters and lollerskates galore!

  31. RegisterThis

    Exclusivity ... for only 11M??? (But I do like the name!)

    This sounds more like a marketing exercise on the part of Apple

    'Liquid Metal' sounds just like the type of buzz word to get fans (of any sort of device) excited ... that exotic, revolutionary type name ...

    The betrayal lies in *only* 11M paid ... if this was so revolutionary or brilliant or .... then surely it is worth more than 11M to Liquid Metal?

    Think financial potential of 'brilliant substance' in > 11M consumer electronic devices? Remember, the overall addressable market for consumer electronics is hundreds of times larger than what Apple alone sells in terms of units and devices ... and at even a few cents per device and this would have been worth a LOT more than 11M!

    Paying 11M to keep brand loyalty, perception of thought leadership, innovation etc. going seems like a small price for Apple to pay! Marketing and no more than this!

  32. Richard Scratcher
    Jobs Horns

    Liquid Metal Jacket

    I accidentally dropped my iPhone SIM key into the fire. I carefully retrieved it but noticed that it was strangely cool. Then, quite suddenly, some fiery lettering appeared in a font I'd not seen before. It was an inscription written in the old MacSpeech of Cupertino. It roughly translates as:

    1Phone to fool them all

    1Phone to find them

    1Phone to ring them all

    and in the contract bind them

    In the land of Macdor where the execs lie.

    1. Scorchio!!


      You want to be careful with thoughts like these, you might incite Ranger Gates to return and dispossess Steward Ballmer. ;-)

    2. Arctic fox

      You can see it can't you?

      Gollum with his iMob, "my precious, my precious", whilst Steve Sauron searches desperately...........

      1. Scorchio!!
        Jobs Horns

        I hev seen ze light

        Leave Stevie alone. He is precious to me.

  33. Daniel Owen

    Liquid Metal

    And not a single one of you uses the Terminator icon?

    Shame on you!!!

  34. xj25vm

    Re: Advantages of LiquidMetal

    Barbarossa wrote:

    "The best of both worlds is to have a part made of a lightweight porous closed-cell ceramic and then to fill the spaces with a LiquidMetal alloy (think of a brick soaking up molten aluminum and then cooling.) "

    Well, can't say that I'm an expert in alloys - but even I can see that when your metal/alloy is going to expand and contract due to variations in temperature - your porous ceramic is going to shatter into a million pieces. I think you need to rethink a bit your strategy.

    Also, how exactly is your ceramic porous, if it is closed cell? It's either one or the other.

  35. Scorchio!!

    Substance vs style

    Does it sort out the aerial problems? I thought not. Silly Stevie. It is a pity that Apple failed to apply such attention to detail where iPhone flaws are concerned. This is indeed Apple's Vista, though Vista's problem is/was that it overly focused on being a nanny. iPhone 4 has more problems than focus. Except glitz. A designer toi.

  36. Thomas 4

    A superior tool...

    ...for supreme tools. 'Nuff said.

  37. JohnBoy

    It's the name

    This guy loves the name Liquidmetal - that's it, because it conjures up his boyhood images of Terminator machines being shot in the face and then moulding themselves back into one piece.

  38. Gav76

    How useful?

    How many times do you eject your SIM anyway? Once at the end of the contract maybe.

    Or are these guys taking it out once a week to wash it in case it dirties their beloved iPhone?

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