updated 09:40 am EDT, Tue August 17, 2010
Tech used in SIM ejector pins
Apple has actually been using Liquidmetal's alloys for a couple of years, albeit in a limited capacity, says one of the technology's co-inventors, Atakan Peker. The early example is said to be an ejector pin for the iPhone 3G, used to remove the SIM card. One version of the accessory is noted to be unusually hard, with a unique color and feel. "That's my metal," says Peker. "I recognized it immediately. Take it from an expert, that's Liquidmetal.
"It is practically unbendable by hand unless you want to hurt or cut your fingers," he adds. Not all iPhone 3Gs came with a Liquidmetal-based pin; European phones, for example, came with regular steel pins, which can allegedly "bend like paperclips." Apple ultimately abandoned ejector pins when it launched the iPhone 4.
The choice of Liquidmetal for the iPhone 3G was reportedly a test of the company's manufacturing capabilities. Apple typically requires two sources for any part, in case supply problems force one out of commission. Liquidmetal was the only source for the alloys Apple was interested in, and so the former was asked to work on a non-essential part.
Apple recently acquired exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal's patents in consumer electronics. What expanded purpose Apple might have for the alloys is unannounced, but speculation has held that they could be applied to shells in updated mobile devices. The materials can be expensive however, as they contain a large amount of platinum.