Tag - Liquidmetal
Among many new patents granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office, one has attracted interest because of its involvement of Liquidmetal, an amorphous alloy Apple has invested in an exclusive license for that offers unique properties, but has never been much exploited by the company. The new patent images the substance as part of a future iOS device home button. In the patent, Apple describes the alloy as being used in a switch, where pressure from a finger would temporarily deform the actuator, but using Liquidmetal would mean that the button would always return to its normal shape, avoiding eventual permanent deformity.
This edition of Rumor Roundup will begin with what we understand is a fact: Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky is leaving Apple. The Wall Street Journal reports that he has informed colleagues of his departure for personal reasons. The loss will be a blow to the company: Zadesky worked on the iPhone and iPad, and has been working extensively with Liquidmetal -- the special alloy Apple owns the rights to under license. However, it is his rumored role as the head of the Apple car-technology project, which allegedly stems from is former role as a Ford engineer, that feeds the rumor mill.
Two patents recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) suggest Apple is still working on developing production processes for Liquidmetal. The two patents describe methods for casting bulk metallic glass (BMG) in different ways, including allowing multiple BMGs to surround other alloys, as well as techniques to melt BMG feedstock using horizontal cold crucible induction melting (CCIM) systems.
Apple has again renewed its exclusive license -- for the third time in as many years -- for rights to use Liquidmetal Technologies' patented and unique metal alloys, despite the fact that the company has appeared to do little with the technology. The metal alloy, known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and ability to be molded into complex or other shapes difficult to achieve with other metals, has been the object of speculation for years.
Apple has again extended its contract with Liquidmetal Technologies, giving the Cupertino manufacturer exclusive rights to its alloys through February of 2015. All intellectual property acquired or developed by the Liquidmetal Technologies, and all intellectual property held by Crucible Intellectual Property, is now under the control of Apple for use only in its own devices.
Apple's exclusive licensing agreement of the Liquidmetal fabrication process and engineering staff in 2010 briefly sent ripples through the tech industry, until a lead executive revealed that it would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars before the material was ready for large-scale production. A patent awarded to Crucible Intellectual Property -- seemingly a joint venture between the two companies -- appears to be at least a portion of the method to generate large quantities of Liquidmetal, expected to be used in future iOS and other devices. Apple holds the exclusive license for the development and sale of the material in the consumer market.
A job listing from Apple describing the need for a mechanical engineer with a wide knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes -- and some specific experience in skills required for dealing with the bulk-metallic glass alloy known as Liquidmetal -- has fuelled speculation that Apple's investment in the technology may be finally bearing more fruit. The technology is already used for specialized parts such as the SIM card ejector pin in older iPhone models, but very little has been seen of it thus far.
An SEC filing by Liquidmetal Technologies on Friday revealed that the company has extended its licensing of the technology to Apple for exploitation in consumer electronics for another two years beyond the original agreement, now in effect until 2014. Apple has made light use of the technology since 2010 on small parts such as the SIM card ejector pin in the iPhone 3GS, but continues to develop the innovation for commercial use.
Dr. Ataka Peker, one of the inventors of the new class of metallic alloys known commercially as Liquidmetal and the founder of the company, says he believes Apple would have to spend "three to five years", and "$300 million to $500 million" to develop the alloys to the point where it could be used on a large scale, such as for an entire computing casing. He believes the company will continue to use Liquidmetal on a smaller scale until a "breakthrough product" comes along.
A rumor surfacing Wednesday has both Apple and Samsung turning towards exotic materials for their next-generation smartphones. Apple would purportedly take advantage of its Liquidmetal patent deal, ETNews said, to get a shell that was both thin and light but resistant to external damage. The design was "expected" to show at the World Wide Developers Conference in June, though without an official WWDC date, this part would be more speculation than a claim of fact.
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Cirrus creates Lightning-headphone dev kit
Apple supplier Cirrus Logic has introduced a MFi-compliant new development kit for companies interested in using Cirrus' chips to create Lightning-based headphones, which -- regardless of whether rumors about Apple dropping the analog headphone jack in its iPhone this fall -- can offer advantages to music-loving iOS device users. The kit mentions some of the advantages of an all-digital headset or headphone connector, including higher-bitrate support, a more customizable experience, and support for power and data transfer into headphone hardware. Several companies already make Lightning headphones, and Apple has supported the concept since June 2014. http://bit.ly/29giiZj
Apple Store app offers Procreate Pocket
The Apple Store app for iPhone, which periodically rewards users with free app gifts, is now offering the iPhone "Pocket" version of drawing app Procreate for those who have the free Apple Store app until July 28. Users who have redeemed the offer by navigating to the "Stores" tab of the app and swiping past the "iPhone Upgrade Program" banner to the "Procreate" banner have noted that only the limited Pocket (iPhone) version of the app is available free, even if the Apple Store app is installed and the offer redeemed on an iPad. The Pocket version currently sells for $3 on the iOS App Store. [32.4MB]
Porsche adds CarPlay to 2017 Panamera
Porsche has added a fifth model of vehicle to its CarPlay-supported lineup, announcing that the 2017 Panamera -- which will arrive in the US in January -- will include Apple's infotainment technology, and be seen on a giant 12.3-inch touchscreen as part of an all-new Porsche Communication Management system. The luxury sedan starts at $99,900 for the 4S model, and scales up to the Panamera Turbo, which sells for $146,900. Other vehicles that currently support CarPlay include the 2016 911 and the 2017 models of Macan, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman. The company did not mention support for Google's corresponding Android Auto in its announcement. http://bit.ly/295ZQ94
Apple employees testing wheelchair features
New features included in the forthcoming watchOS 3 are being tested by Apple retail store employees, including a new activity-tracking feature that has been designed with wheelchair users in mind. The move is slightly unusual in that, while retail employees have previously been used to test pre-release versions of OS X and iOS, this marks the first time they've been included in the otherwise developer-only watchOS betas. The company is said to have gone to great lengths to modify the activity tracker for wheelchair users, including changing the "time to stand" notification to "time to roll" and including two wheelchair-centric workout apps. http://bit.ly/2955JDa
SanDisk reveals two 256GB microSDXC cards
SanDisk has introduced two 256GB microSDXC cards. Arriving in August for $150, the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I Premium Edition card offers transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s for reading data. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card can read at a fast 100MB/s and write at up to 90MB/s, and will be shipping sometime in the fourth quarter for $200. http://bit.ly/294Q1If
Apple's third-quarter results due July 26
Apple has advised it will be issuing its third-quarter results on July 26, with a conference call to answer investor and analyst queries about the earnings set to take place later that day. The stream of the call will go live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) via Apple's investor site, with the results themselves expected to be released roughly 30 minutes before the call commences. Apple's guidance for the quarter put revenue at between $41 billion and $43 billion. http://apple.co/1oi1Pbm
Twitter stickers slowly roll out to users
Twitter has introduced "stickers," allowing users to add extra graphical elements to their photos before uploading them to the micro-blogging service. A library of hundreds of accessories, props, and emoji will be available to use as stickers, which can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere on the photograph. Images with stickers will also become searchable with viewers able to select a sticker to see how others use the same graphic in their own posts. Twitter advises stickers will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks, and will work on both the mobile apps and through the browser. http://bit.ly/29bbwUE