It looks like Apple’s been working on antenna solutions that don’t require ugly protective bumpers to work. A patent application published yesterday by the US Patent & Trademark Office reveals Apple is developing new composites that will give antennas on iPads and iPhones a protected-but-unrestricted home.
Discovered by Patently Apple, the patent describes a new composite made up of individual foam cells. These cells can be arranged to create a radio-transparent windows in a device’s case that allows hidden antennas completely free access to the airwaves.
The composite could theoretically be used for as much of a device’s case as the company’s designers want while still offering the seamless appearance so crucial to Apple’s design philosophy. As shown in the graphic above from the technically-thorough Patently Apple, the new composite could be smoothly integrated into whatever material is used for the rest of a device’s case.
Additionally, the design of the composite offers superior packaging ability to current designs. The new method of adhering the composite together make shrinkage (from the adhesive drying/curing process) is nonexistent. So not only does the new tech allow for an antenna window to be more integrated into a device’s case, the manufacturing process should allow it to be nearly seamless.
It’s unknown when, or if, Apple puts the tech to use, although we can pretty much guarantee the company will indeed use it. It’s likely too late for the iPhone 5, of which prototypes are already floating about, although it is possible that Apple submitted the patent application sometime during the iPhone 5’s development and it just happened to go through a little closer to the phone’s release than it would like.
But it does mean that imperfect solutions, like early iPhones’ plastic backs or the iPhone 4’s metal antenna ring, are nearly a thing of the past. With the new design possibilities at their disposal, Apple is getting ever-closer to the sleek, monolithic devices its design strategy has pushed towards.