Skip to main content

Apple’s ceramic laptop patent is the closest we’ll get to a touchscreen MacBook

Mac fans who have been eagerly waiting for Apple to reverse course and release a pro-grade laptop with a touchscreen will have to keep on waiting. The computing giant is apparently working on bringing elements of the no- defunct Touch Bar up to the screen on its portable laptops, according to a recently uncovered patent filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

According to Apple’s USPTO application describing a “concealable input region for an electronic device,” the company is working on making an enclosure for the laptop — likely a MacBook Pro of some kind — out of premium materials, like ceramic, though glass and plastic can also be used. Though the use of ceramic would be new to the laptop category, Apple had previously experimented with this durable material on prior iterations of its Apple Watch wearable. Embedded within the casing, and in particular around the glass screen of the laptop, would be touch buttons that could dynamically change and light up depending on the application.

Close-up of person using a Macbook Pro Touch Bar.
Chesnot/Getty Images

These touch buttons, as Apple described them, would function in a similar way to the controversial Touch Bar, a feature that Apple has since moved away from on the latest iterations of the MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch released late 2021 with the company’s custom M1 Pro and M1 Max processors.

In the USPTO filing, Apple said that the array of microperforations in the area surrounding the display would be “visually imperceptible” to the eye when it’s not illuminated, but when you need the buttons, they can light up to display symbols. In an illustration, Apple showed an email button that can be launched by pressing the top right bezel of the laptop.

Apple patented a MacBook Pro design with ceramic construction and touch-sensitive bezels around the display.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If Apple is indeed working on commercializing t a future generation of MacBook Pro with an embedded bezel around the display housing touch-sensitive buttons that can dynamically change, this would be perhaps one of the closest thing we’ll get to a laptop with a touchscreen from the company. In the past, Apple executives have dismissed the idea of launching a touchscreen laptop, even as notebooks running rival Chrome OS and Windows shipped with touchscreens.

“We make the world’s best touch computer on an iPad,” John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineerin, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview last year. “It’s totally optimized for that. And the Mac is totally optimized for indirect input. We haven’t really felt a reason to change that.”

Apple has been experimenting with different screen ideas across its products. Most recently, the company had patented an iMac design with a curved display. Adding a curved screen to its all-in-one desktop could allow Apple to design even larger iMacs that provide a highly immersive experience.

Editors' Recommendations

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
The MacBook Pro 14 still obliterates this Windows laptop
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 14 front view showing display and keyboard deck.

Several of Apple's latest MacBooks are on our list of the best laptops around, and the MacBook Pro 14 is arguably the best 14-inch laptop you can buy today. Any new machine that wants to compete has to offer an incredibly compelling combination of features and value.

Lenovo's Slim Pro 9i 14 is a laptop that's obviously aimed directly at the MacBook. It has some powerful components inside and it performs just as well. It's also less expensive. Unfortunately, even those things fail to give it a leg up.
Specs and configurations

Read more
This tiny ThinkPad can’t quite keep up with the MacBook Air M2
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 3 rear view showing lid and logo.

While the laptop industry continues to move toward 14-inch laptops and larger, the 13-inch laptop remains an important category. One of the best is the Apple MacBook Air M2, with an extremely thin and well-built chassis, great performance, and incredibly long battery life.

Lenovo has recently introduced the third generation of its ThinkPad X1 Nano, one of the lightest laptops we've tested and a good performer as well. It's stiff competition, but which of these two diminutive laptops stands apart?
Specs and configurations

Read more
As a laptop reviewer, these are my most anticipated laptops still coming in 2023
A top down view of the Framework Laptop 16 against a blue backdrop.

As a laptop reviewer, I have the great fortune of being able to try out the latest and greatest tech in this product category. In terms of the best laptops, there's always something interesting on the horizon. Now that we're around halfway through the year, I want to look ahead to what's left of the year and spotlight some of my most anticipated releases.

The range of new laptops is wide, spanning from ultra-portables to high-performance machines, mixed in with a healthy dose of experimentation. That's enough to get me excited for what's ahead.
Framework Laptop 16

Read more