Apple’s invisible antenna patent sets stage for all-aluminum iPhone case

By , Feb 12, 2013

Kim Kardashian AnoStyle gold iPhone 5

A new patent granted to Apple today could signal a huge advance in a trimmer, slimmer iPhone perhaps made from a single block of aluminum. The U.S. patent describes “microslot antennas” cut into the smartphone body, eliminating the need for exposing hardware required for communications.

While it could make fans of minimalism – such as Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive – jump for joy, could the patented technology cause another production slowdown?

Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 describes antennas which are just microns wide, built into the case of an iPhone. The slots are then covered to prevent dust and dirt interfering with antennas capable of transmitting Wi-Fi, cellular and Bluetooth frequencies, according to the patent filing discovered by AppleInsider.

Though Apple has reduced the thickness of the iPhone and iPad with every new release, exceptions have been made for the antenna housing.

“The black bar on the back of iPad models with celular connectivity, and the windows on the back of the iPhone 5 at the top and bottom stick out like sore thumbs on otherwise unbroken surfaces,” TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington explains.

Apple patent 8373610 (drawing 001)

With Apple so closely tied to its design brilliance, technology able to even further sharpen the lines of its products could carry the same importance of improved functionality for traditional mobile tech. But with design innovation comes concerns that Apple suppliers may not be up to the task.

For an example, we only have to look to the iPad mini.

Apple’s smaller tablet used displays with integrated touch panels.

Even before Apple officially announced the iPad mini, there were warnings of potential supply constraints due to the technology requirements. Foxcon also admitted to falling behind on producing the iPhone 5 because of the new iPhone and iPad’s use of the in-cell touch screens.

Indeed, Apple’s largest supplier described the iPhone 5 as “the most difficult device” it had ever produced.

It’s unclear whether we’ll see this microslot technology in the next iPhone or iPad. As Etherington points out, the skills required to implement a hidden antenna does not migrate through the supply chain overnight.

“Otherwise we’d have seen it used already in iPhone and iPad models released to date,” he notes.

Instead, Apple may be training its suppliers in how to produce the new tech, learning a lesson from the iPhone 5 and iPad mini production drama – perhaps the biggest reason why I agree with the analyst who recently told investors the iPhone 5S design will likely look much like the iPhone 5.

After all, remember the iPhone 4S?

Roundly lambasted for being a ‘boring’ retread of the iPhone 4, the handset to date remains one of Apple’s most-successful models.

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  • http://twitter.com/lavx1 maxim

    Though Apple has reduced the thickness of the iPhone and iPad with every new release, exceptions have been made for the antenna housing.

    ipad2 -> ipad 3/4
    ipad got bigger
    and I believe the first iPhone was thinner than the 3G

    • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

      Also ever new release should be every new design..the 3GS and 4s were new releases but were the same design as the one before..
      Ok, i’am nit picking..
      But i’am right

      • Lordthree

        Antennas on the 4s are a redesign from the 4

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002136300838 Michael Hulet

        They’re exactly the same on the 4S as the CDMA 4

      • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

        The phone is the same size, shape.. The antenna got redesigned cause the ones on the 4 was shit.. Antenna gate..plus I said redesign of the phone not antenna.. Just like the post said..

  • Muhammad

    iPhone 10 now as thing as paper and is lighter paper!

    • http://twitter.com/piyushr21 Piyush

      i would say lighter than air ;)

    • http://twitter.com/NerFTed Jason Duong

      nooooooo! my paper weight ):

  • j0rdan

    it would be good if apple came up with a new invention so that your signal strength will be full bars where ever you are

    • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

      For that, you’d need to carry the cell provider’s antenna mast with you on your back

  • Liam Mulcahy

    Apple doesn’t use many of its patents on its products

  • vhf antenna

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