A new patent application published by the US Patent & Trademark Office (via Patently Apple) today reveals Apple’s possible plans to radically change the implementation of antennas in future iPhones and other small form factor devices.
The majority of the patent describes a new composite material made up of a “foam substrate formed of a plurality of foam cells”. However, possible uses for the composite, as detailed in the patent, include a possible new antenna window on mobile devices. This would mark a huge departure from the antenna design in the currently shipping iPhone 4, which still relies on the antenna baked into the stainless steel frame. The same antenna that caused so much controversy regarding reception issues.
Patently Apple explains the potential benefits of the composite:
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“One of the many advantages to the composite is that there is essentially no post cure shrinkage of the composite as compared to the post cure shrinkage evident when adhesive alone is used. Therefore, the composite could provide a well controlled and easy to use approach to bonding parts together in a cosmetically appealing manner. The composite is also well suited for attaching features to small form factor electronic devices. The features could include for example, an antenna window attached to a housing of the small form factor electronic device.”
The image above shows how an antenna window could be attached to a recessed portion on the backside of an iPhone (or similar device) using the composite to create a “cosmetically appealing reveal”. Essentially, as Patently Apple puts it, creating a bond “without leaving tell tale evidence of the joining, either visual or tactile”
Patently Apple explains:
“..in order to minimize RF signal degradation caused by the presence of the metal housing, the recess could be replaced with feature 206, formed of radio transparent material, commonly referred to as an antenna window.”
There have already been reports that Apple is changing the antenna design (not so surprisingly) in a next iteration iPhone. While we don’t except to see this new antenna window design on the short-term, it will be interesting to see how the company implements this new composite material. Apple also apparently has other future plans for this new composite formula. The report notes Apple’s patent mentions using the composite in other products such as an iPhone “docking mechanism”.
This isn’t the first time Apple has detailed potential new antenna integrations in patents. This patent application from a few weeks back details an attachable antenna that could be used for future nano-like devices.