iPhone 5 rumors: What liquidmetal could mean for Apple’s next smartphone

According to Korean site ETNews.com, Apple acquired the rights to use liquidmetal in its products for around $20 million from Liquidmetal Technologies.

It was discovered in 1992 at the California Institute of Technology and it’s a mix of zirconium, titanium, nickel and copper, as well as other metals.

Its most important features include high strength, high resistance to scratching and denting, as well as an efficient strength-to-weight ratio, and it is said to be as smooth as liquid or glass to the touch.

This also means that a handset using the technology is less likely to be broken when dropped.

“Liquidmetal allows precision parts to be fabricated similar to plastic injection molding, but with similar properties to metal,” IHS senior principal analyst Kevin Keller said, as cited by wired.com.

So far Apple has used Liquidmetal’s material for the iPhone 4 SIM card ejector tool and some North American first-generation iPads.

“We expect Apple and other manufacturers to start using this not only for larger and more visible portions of devices, but also entire enclosures,” Keller said, leading to speculation that a future iPhone with a Liquidmetal chassis is a likely possibility.

In addition, a liquidmetal case would allow for a slimmer profile and a distinction from other smartphones which are currently made of various types of plastic.