Has Apple invented scratch-proof ceramic fur to replace phone cases?

Apple Patent image
(Image credit: Future)

A couple of weeks ago an Apple patent for 'Spatial Composites' surfaced (do you see what we did there?) which has the potential to change the, er, surfaces (how about now?) of Apple devices, perhaps to the point they don't even need a phone case.

US Patent 11678445, filed by Apple's senior director for materials engineering and product design, Chris Prest, describes the patent as covering the housing of an electronic device, with 'at least one sidewall extending from the substrate' and, more unusually, 'abrasion-resistant members at least partially embedded in the substrate and extending beyond the surface.'

Apple Patent image 9D

(Image credit: Future)

There is a degree of vagueness – there is an incentive in all patent applications to make the claim vague as it offers the possibility to try and enforce widely. For example, the patent isn't specific about what material the abrasion-resistant members would be made of, only that they would be harder than the material they are molded into, and they would stick out of it, like a kind of metallic or ceramic fur.

It is interesting that the design hints at a return to the plastic shell of the iPhone 3G era, rather than the more modern designs which have an outer edge element. The substrate in the patent, after all, includes the sidewall – a component that has been separate from the back since the iPhone 5.

Of course patents are not the same thing as real devices. Sometimes they're even used strategically to deflect the attention of industry analysts. Equally they could represent experiments that just never made it. Apple has plenty of patents related to folding phones, and plenty have been rumored (we've even covered folding iPhones here) but we've yet to see one.

What we can say is that it's unlikely we'll see anything from this patent in the next iteration of the iPhone, but if you're interested in keeping up with the iPhone 15 rumors we're pulling them together in our iPhone 15 What We Know So Far page, alternatively why not check out the best camera phones available now?

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook