iPhone 5 to be made from Liquidmetal, leak suggests

The iPhone is to be made from Liquidmetal, a Korean source suggests. Sadly though, that doesn't mean you can pour your phone into a cup.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
2 min read

The iPhone 5 might arrive sporting a radical new design thanks to Liquidmetal, if new reports from Korean insiders are to be believed. Sadly, that doesn't mean Apple's next mobile will be able to morph into knives and stabbing weapons.

Korean site ETNews claims to have insider sources that have confirmed Apple will be using Liquidmetal technology on the iPhone 5. The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the lack of a space between those two words. The term refers to the alloy created by the company Liquidmetal Technologies, rather than a mimetic polyalloy.

There's very little detail in the leak, so it's important to take it with an almost lethal dosage of salt. However, Apple apparently paid $20m to Liquidmetal Technologies for exclusive use of the alloy on electronic devices and we've so far only seen it come into use on the SIM-card ejector tool.

It's therefore quite possible that the material could be put into more elaborate use in the chassis of the phone itself. Rumours for the iPhone 4S (when we thought it would be called the iPhone 5) were heavily indicating a redesigned case with a tapered back, probably made of metal, so it's not difficult to believe that Apple is working with Liquidmetal on a new design.

The alloy is designed to be extremely strong and hardwearing and, more importantly, can be heat-formed in a similar way to plastic, rather than being milled from a solid piece. This could well mean that we'll see a more fluid physical design on the iPhone 5. The leak hinted at a surface as "smooth as liquid" which to me suggests a glossy, curved back, similar to the iPhone 3GS, but made of a polished chrome-like metal, rather than the matte casing used on the iPad.

Of course, if the material can be easily heat-formed, then Apple could theoretically opt for any shape it likes, so let's go crazy and imagine a flowing, wobbly back to the phone that fits the contours of your hand when it's held. It's probably a good thing the phone won't actually be made of a liquid metal -- that sounds incredibly messy, difficult to hold and extremely toxic, if not malevolently robotic. Best to stick with a solid design then.

Do you expect to see a radical new design? Or are you more keen to see the Samsung Galaxy S3? Have you seen this boy? Let me know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.