iPod Evolution – Ceramic iPod with Cellphone Functions

The talks about the independent Apple iPhone started almost as soon as the infamous ROCKR iTunes cellphone has been released by Motorola. iPhone rumors were further fueled this March by Hong Kong J.P Morgan analyst who reported to Barrons that Apple is in talks with several Taiwanese manufacturers over production of new Apple’s iPod enhanced with cellphone functions.

Well, it seems that Barrons may have been correct. The recent patent filing for “Handheld computing device” shows that Apple has given a lot of thought of how to integrate cellphone functionality with it’s lucrative iPod franchise.

ipod iphone ceramic assembly

In order to improve robustness of the current iPod’s Apple has developed advanced manufacturing and assembly techniques for the device. Instead of plastics, Apple will use ceramic materials such as Zirkonia to make device enclosures (surfaces) through extrusion process. The use of ceramics has a lot of advantages such as:

“…they are highly scratch resistant, have color embedded in it (no paint or coatings), can be made into a wide variety of colors, and provides a variety of surface finishes including smooth and rough. Furthermore, the density of ceramics is typically higher than other materials therefore their weight is higher for the same sized part. This additional weight makes the handheld device feel more robust and it makes the device exude greater quality. “

Through extrusion the device body can be made from a single piece instead of top and bottom plastic plates.

Imagine what a device may look like when Apple applies it’s design genius to the new cover surface material properties.

But the design possibilities was not the main reason for Apple to explore the use of ceramics for it’s next iPod. It seems that the main attraction was the radio transparency of the material which is

“…especially important for wireless hand held devices that include antennas internal to the enclosure. Radio transparency allows the wireless signals to pass through the enclosure and in some cases enhances these transmissions…. Generally speaking, when using an internal antenna, it is desirable to increase the radio transparency of the enclosure in order to effectively perform wireless transmissions there through. Thus, a substantial portion of the enclosure is formed form materials capable of providing radio-transparency (e.g., ceramics, etc.). In most cases, the radio transparent portions of the enclosure constitutes a significant area of the entire enclosure. For example, greater than 50%, more particularly greater than 75%, and even more particularly greater than 85%. The radio transparent portions may even be greater than 90%, and more particularly greater than 95%, and in some cases 100% of the enclosure…”

And all these new manufacturing techniques and materials will allow Apple to produce a device that in addition to printed circuit boards, hard drive and audio assembly will:

“… include one or more antennas tuned to operate over the GSM, PCS and/or DCS frequency bands. By way of example, monopole, dipole and tri band and quad band antennas may be used. In one example, a PCS+DCS dipole antenna is used. The antenna may protrude out of the enclosure or it may be fully enclosed by the enclosure. If the later, some portion of the enclosure is configured to be radio transparent (e.g., capable of transmitting and receiving RF signals therethrough). For example, the end caps and/or the main body of the enclosure may be radio-transparent.
In one implementation, the main body is formed from a ceramic material that is radio-transparent. By utilizing a ceramic enclosure that is radio-transparent, an internal antenna may be used, which is typically more robust and durable than an external antenna. Furthermore, many advantages regarding the use of an internal antenna may be achieved. For example, a smaller and cheaper antenna may be used. Furthermore, the antenna can be integrated with other components and placed at almost any location within the enclosure, which helps make a smaller and more compact device in addition to reducing the cost of manufacture…”

Robust, scratch resistant colorfull and small iPod that doubles as a cellphone. Seems that Apple might soon take some market share from Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and other handset manufacturers

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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