May 2, 2012 at 7:01 PM ET
Rumors in late April had Apple creating the next iPhone from the mysterious "Liquidmetal" alloy used sparingly in their SIM card trays. But the creator of the substance says in an interview that it's not quite ready for prime time.
It's not that Liquidmetal isn't good enough -- it's strong, durable and versatile -- but that the manufacturing techniques and infrastructure just don't exist yet.
As its creator, Dr. Atakan Peker, tells Business Insider:
I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million -- and three to five years -- to mature the technology before it can used in large scale.
Given the size of MacBook and scale of Apple products, I think it's unlikely that Liquidmetal casing will be used in MacBooks in the near term. It's more likely in the form of small component such as a hinge or bracket. A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement.
But Apple is known for being ahead of the curve on manufacturing techniques, and it's very possible that they have found a unique and powerful way of applying the alloy -- without, as Dr. Peker cautions against, attempting to build the entire shell or case out of it. A plate of Liquidmetal instead of glass on the back of the iPhone, perhaps, or in place of the metal band around the bezel.
Apple has an exclusive license to use the material in "casing and enclosures," though, so it's a safe bet that regardless of how it's used this year, it likely has an illustrious (and lustrous) future in upcoming Apple devices.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.