Your next iPhone could be tougher than a Nokia 3310 — here's how Apple's doing it

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

Do you immediately buy a case for your shiny new iPhone like me? Apple doesn’t want you to do that anymore, as a recently approved patent shows the company has been working on a new chassis material that can stand up to significantly more wear and tear.

Named “Spatial Composites,” the Cupertino team looks set to bring the best of both metal and ceramic into one material that is used to make your iPhone stronger than ever.

Everything is Spatial now

Apple patent

Apple's approved patent is for a new hybrid material of metal and ceramic to make the iPhone a lot more resistant to drops and scratches. (Image credit: USPTO)

While I’m not entirely sure why Apple is giving everything the “spatial” moniker nowadays (see also Spatial Computing and Spatial Audio), the company has somewhat made it make sense in regards to how this granted patent works.

The company’s filing talks about how the various materials used on an iPhone frame come with benefits and drawbacks, such as the metal housing being “particularly resistant to dents,” but also interfering with “radio signals entering or emanating from the device.” On top of that, the use of ceramic makes it “scratch resistant and transparent to radio signals,” but the material itself “may be brittle.”

So what’s the answer? Use more than one material. In more detail, Apple is proposing a “moldable matrix” formed from metal and ceramic to provide the best of both worlds — formed of “abrasion-resistant members” dotted across the iPhone, as you can see from the illustration.

This drawing is a crude example, though, as the spacing between these dots is set to be between only 10 and 100 microns. That maximum is how thin a standard sheet of paper is. The end result would be an iPhone you may not even need a case for, which provides that vast increase in durability without compromising the signal strength.


Every time I get a new iPhone, there is an overwhelming sense of anxiety at the thought of leaving the house with it as I wait a few days for the case to arrive. You always want to get that pristine and delicate combination of glass and metal into a cover as soon as humanly possible.

Would this patent make me change my ways? I’m not sure. It’s been so long that it's become the default habit for me. But Apple sounds mighty confident in its “Spatial Composites” for the improved scratch and drop resistance.

Time will tell on how this design change will impact future iPhones, but bringing a mix of materials for their key strengths could be a huge step change for the durability of Apple’s smartphones.

Jason England
Content Editor

Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.