Apple may be exploring the possibility of using a liquidmetal rear panel for the next iPhone in place of the glass panel that has been present in the past two models, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Instead, Apple may be planning to make the panels from alloys created by Liquidmetal Technologies. Apple purchased exclusive rights to Liquidmetal's patent portfolio in late 2010, prompting a wide array of speculation as to what the company might do with the technology.
Well, according to South Korea's ETNews, they plan to make iPhones with it. Citing "industry sources" they claim that the rear casing of the next iPhone is going to be made of liquidmetal, an allow of nickel, zirconium, copper, and titanium that is extremely strong and durable, even when cast (unlike other metals like steel). This liquidmetal-backed iPhone, they claim, will be unveiled at WWDC in June.
They also claim that the Samsung Galaxy S III, set to be unveiled May 3rd in London, will have a ceramic rear panel, rather than the plastic one present in previous Galaxy S models.
One of the more... peculiar design choices Apple has made in recent years was putting a glass rear panel on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Though undoubtedly aesthetically pleasing, the change left the phone vulnerable to damage from which a phone with a metal or plastic rear panel would be much safer. There was speculation that Apple would forego the glass rear panel on the iPhone 4S, but the form factor of the 4S remained almost completely unchanged. A liquidmetal rear panel for the iPhone would be a good choice for a lot of reasons: the metal is far more durable than just about anything else Apple could put on the iPhone, and it would be a good use for patents Apple spent a lot of money on.
On the other hand, it's a little hard to believe this particular report, not least because of the claim of a June release date. Given that the iPhone 4S released in October of last year, it is all but unthinkable that Apple would release a new phone just nine months later, especially if that phone is (as this one almost certainly will be) a major re-design. That said, it's a fair bet that Apple will ditch the glass rear panel. What they will replace it with is not known, and liquidmetal seems as good a guess as any.