Apple is rumoured to be investigations new materials for future iPhones.
The next-generation iPhone 8, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the iconic smartphone range, is expected to eschew the current aluminium finish in favour of an all-glass design.
The iPhone 8, also rumoured to be called iPhone X, could ship with a thin stainless steel chassis connecting the front and back glass panels, similar to the industrial design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.
Apple is believed to be looking to move away from metal unibody designs to enable it to include powerful wireless charging to the iPhone 8.
However a number of patents suggest Apple is looking into a move to zirconia ceramic for the iPhone.
The Cupertino-based company already uses this material in select Apple Watch models.
Apple currently uses zirconia ceramic in its Apple Watch Edition range
Zirconia ceramic is much more durable than glass or aluminium, which could solve the frustrating scratch issue that plagues the stunning Jet Black iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models.
With the introduction of the iPhone 7 range back in September, Apple introduced two new black finishes. However, there was clearly only one that everyone wanted.
Apple is clearly immensely proud of its beautiful new Jet Black finish – lavishing over the glossy bodywork and complex anodisation process during its introduction video.
Jet Black is also featured in almost all of the marketing material for the new iPhone. Something which could have contributed to the stock shortages that immediately hit the beautiful colour.
Apple has used the glossy new shade across its marketing material for the new iPhone
However, there is another issue with the Jet Black finish. This eye-catching new shade is prone to scratches.
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"The high-gloss finish of the jet black iPhone 7 is achieved through a precision nine-step anodisation and polishing process," Apple warns customers in the footnotes of the listing on the Apple Store.
"Its surface is equally as hard as other anodised Apple products; however, its high shine may show fine micro-abrasions with use.
"If you are concerned about, we suggest you use one of the many cases available to protect your iPhone."
Several iPhone 7 customers have taken to social media to show off the damage that has been done to their devices just from day-to-day wear and tear.
Social media users have flagged up the scratches that affect the glossy Jet Black finish
Apple encountered a similar problem with the black finish on the iPhone 5, which started to show wear and tear much faster than other colours.
Angry customers referred to the problem as "scuffgate" and Apple subsequently changed the shade ahead of the release of the iPhone 5S.
First discovered by Patently Apple, a new patent titled Laser Polishing Ceramic Material reveals Apple's interest in rolling out its Apple Watch ceramic finish across other product ranges.
Published to the public this week, the US patent was first filed on July 29th 2015, and proves that Apple has been looking into developing zirconia ceramic casings for its products for some time.
The US patent also addresses sapphire, which Apple was expected to use for the display on its iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus.
"Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide and may be found in various colours, many of which are generally referred to as sapphire," Apple explains.
"In general, sapphire is a hard and strong material with a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohs scale, and, as such, is capable of scratching nearly all other minerals.
"Because of its hardness and strength, sapphire may be an attractive alternative to other translucent materials like polycarbonate."
UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
The patent explains how these durable materials could be used in future iPhones
The iPhone manufacturer continues, "However, due in part to its inherent properties, manufacturing components out of sapphire may be difficult in high-volume manufacturing conditions.
"In particular, sapphire’s hardness makes polishing the material both difficult and time-consuming particularly if the component includes contoured surfaces or features."
Apple details a number of techniques in which various sapphire components are polished with lasers, including components that have non-planar surfaces.
Illustrations filed with the patent clearly show an Apple iPhone.
Apple iPhone 8 – Leaked photos, concept images, and renders Sun, January 1, 2017
iPhone 8 is shaping up to be one of the most impressive Apple smartphones to date, with glass panels on the front and rear of the device, a curved borderless OLED display and no Home Button
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Apple iPhone 8 will debut a brand-new all-glass look, with a curved OLED display and no physical Home Button
Furthermore, the US patent appears to confirm that it would not just be the display made from sapphire.
A rear glass case for the iPhone, the home button, and the camera glass would also be made of sapphire, according to the US patent.
That would still allow Apple to implement wireless charging technology, and would prove more resilient than an all-glass design.
These new materials could also produce a Jet Black version of the handset that remains in pristine condition for a longer period of time.
As always, Apple patents a slew of new technology and techniques – they are not always an indication of the company's future plans.