The patent is titled “Electronic Devices with Textured Zirconia-Based Components”. As per Apple, the inclusion of this material in the design will give “a matte appearance to an exterior surface of an electronic device. The texture of the enclosure component may also be configured so that it has one or more tactile properties suitable for use as a wearable device and can be readily cleaned.”
According to the report, the material could be used as a side surface around the main body of the device, like a surface that wraps around the side of the Apple Watch and/or it could be used at the rear of the iPhone. As such, it might be the case that Apple in future ditches the toughened glass in favour of the ceramic matte finish. The company might do that for the top tier models in its iPhone lineup like the Pro models.
As per Apple, “The zirconia-based component may be formed of a ceramic such as a partially stabilized zirconia ceramic or an alumina toughened zirconia ceramic.”
The Zirconia material is said to have high strength and toughness and extremely high wear resistance. It is also resistant to chemical corrosion.
It’s a patent only for now but from a practical standpoint, it looks like Apple could certainly consider bringing the Zirconia-based material to its high-end models like the Pro and the Pro Max of the iPhone series. Including such a material in the design will up the price tags of the products and such material would be a good fit for the high-end models. The company may also include it in the Apple Watch design along the sides in the coming future. It’s not the first time that ceramic would be used in a smartphone. Samsung and Xiaomi have incorporated the material earlier but it would be a first for Apple should the tech giant decide to go with it.