A new patent filing from Apple suggests that that the “cheese grater” design Apple first introduced on the 2019 Mac Pro may ultimately come to the iPhone. Now before you start lamenting that Apple has lost its design chops, it’s worth noting that Apple often patents designs that never find their way into a shipping product. In other words, there’s no reason to assume Apple is going to completely turn the iconic iPhone design on its head anytime soon.
The patent filing was first brought to light via Patently Apple and shows off an iPhone design heavily inspired by the 2019 Mac Pro. The “cheese grater” pattern is admittedly jarring at first glance, but the design provides some thermal benefits to the extent that it optimizes airflow and can keep machines running cool. And with Apple designing increasingly powerful processors year in and year out, it’s no surprise that Apple is already looking into novel iPhone designs.
The patent was initially filed in April of 2020 and was published this past July. As detailed in the patent, the unique design provides benefits with respect to thermal transmission and airflow through and around various electronic components.
The patent reads in part:
Recent advances in electronic devices have enabled high levels of performance. Existing components and structures for electronic devices, however, may limit the levels of performance of such devices. For example, an existing housing may limit the performance of an electronic device because of an inability to effectively distribute or reject heat generated by the electronic device to the surrounding environment. In this regard, further tailoring of components for electronic devices to provide additional or enhanced functionality and pleasing aesthetic features may be desirable.
Apple also adds that it’s possible to design a structure with the aforementioned benefits while also providing a “unique and pleasing look and feel for a user.” Here’s a reminder of how unique and pleasing it is:
One of the patent claims, which essentially describes the aesthetic of the design itself, reads as follows:
A housing for an electronic device, comprising: a body having a first surface and a second surface; the body defining a first set of spherical cavities extending into the body; the body defining second set of spherical cavities extending into the body and eccentrically intersecting the first set of spherical cavities to form a hexagonally close-packed pattern of spherical cavities in fluid communication with a first set of apertures defined by the first surface and a second set of apertures defined by the second surface.
Some of the drawings included in the patent filing can be seen below:
As intriguing as the design is, it’s hard to imagine Apple actually releasing something like this given that the design itself would be polarizing, to say the least. Additionally, with most iPhone users employing a case, it’s possible that the benefits afforded by this type of design would be lessened.