Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:
Most of the iPhone 12 Pro finishes still use a physical vapor deposition process for edge coating. But the new gold (which I do not have in person but looks great) uses a special high-power, impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) process that lays down the coating in a super dense pattern, allowing it to be tough and super bright with a molecular structure that mimics the stainless steel underneath — making it more durable than “standard” PVD. One side effect is that it’s easier to wipe clean and takes on less fingerprints, something that my blue model was, uh, definitely prone to.
From the HiPIMS Wikipedia page:
HIPIMS has been successfully applied for the deposition of thin films in industry, particularly on cutting tools. The first HIPIMS coating units appeared on the market in 2006.
The gold version of the Apple iPhone 12 Pro uses this process on the structural stainless steel band that also serves as the device’s antenna system.
There’s nothing I can find that says Apple’s other stainless steel colors can’t take a HiPIMS finish. I asked Panzer about this, his reply:
As far as I understand it, it should be able to be used with many different coatings — it is not a gold specific thing. My guess is that gold proved difficult or had fingerprinting issues.
I’m curious about Apple’s future use of HiPIMS. Will we see it applied in more places? Is the gold iPhone 12 Pro a one-off, or a test case for future stainless iPhones, Apple Watches?