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A look at the obsessive detail that goes into the physical Apple Card

While you’ll get the best rewards by using the upcoming Apple Card in virtual form via Apple Pay, it’s the physical Apple Card which seems to have generated the most interest …

Designer Arun Venkatesan has taken a close look at what we think we know about the card, and is impressed by the attention to detail.

That begins with Apple’s choice of metal. There are other metal credit cards on the market, but not all metals – or manufacturing techniques – are equal.

Most commonly available “metal” credit cards are a stamped piece of metal or a slim piece of metal laminated between two pieces of plastic onto which the EMV chip, numbers and markings are applied.

I have found that the layers of a metal card that I own have slowly started to peel apart with repeated swipes and inserts into card readers. A unibody credit card won’t have that problem.

Apple’s video shows a card blank being cut from a single sheet of titanium. Then, a CNC mill cuts out a space for the EMV chip to be inserted in a later step.

This is a simplified form of the unibody manufacturing process that Apple started using in the original MacBook Air and second generation MacBook Pro back in 2008. Instead of using traditional methods of bonding multiple pieces of metal or plastic, the chassis of the device is carved from a single block of metal.

I’d caution that Apple’s promotional videos are marketing tools, and don’t necessarily accurately depict the actual manufacturing process, but as Apple does use unibody manufacturing techniques, it’s certainly plausible that it will adapt this approach to the card.

Then there’s the Apple logo.

In the video, the outline of an Apple logo from the front of the card is first laser etched. That outline is then engraved again into a channel with a V-shaped cross-section. These slanted surfaces are designed to catch and reflect light as you turn the card.

And even the contacts for the chip.

Their design consists of six pill shaped contacts within a rounded rectangle. The contacts are arranged so that their rounded corners are concentric with the corners of the outer rectangle […]

This level of obsession with the details is nearly expected from Apple. It’s an obsession that requires taste, wealth, expertise and an extensive supply chain, a combination unique to Apple.

A survey found, ironically, that the physical card will boost adoption of Apple Pay.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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