The iPhone 15 Pro isn’t Apple’s first foray into titanium — remember the TiBook?

Titanium G4 PowerBook on a white background
(Image credit: Future)
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MacLife issue October 2023 cover

(Image credit: Future)

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Forget its new A17 Pro chip, the new 48-megapixel camera and the new Action button, the real superpower of the iPhone 15 Pro is its ability to instantly turn your iPhone 14 Pro from being a splendid state-of-the-art pocket-sized supercomputer into being a dead weight in your hand in seconds. It does this by ditching the steel enclosure that the previous model had and replacing it with “aerospace-grade” titanium. Titanium just sounds better, doesn’t it? Why settle for steel when you can have titanium? And in four different colours, too!

The advantage of titanium is that it’s as strong as steel, but half the weight and therefore it gets used in everything from surgical equipment and implants to space rockets. This means the new iPhone 15 Pros are just as strong, but more lightweight than their predecessors.

In fact, Apple is so excited about its use of titanium that it gave over an entire segment of the iPhone 15 launch event to Isabel Yang, a material science engineer at Apple, who explained how the Grade 5 titanium alloy used in the new iPhone 15 is even stronger than regular titanium. So strong that it’s used in the Mars rover. 

Titanium G4 PowerBook on a white background

(Image credit: Future)

But this isn’t Apple’s first experiment with titanium. Back in 2001 it produced the world’s first titanium laptop, the G4 PowerBook Titanium, lovingly known as the “TiBook” because  “titanium PowerBook” was just too much of a mouthful to say, let alone type.

Setting the stage for the modern MacBook

The TiBook was perhaps the first truly modern-looking laptop — slim, not chunky at all, and with that space-age grey color that you see every MacBook sporting today. In fact, looking back at the 2001 TiBook you can see that it set the standard for all Apple’s laptops to come. 

For instance, it was the first laptop that had the Apple logo on the lid oriented correctly, so that when you opened your laptop people saw your Apple logo staring directly back at them, the right way up, not upside down. It had obviously taken Apple a little while to realise that half the fun of owning an Apple product was that it gave you bragging rights over your clunkier PC laptop-owning friends. 

Titanium G4 PowerBook on a white background

(Image credit: Future)

Ok, not everything about the TiBook was perfect. The ports were all at the back, instead of at the sides as they are today, for starters. But apart from that, this was the laptop design that would define Apple for the next 20 years, and more.

Sadly, titanium didn’t last as a laptop material, with Apple opting for aluminium casings, which were light, cheaper and more malleable. Also, back in 2001 Apple had no way of coloring the titanium, so it simply painted over it, a fact that can be gleaned by looking up TiBooks on eBay today and seeing how much the paint has flaked off over the years. In fact, you can still buy working TiBooks on eBay - take a look!

Apple has previously used titanium on the Apple Watch, but now titanium is making a comeback on the iPhone. So, my only question is, when can we expect it in a titanium MacBook Pro again, Apple, because we are hella ready.

Graham Barlow
Group Editor in Chief, Tech

Graham is the Editor in Chief for all of Future’s tech magazines, including Mac|Life, MaximumPC, MacFormat, PC Pro, Linux Format and Computeractive. Graham has over 25 years of experience writing about technology and has covered many of the big Apple launches first hand including the iPhone, iPad and Apple Music. He first became fascinated with computing during the home computer boom of the 1980s, during which he wrote a text adventure game that was released commercially while still at school. After graduating university with a degree in Computer Science, Graham started as a writer on Future’s PC magazines eventually becoming editor of MacFormat in 2004 then Editor in Chief across the whole of Future’s tech magazine portfolio in 2013.These days Graham enjoys writing about the latest Apple tech for as well as Future’s tech magazine brands. 

  • FFR
    Indeed, still have mine. Felt like the future at the time, all other pcs were made from molded plastic and extremely thicc.