Is Apple planning an all-glass iPhone?
Apple has been granted a US patent for a method of building devices with fused glass outer casings, suggesting that the company could develop all-glass iPhones and iPads in the future.
The patent describes a method of fusing pieces of glass together to form a "five-sided box in which electronic components may be mounted". The all-glass structure is designed to ensure robustness and minimise weight.
"Glass strength and device aesthetics can sometimes be enhanced by using sufficiently thick glass layers. However, the size and weight of a device should not be excessive," the patent states.
"If care is not taken, modifications that are made to ensure that a device has glass structures that are sufficiently strong, will make the device heavy and bulky."
It states that a 'peripheral' piece of glass may be fused along the edge of a 'planar' piece of glass to enhance thickness, and then filed down to create a rounded edge.
The patent goes on to explain how display structures and other internal components may then be slid into place between opposing glass sides of the box.
Opaque masking material and coloured glass may also be used to create portions of the glass housing that hide internal device components from view.
Apple already uses glass extensively in its products. The iPhone 4, for example, featured front and back glass panels with a metal rim connecting the two. However, all-glass casings would create a new aesthetic for Apple products, and help it stand out against other device manufacturers.
The patent does not necessarily mean that Apple plans to launch a commercial product featuring a fused-glass casing. However, it would potentially fit well with Apple's existing patents for sapphire lamination and fusion technology.