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Apple is no stranger to building devices mostly out of glass, but the company is apparently interested in the possibility of using only glass for future mobile devices such as iPhones, as well as even bigger gadgets like an iMac or a future “iTV” television set. AppleInsider reports that Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent describing ways of building an electronic device using “glass housing structures” that are fused at the edges, without requiring metal components to hold them in place.
In the document, Apple describes ways to ensure “satisfactory robustness” when creating such device structures out of glass, while not harming device aesthetics or adding unnecessary weight to products.
The hand-drawn images – a rather rare sighting for Apple patents, which usually include sketches generated on a computer rather than by hand – feature several products that could have glass housings in the future, including iPhones and monitors/TVs. Apple shows various parts of these devices, and reveals that in addition to external glass covers, glass elements could also be used inside the devices to separate certain components or areas.
Furthermore, the company says that the glass housings that won’t cover the actual display of a product, may be painted in a certain color to hide internal components that may be unpleasant to the eye, although they could also be left transparent – Apple’s famous iMac G3 had a translucent curved back cover, but it’s made of plastic not glass.
The patent even features an image that portrays what looks like an iPod with curved front and back panels, which would be made of glass fused at the edges, suggesting once again that Apple is considering flexible displays for such devices, and possibly for future iPhone generations as well. Apple already has at least one other patent describing an electronic device – an iPhone – with a wraparound glass display.
Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models both have front and back panels made of glass, although an aluminum chassis divided them.
In following models, Apple has replaced the rear glass panel with metal, and appears to have the same thing in mind for the upcoming iPhone 6. However, recent leaks revealed that Apple’s paper thin sapphire glass may be able to offer increased resistance to shocks, and such strong materials may one day be used in glass-only Apple devices.
Images from Apple’s patent for glass-only devices – titled “Fused glass device housings,” – follow below.