Future iOS devices may be entirely made of glass, according to a new patent published and issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tuesday.
According to the description of the patent titled "Fused Glass Device Housing," the patent covers the invention of a “glass housing structure that may have multiple glasses pieces that are joined using a glass fusing process.”
Apple further explains in its description that the glass could be customized with “opaque material and colored glass” to hide the internal device components from view. The Cupertino, California, tech titan cites the potential device applications of the invention with mobile phones, handheld devices, displays and even televisions.
The patent illustrations point to the possibility of glass housing being used in an Apple television set. But a more practical application could be the use of glass to replace the aluminum housing of current iMac desktops, according to Patently Apple.
Illustrations in the patent also demonstrate the use of glass backings on iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices.
The newly issued patent follows several rumors and part leaks that suggest the rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will utilize sapphire as its primary screen material. Combined with the sapphire screen leaks, the patent raises the question of whether a future iPhone or iOS device may use sapphire for its housing material as well.
Apple has been ramping up production of sapphire crystals since late 2013 through a manufacturing partnership with GT Advanced Technologies Inc. of Merrimack, New Hampshire (NASDAQ:GTAT).
The “Fused Glass Device Patent” was among 51 patents issued by the USPTO Tuesday. Also among the patents issued were several known Apple components, such as the secure enclave processor found in the iPhone 5S and the Touch ID sensor.
Apple has also been involved in several smartphone and tablet patent legal disputes with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) since 2011. However, the 51 patents granted to Apple don’t appear to affect the South Korean manufacturer’s current offerings of smartphones and tablets, such as the Galaxy S5.