The iPhone 6 may be just around the corner but looking into the future it seems Apple is planning to do away with its iconic aluminium designs and replace them with all-glass devices.
On Monday, Apple was granted a patent in the US covering a method of fusing glass structures together to house the internal gubbins of an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad - as well as larger devices like desktop computers, monitors and even televisions.
The fused glass device housings patent's description says:
An electronic device may have a glass housing structures. The glass housing structures may be used to cover a display and other internal electronic device components. The glass housing structure may have multiple glass pieces that are joined using a glass fusing process. A peripheral glass member may be fused along the edge of a planar glass member to enhance the thickness of the edge. A rounded edge feature may be formed by machining the thickened edge. Raised fused glass features may surround openings in the planar glass member. Multiple planar glass members may be fused together to form a five-sided box in which electronic components may be mounted. Raised support structure ribs may be formed by fusing glass structures to a planar glass member. Opaque masking material and coloured glass may be used to create portions of the glass housing structures that hide internal device components from view.
The application describes a new, efficient method of producing these all-glass casings which gets around the problem of such devices being too heavy.
The process would allow for the creation of durable, lightweight and aesthetically-pleasing products according to Apple. This would be achieved by fusing separate pieces of glass together rather than creating the casing from a single block of material, something Apple currently does with aluminium in its iPhone, iPad and MacBook laptop ranges.
Apple of course already uses a lot of glass in its devices, with the iPhone 4 and newer covered with glass front and back.
In some of the possible configurations of the glass casing, Apple envisions creating a five-sided box in which displays or circuitry can be "slid into place" - something which will be important if Apple looks to use this technology for larger devices like monitors, all-in-one PCs or even televisions.
Apple has long been rumoured to be working on its own television set, and an all-glass display would certainly help set it apart from the competition - as it would in the smartphone world where design evolution has plateaued in the last couple of years.
The patent mentions that the side opposite any display may be tinted a translucent colour or even made opaque to hide the internals of the product - though Apple leaves an option to keep all sides transparent.
Apple cites its head of design Jony Ive as one of the principle inventors of this process, suggesting this could be one technology which Apple is actually looking to implement in the future.