Apple has filed a patent application that describes a handheld device with a case made entirely out of glass.
Such a case could be formed from a “hollow glass tube” or two pieces of glass bonded together. The material would be radio transparent, and the device could be hermetically sealed and thus water resistant.
The iPhone 4 and 4S aren’t really that far from this idea, their case consisting of two pieces of glass and a steel frame.
Some problems immediately come to mind. While the glass material used in modern smartphones is quite tough, a smartphone made entirely out of glass could easily be damaged in a fall. Furthermore, the iPhone is chock-full of sensors, some of which might have problems functioning in a (transparent) glass enclosure – though Apple’s application addresses this problem by suggesting some parts of the glass case can be made opaque.
And the upsides? Well, Apple names a few in its patent application: “Some of the reasons for using glass over other materials are that glass is strong, stiff, and radio transparent and therefore a suitable material for an enclosure of an electronic device capable of wireless communications.”
“A glass enclosure can also provide the portable electronic device with a unique, aesthetically pleasing appearance (…) The seamless enclosure, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, can provide the added benefit of less contamination and moisture intrusion into the interior of the device,” the patent application describes.
How do you feel about the idea of a glass iPhone, iPod touch or other handheld device? Share your opinions in the comments!