A future iPad could be made with an enclosure entirely formed from glass, giving Apple's tablet a striking new appearance.
The iPad and iPad Pro lines differ from the iPhone in a number of ways, but a big one is in construction. While the iPhone is glass-backed, the iPad lineup still relies on a metal enclosure covering its back side.
However, the company has been working on the concept of a full-glass iPad for some time, and could eventually introduce such a product. It may also go further and glass-back many other products too.
In a patent granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Glass Device Housings," Apple puts forward that it could create devices that are almost fully encased in glass.
Apple's interpretation of the concept is to use multiple glass pieces that are combined in a glass fusing process. Peripheral glass members can be fused along the edge of planar glass members to enhance the thickness of an edge.
Rounded edges could be made by machining that thickened edge, creating Apple's curved aesthetic. Raised fused glass features could also be used to support openings, increasing tensile strength alongside raised support structure ribs.
It is proposed in the patent that multiple sheets could be made into a five-sided box, into which electronics would be placed and a final glass sheet placed on top.
In the case of an iPad, the five-sided box would be the current aluminum enclosure, with the last sheet being the display.
While it's made of glass, it won't necessarily be transparent. Opaque masking material and colored glass will be used to hide the internals.
Example images showing the potential applications of the technique are also interesting, as the iPad is accompanied by an iMac-like display-on-stand design, as well as smartphone-like designs.
While Apple does regularly make patent filings about design and technology ideas, there's never a guarantee that it will appear in a future product or service.
That said, Apple has been exploring all-glass and glass back designs for quite a while. It obviously already has this in the iPhone. Rumors from 2021 point to an iPad Pro model in development using a "glass sandwich" design.
Meanwhile, patents from 2020 point to Apple considering how to make an all-glass iPhone with a wraparound display. In one instance, Apple proposed it could be an extruded glass tube capped on both ends.
As for the iMac, Apple has previously explored a more extreme version. In September 2021, it was granted a patent for a design that embedded a display in a large curved sheet of glass, one that leaned on a stand.