An Apple patent first spotted by Patently Apple suggests that the company is at least considering the idea of making an iPhone that’s mostly glass.
The patent comes after hints from one of Apple’s main suppliers of iPhone casings that Apple could be making an all-glass iPhone in 2017.
The patent describes an iPhone with rounded glass that wraps around the side edges. It also details how the glass edges could act as a “mini flexible edge display” with customizable “active virtual buttons.”
It potentially means that the side edges could have customizable touch buttons for certain functions and shortcuts to features like you’d find in the iPhone’s control center, such as opening the camera app, turning on the flashlight, or music controls.
If that sounds familiar, then that’s because you’ve seen the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge that was released in 2014, which had a single curved glass edge that displayed information and could be tapped to open functions and features.
Patently Apple also referred to a patent granted to Apple in 2013 that showed a very similar design concept:
Patently Apple/US Patents Office
As pretty as an all-glass iPhone might sound, it isn’t clear how durable it would be, as the entire surface of the phone would risk being cracked after hitting a hard surface from a relatively low height. And case makers could potentially have a hard time making a case for a phone where it’s entire front surface and side edges are made of touch screens.
While patents filed by Apple seem more official than rumors, they’re not indicators of what Apple has in store for future products. The company has been granted plenty of patents with new product ideas, but many of them have never seen the light of day.