Apple has been working on an all-glass iPhone for close to seven years, with their first patent coming to light in 2011. Patently Apple covered another one that even covered a glass encased iMac or TV since at least 2013. Last year another patent pending invention came to light focused on an all-glass iPhone with an illuminated middle segment that would change color for different functions like an incoming phone call, email or text. Today Patently Apple discovered a European patent filing from Apple that relates to electronic devices, and more particularly, to electronic devices having structural glass support members.
Apple notes that electronic devices such as portable computers and cellular telephones are often provided with rigid housings made from plastic, metal or composite materials that serve as support structures for device components. A rigid housing commonly serves as the primary mounting structure onto which device components are assembled. Internal components such as batteries, printed circuit boards and displays are commonly mounted to the rigid housings. Transparent display cover layers made from plastic or glass are typically mounted to the rigid housing. Device components such as display cover layers are often mounted to rigid housings using adhesives or mechanical mounting members.
Mounting device components to rigid housing support structures puts various functional requirements such as requirements on rigidity, strength, and shape of the rigid housing. Mounting device components to rigid housing support structures may require additional mechanical components for mounting components to the rigid housing support structures. Functional requirements on rigid housing support structures and additional mechanical components mounted in the rigid housing may increase the volume, width, height or depth of a device making the device less aesthetically pleasing and less desirable to consumers in a market that values lighter, thinner devices.
It would therefore be desirable to provide improved electronic devices having simplified housing structures.
Apple's invention covers electronic devices that may be provided with structural glass support members. A structural glass support member may be configured to form a planar front surface for the device. The structural glass support member may be configured to form planar rear and sidewall surfaces for the device.
Internal device components may be mounted to the structural glass support members. The structural glass support members may function as a primary structural member for the device.
The electronic device may have a rigid or flexible display. The rigid or flexible display may be mounted on an internal surface of the structural glass support member. The structural glass support member may form a transparent cover layer for the flexible display so that the display is visible through the structural glass support member. The display may include multiple display layers attached to each other using adhesive. Adhesive bonds between display layers may be able to support mounting of device components to the display. Displays may include a touch-set1sitive layer that allows a user to provide touch input to an electronic device. Display pixels on a display may be used to display visual information to the user through the structural glass support member.
The electronic device may have internal components such as batteries, printed circuit boards, rigid or flexible integrated circuits or other components. Internal components may be mounted to the display using adhesive materials or other mounting mechanisms.
The electronic device may have an enclosure attached to the structural glass support member. The enclosure may be a cosmetic cover that blocks internal components mounted to the structural glass support member from view. The enclosure may be provided with ergonomic features designed to enhance the feel of a device to a user.
The enclosure may be exclusively mounted to the structural glass support member or may have portions mounted to one or internal device components. The enclosure may have a thickness that is less than the thickness of the structural glass support member. The structural glass support member may be provided with one or more mounting features on or near an edge of the structural glass member. Mounting features may include openings in the structural glass support member, surface features on a surface of the structural glass support member, or additional mounting components attached to the structural glass support member.
The enclosure may be mounted to the structural glass support member using a peripheral member. The peripheral member may include molded portions formed in openings in the structural glass support member.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a perspective view of an illustrative iPhone with structural glass support member in accordance with the present invention.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is an exploded cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device having multiple structural glass support members with bent portions that form sidewall structures; FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device having a tubular structural glass support member with and a component insert.
As with most Apple inventions, they don't restrict their invention to just a single device like a smartphone / iPhone but rather note that an all-glass design could be applied to a future iPad, MacBook, Apple Watch, iPod touch. In this case it's supported by previous work on an iMac or TV encased in glass.
In the tubular iPhone design, it's all glass structurally with an insert with internal components. The alternative glass design is closer to what they've done with iPhone X as we covered in a patent last week where metal is fused to the flip side of the glass back panel. Apple further notes that they could also use other materials such as ceramics or fiber composites
Apple's European patent filing never veers off to describe other features of this glass iPhone.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q4 2017. Some of Apple's work on this invention dates back to 2011. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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