Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

When Mythical Transparent iPhones and Apple Patents Collide

A couple of weeks ago, Robert Scoble posted a masterpiece of a claim on Facebook and Medium:

The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen (I have several sources confirming this).

[…]

Also, updates from new sources: expect battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone.

Needless to say, I am hella skeptical of this rumour. I mean, just look at the size of the battery in the iPhone 7 — it’s near the same height as the LCD, and about 60% of the width. I sincerely doubt the release of a transparent iPhone at any point in the foreseeable future.

I figured this rumour would die an easy death because of how ludicrous it is; but, thanks to a recently-published patent and the journalistic fortitude of writers at the Next Web, that hasn’t happened. Bryan Clark:

Adding additional credibility to the scoop, one of Scoble’s fans recently uncovered an Apple patent from 2014 that describes similar technology:

A handheld computing device that includes an enclosure having structural walls formed from a glass material that can be radio-transparent. The enclosure can be formed from a hollow glass tube or two glass members bonded together. A laser frit bonding process may be used to hermetically seal the two glass members together to create a water resistant electronic device.

Will we see a futuristic refresh for the iPhone next year?

Just because something is glass and is radio transparent, that doesn’t mean it’s optically transparent. And, of course, just because Apple files a patent for something, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something they’re planning to produce or release.

For what it’s worth, a cursory reading of the patent claims and description indicates that it describes using glass as a critical structural component for a device, and a unique manufacturing process for it. This isn’t a patent for some hyper-futuristic transparent iPhone, and it doesn’t appear to support that rumour in any way.