A future iPad could adopt an all-glass design — and I have concerns

iPad 2022 review iPadOS 16 lift image from background
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s iPad could be set for a massive design overhaul if the results of a newly-discovered patent come to light. The filing reveals Apple has penned designs for an upcoming iPad with an all-glass exterior. 

Not only does that mean the iPad could swap its metal back for glass, it may not even get an iPhone-style metal frame, either.

The patent was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday under the name “Glass Device Housings.” The idea behind this design is to fuse multiple glass pieces together to create the casing, with additional glass added to the edge of each flat surface for additional thickness — and presumably extra strength and durability.

According to the patent, the production process would begin by building a five-sided glass casing. Once complete the iPad’s electronics components can be assembled inside, followed by a final glass sheet — presumably the display. 

The description also mentions using opaque masking material and colored glass for hiding the internal components, which may be disappointing to anyone hoping for a Nothing Phone-style transparent iPad.

Patents don’t always become real products, and in the case of the glass iPad there may be more drawbacks than benefits.

All-glass iPad: Is it a good idea?

all-glass ipad patent diagram

One of Apple's illustrations of a possible all-glass iPad (Image credit: USPTO / Apple)

An all-glass iPad (or even iPhone) would look nice, but you also have to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses compared to metal. Glass is more fragile for starters, and even the strongest varieties of glass are more likely to break or shatter compared to a metal counterpart.

Reinforcing glass edges with even more glass is only going to add unnecessary weight to the device. The stainless steel is already in use in iPads and is heavier than glass, but its higher strength means you need a lot less of it to ensure adequate protection.

Likewise glass isn’t going to perform well with screws, meaning an all-glass iPad is going to need to be glued shut. That’s going to cause problems should any repairs be necessary, whether you do it yourself or take your busted iPad to the Apple Store.

Engineering advances could happen that make an all-glass iPad, or an all-glass iPhone, a lot more practical. But right now it feels more like a nice idea rather than a practical product. But who knows, maybe Apple might prove me wrong; we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.