Apple has a few new patent applications with the USPTO (via AppleInsider), all relating to sapphire glass displays and elements for its use in mobile devices. The patents cover a method for making sapphire glass display covers stronger, a way to create illuminated buttons with sapphire, and a way to embed markings below a sapphire layer.
The strengthening patent may be the most interesting, given the recent video purporting to show the iPhone 6 screen cover component being bent and generally abused without it breaking. The filing Apple made actually talks about things very similar to what was shown in the video, by providing a way to treat part of a screen in such a manner as to make it resistant to impact, strain from distortion and to just generally make it more durable.
The means for strengthening include tempering the glass or heating or lasering specific points to selectively apply additional durability. It’s not clear whether this could make a super bendable, unbreakable material like that depicted in the supposed iPhone 6 component stress test videos, but it’s a sign at least that Apple has been thinking about this problem.
The patent for buttons and rockers made of sapphire details a number of ways to make the physical controls of an iPhone out of sapphire. Apple already uses sapphire in the home button on the iPhone 5s, but these techniques would also apply to other physical buttons on iOS devices, and includes a way to embed an LED to make them light up. If Apple were looking to make a device all-glass, or at least primarily out of sapphire, this technique would definitely come in handy.
Finally, Apple also has a patent for embedding markings within Sapphire, making it highly legible but also not prone to wear from elements or repeated use. This would be handy for the typical text on the back of an iPhone, for instance, for logo embedding, and more.
Apple is expected to unveil some kind of new incorporation of sapphire into the next iPhone, which will likely be launched this fall if the company keeps to its usual timeline.