There have been rumors for months that Apple could throw the iPhone's Lightning port overboard in 2021, and a newly discovered patent shows us what it could look like.
The patent was first discovered by Apple Insider and is identified as an "electronic device with a glass housing". If that is too vague for you, it is further described as "An electronic device contains a six-sided glass case that defines an interior volume and includes a first glass element and a second glass element."
Apple filed the patent on August 15, 2019 and published it on Thursday by the Patent Office. The first reliable reports about the large port move came in December 201
Then there is this picture attached to the patent. The patent contains dozens of images, but this describes everything.
Obviously, the lack of a flash port is the most important thing to consider here. But there is also more going on here. There are no buttons. As Apple Insider notes, the volume keys are touch controls because the phone has a waterfall display and the screen extends over the edges.
As the title suggests, this thing is encased in glass on all six sides, which means Apple could move towards a completely smooth, glass-encased iPhone that is absolutely reliable when wirelessly charged. Well, except for the camera, which is not covered in this particular patent.
Kuo's December 2019 report showed that the Lightning port-free phone would likely be the top model of the 2021 iPhone line (the iPhone 13 Pro Max, using Apple's current naming scheme), while other models (the iPhone 13) Pro and iPhone 13) would keep the Lightning port.
And for what it's worth, another Apple patent released in 2019 showed another version of the iPhone that was without the Lightning connector. However, this phone also had a dramatic redesign in contrast to the above, which still resembles the iPhone that we know and love.
Of course, all of this is associated with the limitation that patents are only a claim on the idea and the design and that none of these designs is guaranteed to ever be realized.
But like anything that has to do with Apple, it's always fun to be amazed.