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Apple, others eyeing curved glass for 2012 gadgets?

New report once again claims Apple and other tech manufacturers are investing in manufacturing efforts to make rounded glass for their future crop of gadgets.

Apple's fifth-generation iPod Nano, which makes use of rounded glass.
Apple's fifth-generation iPod Nano, which makes use of rounded glass. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple and other gadget manufacturers are once again said to be investing in new manufacturing techniques that will yield electronics with rounded glass surfaces, a new report claims.

Following up on its own report from May, DigiTimes today says Apple and other unnamed technology companies are working to produce "products with curved cover glass." That's the glass on the front of the device, the one users touch when using apps and press up to their face when making phone calls.

Citing unnamed sources, DigiTimes says the effort is purely competitive, with manufacturers looking to set their devices apart from the pack.

A report in late May--also by DigiTimes--claimed Apple had bought 200 to 300 glass-cutting machines to help glass makers make curved glass for its gadgets. That report was of special note given curiosity around Apple's next iPhone, which is now rumored to be making its debut next week. While numerous reports have now suggested Apple plans to release two new design variations, mentions of curved glass on the front have been all but non-existent.

As noted in previous coverage, the first smartphone to offer rounded glass on its front face was Samsung's Nexus S. Its "Contour Display" was pitched as something that would fit more comfortably on the face when users make calls, and ease typing given that users' fingers would be pecking away in that general area on the soft keyboard. Apple itself briefly dipped into curved glass with the fourth- and fifth-generation iPod Nano, a design that was scrapped last year in favor or returning to flat glass for use in a touch-screen-based model.

One place Apple is sure to be investing in curved glass is with its planned second headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., which--pending approval--Apple plans to have up and running by 2015. When pitching the design of the circular building to the Cupertino City Council in June, Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs said "there's not a straight piece of glass in this building--it's all curved," while noting that the company had picked up the habit building its retail stores.