Apple Patent Application Shows Side Displays Could Come to iPhones

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2015-03-12 Print this article Print
curved displays on smartphones

Like Samsung's innovative edge displays on its upcoming Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone, Apple is working with patents that show similar side-mounted displays.

New patent applications filed by Apple appear to show concepts for flexible displays that could eventually bring side-mounted display edges to future iPhones, similar to those recently unveiled in Samsung's latest Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones.

The latest Apple patent applications were revealed in a March 10 report by Patently Apple, which detailed some of the future development possibilities seen in some 41 newly-granted patents received by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company.

"Apple notes that the flexible displays may include one or more flexible layers and may be mounted under a transparent display cover layer such as a layer of clear glass or plastic," the story said.

"Apple further notes that the housing and flexible display may be configured to form planar front and rear surfaces and sidewall surfaces for the device," the story continued. "A flexible display may be mounted so that at least a first portion of the flexible display is mounted on the front surface of the device and forms part of the front surface. The flexible display may have a bend that allows a second portion of the flexible display to cover some of the sidewall surfaces of the device."

Such a bending or curving of the display is certainly reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge display. Samsung also previously built an edge display into its Galaxy Note 4 Edge tablet.

Apple's patent application perhaps takes the idea a bit further with the concept that "active portions of the sidewall display edges of an electronic device may be used to create virtual user interface controls such as buttons," which would add virtual controls or buttons to the sides of a device, the story reported. Those buttons or other user input interface elements could even be reconfigured by a user as they work with the device.

The Apple patents were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

An Apple spokesperson did not immediately respond to a March 12 email inquiry from eWEEK about the report.

Curved or side display edges aren't the only design area where Apple seems to have been busy lately. Earlier this week, reports arose that Apple is planning to include its new Force Touch technology, which was announced in the company's new Apple Watch and the upcoming MacBook, in the next version of Apple's hugely popular iPhones later this year.

The inclusion of Force Touch, which automatically reacts to whether a user presses lightly or with more force on the device's input system, was reported in a March 11 story in The Wall Street Journal, based on anonymous sources who are familiar with the potential changes.

Apple will add the Force Touch sensors that enable the feature to the next generation of iPhones, the report stated, as well as present some other changes, including a new case color, which could be pink.

The new Force Touch track-pad that was just announced in the upcoming Apple MacBook and Apple Watch includes a "click" that's managed with software rather than through physical means. The track-pad includes a glass surface with four force sensors and a taptic engine for accurate and fast user response, according to Apple. The system also reacts to whether a user gives it a light tap or a deep press. If a user presses harder on the fast-forward button in Quicktime, for example, the video plays faster on the screen, reacting to the user's input.

The upcoming Force Touch feature was unveiled on March 9 by Apple at the "Spring Forward" event that the company held for the Apple Watch and other new products in San Francisco.

Samsung's all-new Galaxy S6 Edge, which was unveiled earlier in March, has a screen that wraps around both sides of the smartphone, giving users more screen real estate and capabilities. The S6 Edge and its more traditional stablemate, the Galaxy S6, both include giant leaps in style, design, components and features from earlier models as Samsung works to fight off Apple's latest and incredibly successful iPhone 6 devices.


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