A impressive, new Apple patent outlines a plan for an audacious, new smartphone design that deploys a curved screen around the entire device. Could this be the iPhone 6?
When it comes to concepts, it never seems like the futuristic concept becomes a reality. Think about concept cars: those amazing, next-generation drawings and renderings of other-worldly cars rarely turn out a finished product that we end up driving. Design concepts for everything tend to turn out to be iterative and evolutionary, rather than groundbreaking and revolutionary. The iPhone is a great example of this reality in play, as we prepare this year for what is likely to be a refreshed iPhone 5S.
A new patent from Apple, however, suggests that Cupertino has a next-generation design in mind for a future iPhone that, based on what we know about new technology coming down the pike, could turn out to be the elusive iPhone 6.
This new Apple patent got sniffed out by Patently Apple, who has this to say about the proposed design:
Today’s invention focuses on the flexible wraparound display that could be fashioned in aluminum, aluminum and glass or a fully transparent design. This future iPhone design won’t have any physical buttons so controlling the audio on the iPhone will simply require you to hover your hand over the side of the display to temporarily illustrate the controls. The new design could also produce 3D visuals through its unique dual display design. This is certainly one of Apple’s hottest inventions of the year.
The article supposes that this kind of design could allow Apple to address the new wave of biometric-related features that are just now beginning to crop up on smartphones and tablets. With the new GS4, eye tracking and hand-wave gestures are now being used to navigate the screen in place of gestures that interact with the screen directly. In this new Apple patent, the invention supposes the ability to control variables such as volume on screen, using the backside “screen” where the hand holds the device as a new way to control functionality.
And with all of the buzz about a “fingerprint scanner” for the iPhone, one could imagine a technology similar to the “smart grip” or “smart trigger” proposed for guns, wherein only the user’s palm, interacting with the device’s back screen, could be used for sensitive operations (such as banking, iWallet, etc.).
The patent also suggests that this iPhone’s form factor could be composed of aluminum or optically transparent glass:
Apple’s patent FIG. 1A illustrated below shows the housing 102 alongside representative flexible display assembly 104. The housing can take many forms and can be multi-part in which a portion is metallic in nature (such as aluminum) whereas another portion can be formed of optically transparent material such as glass. Apple states that the design could also be fully formed of transparent (or at least semi-transparent) material such as glass.
So, this is all well and good, but why would a design like this be a possible candidate for the iPhone 6? The reason is the use of flexible AMOLED screen technology. The patent itself points out that the use of AMOLED would be necessary to provide the curved display for such a design, and it appears that by 20144, the technology should be ready for primetime.
It may be hard to imagine that a device like this could be only a year or so away — it would by far advance the iPhone technologically, and offer users a whole new level of functionality.
By Michael Nace