A new video rendering of an iPhone 6 with wraparound screen as seen in a recent Apple patent is fun — but the design fails to show how a screen on both sides would make any sense.
There is a definite disconnect between the iPhone that we all dream of and the iPhone that Apple designs and manufactures. To give you an idea of how easily bored and fickle we humans are, the general concept of the smartphone is already passé — it isn’t enough that our entire lives seems to focus around these incredible mobile devices. Now — and always — we need the design to go in a new, bold direction. Hence the continuous anticipation and disappointment associated with iPhone releases.
The iPhone community has already given up on the 5S, as we know that it’ll be only an incremental change. A great deal of hope, however, has been invested in the future release of the iPhone 6, ostensibly in 2014. Adding to the mystique is the appearance of an eyebrow-raising Apple patent, which depicts an iPhone form factor with no defined bezel and displays on both sides of the device. The patent has captivated imaginations not only because of its timing — the patent has been filed seemingly with enough time to implement its design in 2014 — but also because the design itself would seem to be possible, thanks to the maturation of flexible AMOLED screen technology, which seems like it’s getting ready to burst onto the smartphone scene.
In prompt fashion, the iPhone mock-up’ers have put together a cool, fun rendering of how this iPhone 6 could look. It’s fun to look at, but did the designers figure out even one practical use for having a screen on the rear side of an iPhone?
The embedded video above not only gives us a bit more to look at, but the conceptual artists have tried to put the iPhone 6 into motion, depicting how some of the features of the dual-sided screen might work toward the user’s advantage. Are you, dear reader, connecting with any of these features?
The first shot shows the iPhone with simply a secondary page worth of icons on the back. How would having icons on the back of the phone be more convenient than being able to flick over left or right to a new page of icons? If anything, having icons on the back of the device would only lead to more false clicks/gestures and the dreaded “pocket dial,” no?
The second sequence shows the screen off as an aid to multitasking, flipping over a video being played in order to allow the user to click on some icons. However, how would it be multitasking if you’d have to flip the iPhone 6 over — thus stopping you from watching the video — in order to do something else on the navigation? I don’t know what you call this, but it isn’t “multitasking.”
The third sequence takes a look at the side of the device, where the screen bends to connect with the rear screen. This area has been appropriated much in the way that rumor mills in the past imagined a “smart bezel” someday that could offer the user more controls. For my money, this might be the one feature that the concept artists came up with that registers as a possibly “practical” feature of the overall design. However, I question whether we’d really need a screen on the back of the device in order to make this AMOLED smart bezel a reality?
The fourth sequence is really bizarre. It shows what looks to be a mobile soccer video game, wherein the controls for the game are on the underside of the phone. I’d like to be able to tell you how managing those controls would work, but the design is so cumbersome that the video doesn’t even depict it!
The fifth sequence shows “wraparound panoramas.” Ok — that’s cool, but why? Again — if the panoramic image is wrapping around the device, the user can only see one side of it at a time. This is another “cool” feature that would have no practical application whatsoever.
If you were to say that I was being extremely cynical about this iPhone 6 concept design, you’d be totally right. I attribute little redeeming value to the design concepts outlined in the video above. That being said, I like the general premise of the dual screen. I was one of the few who bought the dual-screened Kyrocera Echo. I’ve always liked the Nintendo DS, and now the WiiU’s use of a dual-screen design. Heck, I even had an el cheap-o fold-up LG mobile phone back in the day that had a tiny status screen on the top that showed the time, day, if you had messages, etc. To me, that very simple design was a good one — especially for a fold-up phone.
The iPhone 6 will not, however, fold up, and yet one would imagine that the use of the rear screen would have to be less about expanding the user interface and more about what — if any — benefit comes to having the palm-side of the device be outfitted with a display rather than a hunk of glass or metal.
It’s very possible that this design could go the way of the “clear iPhone” that we’ve seen time and time again. Yes, it’s cool — yes, it makes for good sci-fi. But Apple makes products that work, and in spite of their patent, if the concept makes no practical sense, there’s little chance we’ll see it turn into reality.
By Michael Nace