Where Is Apple’s Touchscreen Going? New Patent Shows Hints
Patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) just keep pushing rumors that Apple will be developing an iPhone with a flexible screen that wraps around the sides of the phone — at least a little ways. A recently granted patent discovered by AppleInsider shows just a little bit more of what potential there is for an iPhone with a wraparound display.
Just over a year ago, the first detail of a patent describing a potential wraparound display for an Apple device cropped up. In the diagrams, the device had a screen that went clear around the sides and looped over the back as well, covering most of the phone except for the top and bottom. Though that patent came out well before the iPhone 5S, it may have been too soon for Apple to put the design into practice, as flexible screens and tech has a ways to go yet — as can be seen by Samsung (SSNLF.PK) and LG’s “flexible” smartphones that bend just a few degrees. The design, though novel, also seemed a bit impractical, as very few people can reasonably need a phone with a screen they can only see half of at any given time.
This latest patent blends a bit of the novelty of the earlier design with more practicality. Rather than suggesting a screen that wraps all the way around the device, it stops short, only going partway around one side or both. While both sides of the device could have touchscreen functionality, one may be a wraparound extension of the main display, while the other can be standalone screen space added to certain spots.
The touchscreen functionality would enable Apple to forget about the old volume buttons and even let the device have enhanced functionality on the sides. Though volume buttons can be programmed to do more than just change the volume, doing too many different things can lead to a mess of confusion. But since they would appear on changeable screen space on the suggested device, they could be substituted for any number of function buttons.
Confusion over what the buttons did at any given time would be mitigated by the display changing to show how the buttons were purposed. If they were switched to be fast-forward and rewind for video, the could display arrows instead of plus and minus signs. With the flexibility of that portion of screen, haptic feedback would also be possible, according to AppleInsider, allowing for the buttons to give the physical sensation of a button-press.
Last year’s patent came out about a half-year before the iPhone 5S, and there were no hints of the patent in that model. This patent has shown up even later in the year, and rumors are suggesting that the next iPhone could come out in August, leaving even less time for these new designs to be implemented, and thus probably less likelihood of seeing them in the next iPhone.
If you’re curious about what the iPhone 6 might look like, you can see a possible design for the device covered in an earlier article below.
As the expected launch date for Apple’s so-called iPhone 6 draws nearer, the frequency of information leaks from the Cupertino, California-based company’s Asian supply chain appears to be increasing. The latest leaked information is a series of renderings that purport to show the 4.7-inch model of the iPhone 6. China’s Wei Feng website — where the renderings were first posted – claimed that the images were obtained from “informed sources.” Although several industry commentators have speculated that the source of the leak may be primary Apple supplier Foxconn or one of its subcontractors, Wei Feng did not specify a source.
According to the measurements provided in one of the images, the device appears to be 138 millimeters (5.43 inches) long and 67 millimeters (2.63 inches) wide, which would give the device enough surface area to feature a 4.7-inch screen. Several media outlets have reported rumors that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 will be available in two larger screen sizes. Most rumors peg the screen size of the smaller model at around 4.7 inches, while the larger-screen model is believed to feature a screen size around 5.5 or 5.6 inches.
Besides aligning with previous rumors about the next-generation iPhone’s screen size, the renderings also show several other design changes in the iPhone 6. The corners of the iPhone 6 appear to be rounder than the current iPhone 5S, while the circular volume control buttons have been replaced with rectangular buttons. The renderings also show that the power button has been moved from the top of the device to the right hand side. According to Wei Feng, the power button was relocated in order to “allow users to adapt to a sense of grip due to changes caused by the big screen.”
The renderings also show that the aperture for the iPhone 6 camera flash has returned to the circular design found on the iPhone 5, rather than the oval “pill-shaped” design found on the iPhone 5S. One of the most interesting design changes that can be seen in the new renderings is an Apple logo cutout. This suggests that the upcoming iPhones will feature an illuminated logo on the back casing; similar to what is seen on Apple’s MacBooks.
While it is impossible to confirm the authenticity of these renderings, it is interesting to note that the dimensions and design elements found in these images appear to align with several previous leaks, as well as predictions made by prominent analysts. For example, iPhone 6 renderings posted on UkrainianiPhone last month featured identical dimensions and design changes. Similarly, in a research note obtained by 9to5Mac, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that the iPhone 6 would feature a power button on the side, rather than the top of the device.