iPhone with OLED displays on the sides, fully flexible iDevices show up in Apple’s patent apps
Apple is doing some serious R&D in flexible displays, other flexible electronics. And their efforts are now starting to show up in public with increasing frequency, via various patent apps.
Few weeks ago we told you about Apple’s iWatch patent app and the iPhone with wrap-around display. Before that we had those crazy ideas of integrating microphones and speakers directly into the flexible screen surfaces.
Now, two more applications by Apple were published by World Intellectual Property Organization. One of them shows an iPhone where flexible display sidewalls to replace and expand control buttons. Another one talks about more far-out things, such as fully flexible electronic devices.
The first patent app is called “Electronic devices with sidewall displays”. The idea is to split the iPhone’s flexible display into two parts – the main front touch screen, and control area for a sidewall, after a bend. This way Apple gets to replace physical volume keys with programmable touch controls for camera, music player and other stuff, plus gets some additional screen real estate to display messages and other info without turning on the main display.
The other patent application, called “Flexible electronic devices”, goes beyond the displays and explores how to build an iPhone with flexible housing, circuit boards and even batteries. Such a device could also include flex sensors that can be used to control the handset by bending, twisting and other means.
Apple is not the only company exploring the future of flexible electronics. This January Samsung showed flexible OLED phone prototype, that is pretty similar to an iPhone with sidewall displays. And Nokia demoed flexible phone prototype way back in 2011. But Nokia is notoriously bad at turning its R&D projects into marketable devices. And Samsung still has to show it can create truly innovative integrated products, with yet to be imagined capabilities technology such as flexible electronics will allow.
That gives Apple a good opportunity to develop a new generation of flex iDevices and leave competition scrambling once again. And the rate at which new Apple flexible device patent apps are now starting to show up, reminds me of pre-iPhone days, when we were guessing what those multi-touch patents were all about.
Maybe the new flex revolution is not too far away.