It's been a while since Apple Inc., or any smartphone maker, made any radical change to the form of the smartphone — but that could change with the iPhone 8. A recent patent application shows Apple is considering a screen that wraps entirely around the device.
An Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Thursday, titled “Electronic Device with Wrapped Display,” reveals a device with a display that covers most of its exterior. To accomplish this, Apple proposes using technology such as a flexible OLED display panel or other flexible screen technology. To protect the display from damage, Apple proposes using a hard cover material such as glass or sapphire.
In one version of the patent, Apple also proposes using an accelerometer or other motion-sensor to detect the orientation of the smartphone in order to control the movement of on-screen objects. The screentilt angle could be used to manage how fast or slow content scrolls on the screen. In addition, Apple also proposes using the sensors to actively turn the display on or off from whichever screen the user is looking at.
The invention is not limited to iPhones, as Apple’s patent application also notes it can be used with Macs, MacBooks and iPads.
While the use of flexible displays would be a first for Apple, several manufacturers have used the technology in recent years, namely Samsung with its Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone and LG with its Flex line of handsets. Other than the Apple Watch, Apple doesn’t have products that use OLED displays. But it may start using the technology in the iPhone in 2018, as Samsung, LG and Japan Display are among the candidates to manufacture future iPhone displays for Apple.
As with many of Apple’s patent applications, it’s not known whether the company plans to use it. Apple filed its patent application on Sept. 25, 2015, and credits Apple engineers Scott Myers, Derek Wright and Fletcher Rothkopf for the invention.