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Apple files patent for screen with privacy-viewing options

Application describes technology integrated with a device display to restrict its angle of view.

Apple suspects there are times when you don't want the whole world seeing what's on your tablet.
Josh Miller/CNET

Apple is working on a screen that would allow for increased privacy on portable devices such as the iPhone and iPad, according to a patent application published Thursday.

Apple's application, entitled "Displays With Adjustable Angles-of-View," discusses using an electrically adjustable lens array that can modify backlight illumination to narrow the display's angle of view. While larger and wider screens have become all the rage, Apple sees the benefit of an occasionally smaller viewing area.

"Displays are typically designed to display images over a relatively wide angle of view to accommodate movements in the position of a viewer relative to the display," Apple said in its application. "In some situations, such as when a user of a laptop or other device with a display is using the device in public, the wide viewing angle is undesirable as it compromises privacy."

Rather than using an attachable filter, this approach would be integrated into the display in a series of substrate layers, with a layer of liquid crystal material sandwiched between. The substrate layers then might include a color filter and thin-film transistor.

The liquid crystal layer could then be controlled using electrodes, changing portions of the filter layer to a dark or translucent state and restricting the display's angle of view.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The application, which was filed with the US Patent and Trade Office in June 2016, was first spotted by Apple Insider.

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