Sidewall displays the next frontier in Apple iPhone design?
A recently granted patent application describes a method by which Apple would place OLED or other flexible displays around the sides of a mobile device.
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Apple's iPhones and other devices might eventually feature technology that would extend their screens around the sides of the devices, if a newly granted patent is any indication.
Dubbed "Electronic devices with sidewall displays," the patent, granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday, describes how flexible displays, including OLEDs, can be placed on the sides of a screen to create a wraparound display experience.
According to the patent, the sidewalls would allow for expanded interactivity with the mobile software. Apple envisions the sidewalls being used for extra buttons and freeing up space on the front-panel display for standard activities. A wide range of gadgets could be suitable for "a flexible display having bent edges visible along an edge of the device," the patent says, including "a laptop computer, a tablet computer, a somewhat smaller device such as a wrist-watch device, pendant device, or other wearable or miniature device, a cellular telephone, a media player, etc."
Apple, like most other big companies, constantly files for patents related to technologies its staff is developing. In many cases, the technologies never make their way to devices, so no one should expectthe sidewall feature to be coming to an iPhone, iPad, or smartwatch. On the other hand, don't be surprised if a sidewall display does eventually show up.
The feature is feasible now because of advances in flexible displays. Technologies like OLED allow for companies to contort a screen to fit a particular shape, which could allow for new device designs. Among the new devices getting some curvature into their displays, to one degree or another, are the Samsung Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex .
CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the patent. We will update this story when we have more information.