A recent job post and two new patent applications offer more clues that the company wants to develop devices with flexible displays.
A flexible-display iPhone or iWatch may be on Apple's to-do list after all.
The company has already shown interest in flexible devices by filing a few patent applications aimed in that direction. A recent job ad and still more patent filings provide further hints that the technology is on Apple's agenda.
A job ad posted by Apple on April 1 specifically said the company was looking for a display specialist to work with LCD, AMOLED, and flexible displays. The ad has since been taken down, but 9to5Mac captured a screenshot just in time, revealing the full description:
Apple Inc. is looking for a Display Specialist to lead the investigation on emerging display technologies such as high optical efficiency LCD, AMOLED and flexible display to improve overall display optical performance.
The ad further stated that it needs someone to "analyze the trade-offs between design, process, optical performance, and implementation feasibility."
Adding more fuel to the fire are two new patent applications, also uncovered by 9to5Mac.
Filed by Apple in September 2011 and published by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 4, 2013, a patent application entitled "Flexible Electronic Devices" shows an image of a bended electronic device that looks like the iPhone. Apple describes the device outfitted with flexible components, including the display, housing, battery, and circuit board.
In one example, the device could be foldable so that the user can easily store it. Unfolding the device would then automatically turn it on or wake it up. In another example, the device would be twisted as a way to turn it on and off or perform other actions:
User interface components may be configured to initiate a response from the device to the detected twist such as turning the device on or off, entering active or standby mode, answering a cellular telephone call, starting a software application, changing a volume associated with audio or video playback of media, starting or stopping audio playback of media, etc.
A second patent application filed in September 2011 and published on March 28, 2013, is called "Electronic devices with sidewall displays." It points to a device with a flexible display that can be bent to show information and provide controls on both the front and side edges:
Edge displays may alternately function as virtual buttons, virtual switches, or informational displays that are supplemental to front side displays. Virtual buttons may include transparent button members, lenses, haptic feedback components, audio feedback components, or other components for providing feedback to a user when virtual buttons are activated.
Apple has been busy applying for patents over flexible displays.
A patent application filed in March 2012 described "Electronic devices with flexible displays." Another one filed in September 2011 envisioned an iPhone with a wrap-around display. And a third highlighted a flexible touch-screen device that could be worn around the wrist, a potential hint at the much-rumored iWatch.
Updated at 10:40 a.m. PT with links to the USPTO site and with a corrected filing date for one of the patents.