We’ve been waiting for Samsung to launch a new smartphone with a flexible, wraparound display ever since the Korean company began showing off its new technology at trade shows like CES. But it may need to move a little faster if it wants to be the first to market with this new form factor.
A new Apple patent published today by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows the Cupertino company has been also experimenting with wraparound displays for the iPhone, which provide a more rounded form factor not too dissimilar to that of the fourth- and fifth-generation iPod nanos.
Apple revolutionized smartphones when it launched the iPhone back in 2007, and it set the standard for touchscreen devices. Cellphone manufacturers were experimenting with all kinds of weird and wonderful form factors prior to that, but the iPhone kicked off a generation of flat rectangular devices that best suit the large glass displays they carry.
It appears, however, that Apple could be looking to set a new standard once again. According to the company’s latest patent for an “electronic decide with wrap-around display,” future iPhones may no longer sport straight edges and flat screens.
Instead, they could be curved with flexible displays that wrap around the front of the device. Apple describes a number of different ways in which a flexible display could be employed, including transparent housings made from aluminum and optical glass that the display sits inside.
In one of its examples, Apple describes a device with two flexible displays that work together.
You can see from Apple’s illustration above what a flexible iPhone might look like. Note the volume controls on the side that are no longer physical buttons, but virtual ones.
This certainly seems like a form factor that would be better suited to the palms of our hands, but it’s unclear how practical it would be in everyday use. A wraparound display may not be as comfortable to type on, and it may not be as suitable as a flat display for things like gaming and watching movies.
They would be ideal for Apple’s upcoming “iWatch,” however.