Mar. 30, 2013: Your iPhone of the future may come with a clear glass body and a display that wraps all the way around.
Published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent application known simply as "Electronic device with wrap around display" highlights a phone or other electronic device that dispenses with the current flat design in favor of something much more flexible.
The display itself would unwind, or unroll, around the device to reveal a wider array of items. As a result, more space would be available to display icons, photos, videos, and other content.
Users would interact with the device using touch gestures rather than physical buttons. For example, swiping along one of the sides could lock and unlock the device as an alternative to using the current hold button. That innovation would've pleased the late Steve Jobs, who always envisioned an iPhone without any physical buttons.
The body itself could be made of glass, which would offer transparency and be strong enough to support the entire device.
The patent filing points out one potential pitfall. If the display wraps around the entire device, how would the phone figure out the location of the user? The device would use cameras and facial recognition technology to track the position and movement of the user's face and adjust the display in response.
Offering a touch of 3D, the device could even include two flexible displays, one on top of the other. The same content would appear on both displays but would be slightly out of phase on one display versus the other. "In this way, an illusion of depth perception can be presented mimicking a 3D experience," the patent explained.
Flexible displays have been on Apple's mind for while. The company filed for the "Electronic device with wrap around display" patent in 2011 and filed a similar patent called "Electronic Devices With Flexible Displays" last year.
A bendable, flexible display is hardly a new concept in the tech field. But if Apple's patents are approved and the company actually uses the technology, the iPhone could once again outshine its smartphone rivals as a more innovative device.
But Apple better not sit still. Competitors such as Samsung, LG, and Nokia have already demoed their own flexible screens for mobile devices. Samsung is reportedly moving forward on mass production of such displays for release in the first half of 2013, according to a Wall Street Journal story published last November.