Apple may be planning to follow Samsung into the realm of flexible smartphone screens, judging by a recent patent filing, revealed on Tuesday.
The ‘Mini Flexible Edge Displays,’ as they’re named in the patent, would sit on the sidewall of the handset and could take the place of physical buttons and on screen controls.
One interpretation shows the camera controls - shutter, flash and the stills/video switch - while another shows how the technology could be used as virtual shoulder buttons for gaming.
The handset’s physical buttons, such as the volume keys and mute switch could also be replaced by the new display technology.
The side-loaded display will allow the user to access different features depending on how they’re using the phone at the time. Within the patent, Apple also says users will be able to reconfigure it within the settings.
Patently Apple reports: “Apple later notes that active portions of the sidewall display edges of an electronic device may be used to create virtual user interface controls such as buttons. The buttons or other user input interface elements may be reconfigured during use of the electronic device.
“For example, the user input interface elements on the sidewall of an electronic device may be repurposed for supporting user input operations in different operating modes of the electronic device. Virtual buttons on the edge of a device may be provided in place of tactile input/output components such as physical buttons and switches or may be formed as part of a dummy button structure or other mechanical feature.”
If Apple is planning on going down this route, it seems the firm is taking a different approach to Samsung’s Galaxy Edge devices, which feature displays that curve around the edges of the phone.
Of course, Apple is awarded plenty of patents for technologies that never come to fruition, but it shows the company is at least thinking about the possibility of the biggest change to the iPhone screen since the Retina Display arrived with the iPhone 4 arrived back in 2010.
Would this be a good idea? Could virtual shoulder buttons improve the iPhone’s gaming prowess? Would it be easier to snap photos? Let us know your thoughts below.