There’s no disputing that Apple totally revolutionized the design of smartphones twelve years ago when it debuted the first iPhone back in 2007. While others were quick to copy the design — and have been copying Apple’s designs ever since — Apple introduced the original iPhone into a world that was dominated by clunky smartphones with hardware keyboards, small low-resolution screens, and awkward styluses.
Even though the iPhone remains at the head of the pack, the truth is that these days it’s pretty hard to visually tell an iPhone apart from most of its Android competitors at just a quick glance.
With that being said, it’s probably not surprising that Apple is already making plans on how it can once again revolutionize the design of the smartphone and usher us into a new generation.
A patent application discovered by Patently Apple shows that the iPhone maker is continuing to explore plans to create an entirely new design of iPhone that would feature a “wraparound” display.
This is something that Apple has been filing patents for since 2013, so it’s not entirely new, but the continuation of it — the company has been granted six more patents for it in the intervening six years since originally filing the original — would seem to indicate that there’s something about this design that it’s seriously considering.
As Patently Apple explains, however, this latest patent is a “continuation patent” that reveals even more details on what Apple may have up its sleeve, emphasizing not only a display that would wrap around to both sides of the iPhone, but would actually form a continuous loop around the device.
An electronic device, comprising; a transparent housing that forms a loop around a perimeter of the electronic device; a flexible display that is folded within the transparent housing and that displays images across the loop; and electrical components within the transparent housing.
Apple also makes it clear that the “transparent structure” it’s referring to is made up of glass.
The purpose of a continuation patent is to clarify an original invention, rather than posturing a whole new design, so in some ways there’s not a lot new to see here — basically, Apple is taking its original plan for a wraparound display and just fleshing out the details by suggesting that it will be a continuous loop made up of glass, but the very fact that the company is doing this suggests that it’s pretty serious about it.
Apple has filed a great many patent claims over the years that have never seen the light of day in actual products, but it also frequently leaves these older granted patents to sit and collect dust, rather than taking the time to continue updating them.
Of course, this patent could also be largely defensive, since as Patently Apple also notes, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which has a habit of blatantly copying Apple’s designs, recently introduced an Android concept phone that introduces what it calls a “Surround Display” — an obvious adaptation of what Apple is working on here, and a move that would easily spur Apple to shore up its own patent portfolio to protect whatever future designs it’s working on.