The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application today that describes an invention that could be applied to wearable, rollable and foldable displays — and it could hint at a future Apple Watch design, as well as an idea for a flexible and portable ‘TV’.
Some of the figures found in the patent, “Display Module and System Applications,” point toward a possible new design for an Apple Watch — though it’s a bit hidden under the usually dense patent language. Rather than current-generation Watch devices, the figures show off a smartwatch with a continuous display running from the watch face through the band. As you’d expect from an Apple Watch, some embodiments of the device would include a face, band and clasp, as well as a processor, memory and communication module. Underneath the flexible display area would a network of LEDs and microchips.
Additionally, other figures included in the patent depict a “display system” (explicitly called a television as an example), which also features a flexible display. The TV described in the patent wouldn’t be a conventional television that you’d find in a living room, however. In addition to the standard ports like HDMI and USB, such a device would also contain a flexible battery, according to the patent text. To be clear, this TV isn’t the focus of the patent, but it’s an interesting embodiment of a flexible display.
Apple itself is no stranger to flexible displays. In November 2016, Apple was granted a patent for a bendable, flexible smartphone. Earlier that year, in March, Apple applied for a patent for flexible electronic devices and components. And again, in February 2017, Apple was granted a patent for a method of affixing OLED or LCD panels onto a flexible mesh substrate. So while we’re not sure how such a technology will ultimately end up, we know that Apple is at least exploring the idea pretty heavily.
As always, since it is just a patent, there’s no guarantee that the technology described within will actually end up in a mass-produced product. Also worth noting is that this is a utility patent, not a design patent. Basically, that means the figures only provide an overview of the system, and probably don’t depict any new Apple Watch or futuristic TV design in its final form.