Samsung and LG may be the first to launch curved display smartphones, but they certainly might not be the last. The United States Patent and Trademark Office just published a patent from Apple that describes manufacturing methods for curved touch sensors. Specifically, the patent covers the use of these curved sensors in displays and touchpads. The technology should allow for accurate touch-sensitive curved surfaces while preventing substrate warping.
Apple says that its patented technology would surpass the shortcomings of certain manufacturing techniques today. For instance, the patent notes that current touch panels can be difficult to work with because of their thin form factor. When placing thin films over flexible substrates such as plastic, the device runs the risk of enduring structural damaging if it gets too hot. The patent, however, proposes a method would deposit a conductive thin film over the flexible substrate while it is in a flat state. Once the electrodes are in place, the substrates would join to form a curved “forming substrate.”
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But what’s more interesting than how the technology works are the types of gadgets we may see it in. The patent’s text makes numerous references to touch screen displays and touchpads, and the included images depict devices that include these input methods. Figures 4A, 4B and 4C show what appear to be an iPhone, an iPod and a MacBook that could utilize such technology.
There’s no telling whether or not we’ll see iPhones with curved displays anytime soon, but the patent does follow rumors suggesting a rounded smartphone is in Apple’s pipeline. In early November Bloomberg reported that Apple is developing a new iPhone design that features a larger display and curved glass. The display prototypes are said to measure 4.7 and 5.5 inches in size.
However, the benefits of curved display smartphones are not immediately clear. Flexible properties make the phone’s display less likely to shatter if it falls out of your pocket, but other advantages have not been discovered just yet.
“The curved products I’ve seen so far don’t seem to have any appreciative benefit other than the fact that it’s cool,” said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis.
It’s also important to note that just because Apple has patented technology doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to see it in future devices, as Greengart points out. “They probably have watches, glasses, hoverboards and who knows what else just to see what it’s like.”