A display with a continuous loop?

By Don Reisinger
June 14, 2016

Apple has won a rather interesting patent that could dramatically change how you interact with the iPhone.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday awarded Apple with a patent for an “electronic device with (a) wrap-around display.”

CNBC earlier reported on the patent.

In its filing, Apple AAPL said that the flexible screen could be folded so it could “form a continuous loop such that images (still or video) can be presented in a wrap-around manner in which the images appear to be presented in a continuous loop.” The company added that its idea is to use as much of a device as possible.

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Apple says in its patent application that most device makers have “settled” into a device design that has “a display on one side and an opaque housing which contains the electrical components covering the rear surface of the device.” The company added that this design “leaves the sides and rear surfaces of the device unused or at best configured with buttons and switches with fixed location and functionality. “

Apple adds in the filing, “Therefore, there exists a need for an improved form factor for portable electronic devices which allows functionality to extend to more than one surface of the device”

Indeed, Apple’s patent shows how the wraparound screen could be used to show more icons than the standard four displayed on the iPhone. Apple also argues that the screen design could increase screen sizes, suggesting that perhaps the 5.5-inch display in its iPhone 6s Plus won’t be as big as it goes.

That said, in order for Apple to pull off a foldable screen, the company will no longer be able to rely upon the LCDs, or the liquid crystal displays, it has used since the iPhone’s launch in 2007. LCDs are too thick and rigid to be folded, making them unlikely to be used for a wraparound display.

However, as recent inventions of foldable screens from Samsung and LG have shown, Apple’s invention is possible with help from organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens that are both thinner and capable of being bent and folded. While such technology is likely years off, there’s reason to believe Apple’s invention—while just a concept now—might become a reality.

But like other technology companies, Apple often patents technologies that never reach store shelves. So, it’s entirely possible that its wraparound display will never find a home in the iPhone.

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Unfortunately, as with everything else related to the secretive Apple, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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