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Future iPhones may feature interactive sidewall displays with virtual buttons

post #1 of 19
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As the launch of Apple's next-generation iPhone draws near, new documents discovered on Tuesday reveal the company is already looking ahead to future versions of the handset that may sport functional wrap-around displays.

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,723,824 for "Electronic devices with sidewall displays" which, as the title suggests, describes a method of positioning OLED or other flexible display type around the sidewalls of a portable device.

While not the first wrap-around display patent to come out of Cupertino, the latest property is less ambitious than previous designs and could feasibly be implemented in a near-future smartphone.


Source: USPTO


As noted in the document, the invention consists of one or more flexible display layers disposed beneath a clear plastic or glass housing. The patent calls for at least one sidewall to be fitted with an edge display that is an extension of the main front-facing touchscreen.

Interactive or touch sensitive portions of the side displays can be left uncovered, or visible to the user, while non-functional portions carrying circuitry may be masked with paint or otherwise obscured. The openings in the sidewall can serve as windows through which the sidewall display and associated touch sensitive regions are accessible.

By extending an iPhone's touchscreen to the edges of the device, users are afforded an expanded input interface that frees up space on the main screen. At the same time, the extra display real estate can be customized to show a variety of interactive virtual controls and features not possible with static physical buttons.



In some embodiments, the sidewall displays are assigned roles accessible in certain scenarios. For example, a number of app icons may be displayed when a user turns their phone on its side, or scientific functions may appear when a calculator app is in operation.

Alternative uses include slide-to-unlock functionality, music player controls, messaging readout, caller ID and system controls, among many more. All sidewall displays may be outfitted with gesture-capable touch elements, further enhancing their capabilities.

The benefits of having configurable "soft" display buttons are immediately apparent, as users can use the same sidewall display area to control or view multiple graphical assets. For example, an area of screen located between two physical volume buttons can show output levels, track name and other information. Alternatively, a display portion may itself be configured to display volume controls, negating the need for physical actuators.



Further, Apple's patent notes physical actuators like volume buttons may be transparent. In this case, a portion of the sidewall display sitting beneath the button element can be configured to denote a specific purpose. As an example, a single button can control track transport in one scenario and switch to volume control in another.

Because the invention uses a flexible display, a biasing member like a dome switch can be deployed just beneath the substrate's surface. When a user interacts with the virtual button, the display deforms and compresses the biasing member, thus offering tactile feedback.

The patent goes on to explain variations of the sidewall display structure that include feedback components and other alternate system implementations.


Illustration of transparent button with biasing member.


While the upcoming "iPhone 6" is not expected to boast sidewall displays or flexible OLED screens, the industry is moving in that general direction. Companies like LG and Samsung are using flexible display technology to differentiate their products among a sea of smartphones, but current designs are more of a novelty than they are useful.

Apple's sidewall display patent was first filed for in 2011 and credits Scott A. Myers, Stephen Brian Lynch and Anthony S. Montevirgen as its inventors.
post #2 of 19
Like these mockups?





They'll need to do some serious 'ignore accidental grip touches' in software, as holding the phone would obviously 'press' a couple of icons on the side(s).
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post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Like these mockups?

They said that the housing material can be a number of things so not necessarily glass. They could put the display behind perforated metal and it would just illuminate buttons when needed. The entire side of the phone could have a strip that can be physically pressed. This makes it easier to take photos as you'd just click the side anywhere. Sliding along it can zoom in and out.
post #4 of 19
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Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

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I like your way of thinking.
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post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I like your way of thinking.

Think, scrolling. No more accidental tapping of advertisements or accidental double tapping that zooms while attempting to single hand the phone and scroll with a thumb. Plus, this will make for easier one-handed use ; I'm thinking the index finger is used for scrolling while the other three fingers and thumb comfortably and securely hold the phone. And while we're at it, double tapping to zoom can also be off loaded to the index finger. Another capability could be swiping between browser tabs (with some way to invoke the tab view) and selection of a tab to view. In short, a lot of the single-handed navigation and operation can be augmented with interactive side panels. I think Apple is really going to do this well and make something very intuitive, just like they did with the original iPhone. Call it, multi-touch 2.0.
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post #6 of 19

So does this mean the case makers will have a harder designing something?

post #7 of 19

my first reaction was "solution looking for a problem" , but after reading the proposed usages in the comments above i now "get it" 

 

thanks guys. well explained

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by RadarTheKat View Post


Think, scrolling. No more accidental tapping of advertisements or accidental double tapping that zooms while attempting to single hand the phone and scroll with a thumb. Plus, this will make for easier one-handed use ; I'm thinking the index finger is used for scrolling while the other three fingers and thumb comfortably and securely hold the phone. And while we're at it, double tapping to zoom can also be off loaded to the index finger. Another capability could be swiping between browser tabs (with some way to invoke the tab view) and selection of a tab to view. In short, a lot of the single-handed navigation and operation can be augmented with interactive side panels. I think Apple is really going to do this well and make something very intuitive, just like they did with the original iPhone. Call it, multi-touch 2.0.

Great ideas! Hoping Apple can implement some of these.
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post #9 of 19
How Does This Idea Accord to Such Curved Side Design Mock-Up ?






Or Are You Saying Such Curved Side Design is ONLY i-Phone 6 Limited, though That Curved Side Design Mock-Up Never Has Been Confirmed Yet ?

But Anyway, Whether Curved or Flat, In Order That This Type of Concept is Relevant, At Least, I Suppose, Some Thickness Such As That of Present i-Phone 5S is Necessary, N'est Ce Pas ?





Then, Is Apple Going To Thicken The Phone Again After Thinning It At Most ?
post #10 of 19

I don't believe this makes any sense. Non tactile touch buttons that you don't look at while touching are counterintuitive. 

 

Scrolling. If that were the only reason, it still wouldn't be any good. Who the hell wants a bastardized version of trackpad scrolling on iOS? As it is since iPhone 1, you touch your content and SCROLL it. 

 

Apple experiments with everything, if only to prove that a vague idea is actually a bad one, and can be thrown to the wayside.

post #11 of 19
Perhaps a special Apple case with this kind of tech?
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

I don't believe this makes any sense. Non tactile touch buttons that you don't look at while touching are counterintuitive. 

Scrolling. If that were the only reason, it still wouldn't be any good. Who the hell wants a bastardized version of trackpad scrolling on iOS? As it is since iPhone 1, you touch your content and SCROLL it. 

Apple experiments with everything, if only to prove that a vague idea is actually a bad one, and can be thrown to the wayside.

I agree. I think curved displays will have a place but not as shown with the mockups here. I think the curves will be more subtle curve to allow for a more refined and natural lookng/feeling device as one might find in a wearable, but a smartphone display that wraps on the sides seems only fit for a cheesy sci-fi movie.

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post #13 of 19
This is at least 4 years away. As the IPhone 6 will not contain these features. Reisticly it's probably more like 6 years years away as Apple first has to eliminate the bezels
post #14 of 19
Originally Posted by BUSHMAN4 View Post
Apple first has to eliminate the bezels


But why would they?

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by BUSHMAN4 View Post

This is at least 4 years away. As the IPhone 6 will not contain these features. Reisticly it's probably more like 6 years years away as Apple first has to eliminate the bezels

 

If the wrap around screen became a reality, the bezels would be on the side edge along the rear plate, and would technically be eliminated from the front screen.

 

You would literally have an edge-to-edge screen

 

Like an infinity pool...

 

127191711_LeGray_409979b.jpg

ramonesteve2.jpginfinity-pool-singapore-chen_46147_990x742.jpg 

post #16 of 19
That would be cool, specially if it's made of sapphire for more protection
post #17 of 19
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Originally Posted by InteliusQ View Post

Like an infinity pool...

Wouldn't an infinity pool solve the world's water shortage?¡

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post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by InteliusQ View Post



1) Clever composition. The Marina Bay Sands Singapore hotel did a piss-poor job themselves:




2) How come I can see the source of your image when replying but all other .jpg are always embedded and have an apple insider.com/.../...jpg URL?
Code:
url="/t/179512/future-iphones-may-feature-interactive-sidewall-displays-with-virtual-buttons#post_2533191"]
<img alt="infinity-pool-singapore-chen_46147_990x742.jpg" [B]src="http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/461/cache/infinity-pool-singapore-chen_46147_990x742.jpg[/B]" style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.4em;">
<span style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.4em;"> </span>
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post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post
 

I don't believe this makes any sense. Non tactile touch buttons that you don't look at while touching are counterintuitive. 

 

Scrolling. If that were the only reason, it still wouldn't be any good. Who the hell wants a bastardized version of trackpad scrolling on iOS? As it is since iPhone 1, you touch your content and SCROLL it. 

 

Apple experiments with everything, if only to prove that a vague idea is actually a bad one, and can be thrown to the wayside.

 

They can easily add 'tactile touch' with haptic feedback where appropriate and since buttons, icons, shutter control etc... might be desirable to have the application that is running would give the feedback at the correct physical place.

 

I see no problem with having scrollbars along the sides - in fact I prefer the fact that I would not have to always have to touch my content and get finger prints on my screen. What a joy!

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