Last month we saw Apple was already getting creative with screen placement in its patent filings, with some wild and wacky iPad setups, but this latest patent is truly out there. A new patent, filed in April of last year and just published, describes a method for building a “portable electronic device with a wraparound display,” which sounds silly and amazing in equal measure.
Of course, “new” is kind of a relative term in patents. Apple actually first filed this concept in 2011, and was granted the patent in 2014. This is one of multiple “continuations” of that original filing.
From my reading of the patent, it appears Apple isn’t patenting any specific screen technology here, but rather a manufacturing process that sticks a flexible OLED display underneath a seamless piece of glass that wraps all the way around the device. The glass itself can be opaque in places, to cover up any unsightly seams in the display. Because OLED displays are lit up per pixel, any parts of the screen that are hidden by the opaque glass won’t be wasting power. Apple loves glass, if you hadn’t heard.
In the drawings there’s no example of where a rear-facing camera might belong on a device like this, presumably under the glass in the back. Interestingly, one of the filing’s flights of fancy is the possibility of a “removable end cap” that can be swapped for other modules:
For example, an end cap could be installed that would allow two devices to be connected together and act as one system.
In yet another embodiment an alternate end cap could have an improved camera or a different set of wireless antennae.
Not that it means anything, but while the drawings include a “data connector,” there’s no headphone jack that I saw.
There are lots of examples of phones with a secondary display on the back, and, obviously, the clear analog here is Samsung’s Galaxy Edge phones which wrap the screen over the sides. Also, I’d like to offer the traditional disclaimer here that Apple patents a lot of stuff that never ends up in a product. But hey, this is pretty wild, and sometimes that’s all I want from a patent.