A New Apple Patent Offers a Radically New Vision for Future Smartphones

This could be big news for mobile gamers.

Apple will likely stick with its signature smartphone notch for the foreseeable future, but the company is looking to shake up the display design in years to come. With Samsung and a few upstarts hard at work developing an ecosystem around “foldable” multiple-display handsets, a new patent suggests that Apple’s looking in a slightly different direction.

It’s actually a series of new Apple patents, and together they suggest the iPhone’s successors will be more of an all-in-one gaming platform that can make better use of the augmented reality and gaming features the company touted this year.

The bevy of 37 new patents the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved and released Tuesday detail the designs for an iPhone with a screen that wraps all the way around it, almost like a smartphone crepe. Its internals would be completely encased in a flexible display, making it completely bezel-less and giving users access to screen real-estate on the rear and sides of the phone. The patents were first reported by Patently Apple.

The filings also explain how the device could use an accelerometer to detect tilt motions, as well as how users could use the rear screen to interact with the front screen. This design would make it an ideal gaming phone. Tilt controls could be used for racing or dogfighting games and the rear touch interface could serve as bumpers like the ones found on all gaming console controllers. In short, the findings suggest that a gaming-focused iPhone could be in Apple’s future.

A flexible screen would wrap around the phone's internals, creating a sort of smartphone crepe.

Patently Apple

Sections of the documentation obtained by Patently Apple describe the theoretical device:

“A transparent display cover structure that wraps around an axis of the electronic device…The control circuitry comprises an accelerometer that gathers tilt data…The electronic device has a front face and a rear face and wherein the flexible display layer is configured to display content on the front face based on touch input gathered using the touch sensor on the rear face.”

This design corresponds with Apple’s push towards AR and gaming applications with the 2018 releases of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPad Pro. A wraparound display could convert iPhones into gaming controllers for iPad Pros or standalone mobile gaming platforms.

View of a user interacting with the back of the device to control the front display.

Apple Patently

While this design could make Apple’s push into gaming more viable, the documentation doesn’t address where it would put its cameras. That much display would also take a big toll on battery life.

Patents, while they are a good way to see what concepts companies are spitballing, are not dependable gauges of product launches. If Apple does choose to move forward with this idea it probably wouldn’t be for at least a few more years.

But who knows, maybe the iPhone and iPad will be bundled together as a gaming console within the next decade.

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