Innovation

Will the next iPhone be curved? Apple pushes ahead with bendable display research

Apple patent shows off display technology that can bend without breaking, the latest in a series of filings by the company linked to curved touchscreens.

An iPhone or iPad with a curved display could be on its way, as Apple continues research into flexible screens.

Apple has filed a patent for a flexible substrate that "may form part of a display" and that is able to "resist damage upon bending".

The patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last week, is the latest in a series filed by Apple related to curved, touchscreen displays. Back in 2014, the USPTO revealed that Apple had been granted 48 patents linked to the technology.

In this latest patent, Apple demonstrates how the screen would be able to partially or completely bend over upon itself, as shown below.

apple-curved.png
Image: Apple
When describing the type of device the flexible electronics would be used in Apple doesn't specify, listing PCs, tablets, phones, watches, headsets and other wearables as possible candidates for the technology.

Speculation that Apple may use flexible screens in future devices was triggered by the decision of LG Display to invest KRW1.05 trillion in a production line for flexible screens at the Gumi Plant in Gyeongbuk Province in Korea, which is listed among Apple's suppliers.

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It's looking likely that any future flexible display found in Apple devices would be an OLED screen, which can produce deeper blacks and better contrast than the LED displays used in iPhones today. Last month it was reported Apple held discussions with suppliers Samsung and LG in December last year over increasing the production of OLED screens.

Apple's competitors have already had some success by adding curved screens to their top-of-the-range handsets. Samsung's recent S6 and the S7 Edge handsets were praised by reviewers for making the handset both more attractive and easier to hold.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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