Apple's new patent describes a curved screen smartphone with touch controls

apple store logo
Apple and Samsung may be prepping for a Supreme Court brawl over which company’s smartphone designs “inspired” the other’s, but if a new patent application is any indication, that has not deterred Apple from potentially opening that can of worms wider. A filing by the iPhone maker in early August describes, in essence, a page from Samsung’s playbook: edge-side controls for a device with a curved screen a la Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.

The phone depicted isn’t identical to the Note 7 or any other curved-screen handset on the market, granted. According to the patent, its screen — a single panel that theoretically stretches from the phone’s left-hand side to its right and bends around its bezels — would feature a thin demarcating line between its flat and curved surfaces. The separation would be achieved artificially “by one of three means: patterned” glass, printed or painted masking material, or “selectively [activated] and [deactivated] display pixels” — i.e., portions of the screen that would dim as needed.

Apple sees those screens around the margins as ripe for control scheme potential. They might contain “virtual buttons” or “virtual switches” which could trigger or control “lenses, haptic feedback … audio … or other components” when pressed. The document goes on to describe a gesture-based system of control — tapping or sliding across the edge could bring up video or music playback controls, for instance, or a truncated display settings menu.


If any of that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s reminiscent of the curve-centric software that ships on the Galaxy S7 Edge. Apps Edge, Task Edge, and People Edge, and lets you assign shortcuts to applications, functions, and contacts that permanently inhabit the display’s curved bezels. Information stream, meanwhile, relegates at-a-glance feeds like missed calls, messages, news headlines, and Facebook status updates to the handset’s curved screen. It lights up when someone calls or texts — you can associate colors with certain contacts — and third-party tools extend it further (one, coincidentally, allows you to control music playback from S7 edge’s side-facing screen).

Patents aren’t always great predictors of future products. Apple’s “magic” glove system has yet to make an on-stage debut, as does its ultrasonic Touch ID sensor. But that’s not to say a curved-edge iPhone display with killer accompanying software features will never see the light of day. Patently Apple notes that the patent has been revised “three times in 15 months,” suggesting internal development is ongoing, and the company filed a design concept for a handset with a flexible, wraparound, bezel-free display earlier this year.

It’s not out of the question that a future iPhone may sport a few of the aforementioned features described. But Samsung, no doubt, would have something to say about it.


Sidestep banking fees with the nationwide launch of T-Mobile Money

T-Mobile has launched its Money banking service nationwide in the U.S., and it offers an extremely tempting set of features for everyone, including industry-leading interest rates, a powerful app, and no banking fees.

Samsung Galaxy S10 update gives manual control of Bright Night mode

Samsung 2019 flagship smartphone lineup is here, and there aren't just two phones as usual — there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.

Breaking news: Samsung responds to reported Galaxy Fold display issues

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.

You've spent a grand, now don't skimp on a screen protector for your iPhone X

Wondering how to protect your new iPhone X against scratches and drops? Look no further than our list of the best iPhone X screen protectors, which includes screen protectors designed to reinforce your phone's front panel.

The OnePlus 3 & 3T both receive an open beta for Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.

Selfies are now banned at China’s gigantic Aperture Spherical Telescope

You can't take a selfie with the world's largest single-dish radio telescope anymore, as the Chinese government has banned everything from smartphones to digital cameras in the surrounding 5-kilometer area.

Charge and sync with the best Lightning cables for your iPhone or iPad

If you’re looking to replace a lightning cable, or in need of something a little longer or tougher, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 of our favorite cables for the iPhone and other iOS devices.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for April 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.

The dramatic BlackBerry Key2 Red Edition is now available in the U.S.

BlackBerry's Key2 is likely to be the best keyboard-equipped phone in 2019, with a modern look, some powerful specs, and totally revamped features. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.

The Best iPhone 7 battery cases to give your phone some extra juice

The iPhone 7 doesn't have terrible battery life, but you never know when you'll need to juice up on the go. To help, here are the best iPhone 7 battery cases that can keep your smartphone charged and ready for long-term use.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Samsung Galaxy Fold woes, zombie pigs, and more

Today's topics: Samsung Galaxy Fold, Facebook A.I. voice assistants, YouTube comes to Fire TV, facial recognition on airline flights, the SpaceX DART program, Yale's zombie pigs, and much more!

The excellent Moto G6 is just $99 from Google Fi for a limited time

Getting a cheap smartphone can be a great way to squeeze value out of your dollars. Motorola's Moto G-range has always been good value, but never better than this: Get the Moto G6 for just $99 from Google Fi.