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

apple store logo
cchana/Flickr
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.

curved-edge1

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.

Product Review

Razer just made our favorite gaming laptop even more powerful than before

The Razer Blade, our favorite gaming laptop, is now more powerful than ever before. That’s thanks to the new Nvidia RTX graphics cards inside. Do they help Razer retain its edge over the competition?
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Samsung’s wide range of Galaxy products means there’s something for everyone

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 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.
Product Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are a brilliant combination of value and comfort

With six hours of battery life, an extremely comfortable fit, sweatproofing, and a very palatable price tag, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are putting all other true wireless earbuds on notice.
Deals

Amazon drops a sweet deal on the Kate Spade Scallop smartwatch for women

Unlike many other smartwatches geared toward women, the Kate Spade Scallop offers a more chic and minimalistic look. With this Amazon sale going on right now, you can get it for $109 off its retail price.
Cars

Lyft’s Shared Saver service offers cheaper rides, but you’ll have to walk a little

Lyft has launched a new ride option called Shared Saver that offers cheaper rides if you're willing to walk a little. Shared Saver designates a nearby pick-up point and drops you off a short distance from your final destination.
Deals

The 5 best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods, nice as they are, aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, and if you're looking to buy a pair of high-end in-ear headphones, we've got the best AirPod alternatives on the…
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. iPhone XR: Cut-price flagship showdown

The Samsung Galaxy S10 range has been revealed, and it heralds a new age of powerful technology. The Galaxy S10e packs the new power and design into a cheaper price point. But is it better than the iPhone XR?