Apple has been granted their Eighth Patent for an iPhone with Touch Sidewall Displays
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to an iPhone with sidewall displays. This is Apple's 8th granted patent, with the original patent filing presented in a Patently Apple report in 2014. Apple's documentation dates the invention back to 2011.
Apple's patent abstract states that electronic devices may be provided that contain flexible displays that are bent to form displays on multiple surfaces of the devices. Bent flexible displays may be bent to form front side displays and edge displays. Edge displays may be separated from front side displays or from other edge displays using patterned housing members, printed or painted masks, or by selectively activating and inactivating display pixels associated with the flexible display. Edge displays may alternately function as virtual buttons, virtual switches, or informational displays that are supplemental to front side displays. Virtual buttons may include transparent button members, lenses, haptic feedback components, audio feedback components, or other components for providing feedback to a user when virtual buttons are activated.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device with a flexible display having portions on multiple surfaces of a device; FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrates side views of a portion of an illustrative edge-display that includes virtual buttons for selecting software applications and more.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent US 11507239 B2.
While the concept seems to be one that is outdated, the fact that Apple keeps working on it, and has been granted its 8th patent, would suggest that it's still an active project.