A new patent application from Apple was discovered in Europe this morning that reveals advanced iDevice flex display features. Apple's patent application covers a lot of ground including both flex screen designs and flexible components to make these designs work. One such component is a unique flex battery design. Apple's patent filing also enlightens us with the fact that bending a future flexible centric iDevice may also allow users to open a specific application, control a game function and so much more. In the end, the patent filing provides us with and overview of the the whole future flexible device concept that could eventually cover wearable computers, the iPhone, iPad and even aspects of a MacBook. Our report covers fourteen major patent figures. NOTE: The Entire Report was Updated at PM MST
Apple Patent Reveals Advanced Flexible Displays and Features
Apple's patent application which was discovered in Europe this morning generally relates to electronic devices that may have portions that are capable of being flexed.
Apple states that future flexible electronic devices may include flexible housing members and flexible internal components. Rigid and flexible internal components may be mounted in the flexible housing. Flexible internal components may include flexible batteries such as batteries having rigid and flexible portions, batteries formed from multiple rigid portions joined in a flexible joint, and batteries formed from flexible battery layers.
Apple also states that flexible housing members may include housing members with rigid and flexible portions, or housing members that are substantially all flexible. Flexible housing members may include hinges or elastomeric portions that allow the flexible housing members to flex.
Flexible housing members may have portions that provide flexibility in one dimension and other portions that provide rigidity in another dimension. Flexible housing members may have one or more multi-stable flex regions such as bi-stable flex regions for providing two or more stable configurations for the flexible electronic device. Flexible housing members may include fluid filled or air filled pockets for alternately stiffening and flexing the device.
Flex Sensing Components Can Translate into Commands for Features, Apps & Games
Flexible electronic devices may include flex sensing components for sensing deformations of the flexible electronic device. Deformations of the flexible electronic device that are sensed by flex sensing components may provide user input to the electronic device. For example, twisting a flexible electronic device may change the operating mode of the device and may be interpreted by the device as a command to an electronic gaming system or to turn off the device. Twisting or bendig the device in particular areas could also enter a phone into standby mode, start a software application, change the volume of your music, answer your phone or other function.
Future Flexible iDevices will be more Resistant to Impacts
Flexible electronic devices may be more resistant to damage during impact events such as drops because the flexible device may bend or deform while absorbing the impact. Deformation of this type may increase the duration of an impact thereby reducing the impulse received by other components of the flexible device. Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be more apparent from the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description.
Materials that Could be used in the Casing of a Flexible Display iDevice
According to Apple, a flexible housing for a future iDevice may be formed of a deformable material such as plastic, thin glass, fiber composites, thin metal (e.g., aluminum, etc.), fabric, silicone, other suitable materials, or a combination of these materials. In some situations, parts of the housing may be formed from dielectric or other low-conductivity material. In other situations, the housing or at least some of the structures that make up the housing may be formed from metal elements.
Apple's Main Patent Figures in Groups
In the first group of Apple patent figures presented below we able to see that Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an illustrative flexible electronic device; FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional side view, while FIG. 4 s a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative flexible main logic board formed from a flexible printed circuit substrate with electrical components.
Apple's iPhone 7 will be incorporating a flexible circuit in 2014. FLEXium Interconnect has already secured the order. That may or may not translate immediately to a flex display based iPhone, but it means that Apple has chosen a flexible circuit board supplier that could fulfill designs like those shown below should Apple decide they have the right design in place that could make an impact on the market.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1, noted components 24 and 26 may be proximity sensors, pressure sensors, touch sensors (e.g., a portion of touch-sensitive display 14), light sensors, magnetic sensors, capacitive sensors, or other types of sensors configured to sense deformations of one or more portions of device. These deformations could be translated into input commands as noted earlier. In fact, the outlining shown in patent point number 18 above could represent an invisible button associated with a sensor to activate an action on the iDevice.
In the second group of Apple patent figures shown below we're able to see that Apple's patent FIG. 7 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a portion of an illustrative main logic board with cutaway portions for providing flexibility; FIG. 15 is a perspective view of an illustrative flexible housing having portions of different flexibility in different dimensions; and patent FIG. 16 is a perspective view of an illustrative flexible housing of the type shown in FIG. 15 showing how the flexible housing may be less flexible in one dimension than in a second dimension.
Apple's patent FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a housing structure such as the housing having a flexible sheet such as flexible sheet 94 (e.g., a thin sheet of flexible plastic, fiber composites, metal, fabric, silicone, other suitable materials, or a combination of these materials) and a rigid support structure such as support structure 96. The support structure may be a relatively thicker material such as carbon fiber, plastic, glass, ceramics, fiber composites, metal (e.g., stainless steel, aluminum, etc.), fabric, silicone, other suitable materials, or a combination of these materials.
In the third group of Apple patent figures shown below we see that FIG. 22 is a perspective side view of an illustrative flexible electronic device in a tri-folded position. This particular design fits Apple's earlier note that flex displays could be used to form a watch; FIG. 23 is a perspective side view of an illustrative flexible electronic device in a partially folded position; and patent FIG. 24 is a perspective side view of an illustrative flexible electronic device in a folded closed position. The idea in figure 24 is to be able to fold a larger iDevice in half so that it easily fits into a pocket.
As illustrated in Apple's patent FIGS. 23 and 24, the device may include one or more multi-stable regions such as regions 110. These regions may include hinges or other bearings having discrete stable positions, elastomeric materials attached to or integrated into other portions of the housing or may include patterned holes, bulges, protrusions, openings or features for providing the multi-stable portions with one or more stable positions. Providing the housing such multi-stable regions may allow portions of the device to flex separately into multiple stable positions.
In the fourth group of Apple patent figures shown below, we see that patent FIG. 20 is an illustrative diagram showing two multi-stable positions of a flexible housing; Patent FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a rigid flex printed circuit that may be used in a flexible electronic device having a flexible housing with multiple multi- stable portions; and patent FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative flexible battery having flexible and rigid portions.
In the last group of Apple patent figures noted below we see that FIG. 26 is a perspective view of an illustrative configurable support member that includes locking spine system for providing flexible and rigid support for a flexible electronic device; and finally, patent FIG. 27 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative flexible housing having a configurable support member that includes a bladder system.
In the end, the patent is a generous basic overview of some of the concepts that will go into the making of a future flexible display based iPhone, iWatch or other device not listed here today, such a cool flexible display for a video headset that Apple has patented. Yes, that's one of the possibilities that such flexible displays could deliver. This is also where Jony Ive could take the iPhone into new and exciting directions that we can't even imagine today. And it all begins with flexible display technology that is discussed into today's patent application report.
Apple's patent application was discovered in Europe this morning as we note the EU database entry above. The patent makes reference to a US patent but the number comes up blank when you search for it in the US Patent and Trademark Office. The main engineer on this project is Product Design Lead Jeremy Franklin. Further details may be provided over the coming days ahead.
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