Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent application from Apple relating to possible future iDevices that support touch-based sidewall displays. Apple was granted their seventh patent for this invention on December 31, 2019 which originally dates back to 2011. Today the U.S. Patent Office published yet another patent with yet new patent claims to strengthen and protect this multi-patented invention.
Apple's 9-year-old invention which was well ahead of Samsung's Galaxy Edge smartphone, covers an iPhone's housing and flexible display that may be configured to form flat front and rear surfaces and sidewall surfaces for the device. The flexible display may have a bend that allows a second portion of the flexible display to cover some of the sidewall surfaces of the device.
Active portions (illuminated regions of pixels) on the sidewall edges of an electronic device may be used to create virtual user interface controls such as buttons.
The buttons or other user input interface elements may be reconfigured during use of the electronic device. For example, the user input interface elements on the sidewall of an electronic device may be repurposed for supporting user input operations in different operating modes of the electronic device.
Virtual buttons on the edge of a device may be provided in place of tactile input/output components such as physical buttons and switches or may be formed as part of a dummy button structure or other mechanical feature.
During operation of an electronic device, a virtual button may be, for example, a virtual volume button for controlling audio output volume and may be repurposed based on user input to become a virtual camera shutter button for taking a picture or may be reconfigured to serve as a controller for another device function.
Images displayed on the flexible display may indicate to a user which function is currently being performed by the virtual button. Predetermined inputs to the touch-sensitive layer on the edge of the device (e.g., tapping, sliding, swiping, or other motions of an external object such as a finger across the edge of the device) may be used to change the operating mode of the device.
In today's continuation patent, Apple is added key additions such as adding optical, accelerometer and proximity sensors; new haptics associated with touching the virtual buttons; side wall of an iPhone are curved; and believe it or not, they added "cellular communications circuitry mounted in the housing," something obviously missed in prior patent claims.
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.
Apple's continuation patent application 20200125193 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back Q4 2019 just as they were granted their seventh patent for this invention. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Side Note: The inventors listed on today's continuation patent are Scot Myers, Stephen Brian Lynch and Anthony Montevirgen. Long gone are the days when American engineers dominated Apple patents. Today, most of Apple's newer patents list engineers that are predominantly from Asian countries with Apple using H-1B visas.