Apple continues to work on Possible future Foldable iPhones and/or iPads with Curved Sidewalls and more
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent update from Apple that relates to that relates to iPhones with curved sidewall touch displays and foldable iPhone displays with curved sidewalls with touch capabilities built-in.
Apple's patent covers electronic devices that may have enclosures with walls formed from transparent and opaque materials. Display layers may be mounted under transparent portions of the walls. Touch sensor layers may be mounted under opaque and transparent wall portions.
The electronic device may have a front wall and opposing rear wall. Sidewalls may extend between the front and rear wall. The sidewalls may be flat or may be curved. The front wall and portions of sidewalls may be formed from a glass layer or other transparent member. A touch sensor layer and display layer may extend under the front and sidewall portions of the glass layer. A touch sensor layer may also extend under the opposing rear wall.
A foldable electronic device may have a flexible transparent wall portion that joins planar transparent walls.
In Apple's patent FIG. 14 below, display and/or touch layers may have curved shapes that match the curved profiles of curved sidewalls 12-4 and 12-1; FIG. 18 is a perspective view of an illustrative folding electronic device of the type that may be provided with display and touch sensor structures.
Apple's patent FIG. 27 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device with two flexible portions to allow the device to fold along two respective bend axes; FIG. 28 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device with three or more flexible portions to allow the device to fold along three or more respective bend axes in accordance with an embodiment.
While Samsung is preparing to unveil new foldable Galaxy smartphones on August 11, with a leaked image stating "The future will unfold in a new way. Very soon" – Apple has yet to deliver their first-gen foldable iPhone. Even Google is preparing to launch their first Pixel Fold phone later this year. So it was interesting to see Apple continuing to keep one of their foldable smartphone patents current by adding 20 new patent claims this morning in a filing published by USPTO.
Apple was just granted this patent back in April 2021 and today their continuation patent 20210223904 revealed the addition of 20 new patent claims. Below are four of the key additions.
New Patent Claim #1: "An electronic device, comprising: an enclosure having opposing front and rear surfaces and sidewalls, wherein the sidewalls have an opaque portion; touch sensor structures having a first portion that gathers touch input on the front surface, a second portion that gathers touch input on the rear surface, and a third portion between the first and second portions that is overlapped by the opaque portion of the sidewalls; and a display layer that emits light through the front surface of the enclosure."
New Patent Claim #10: The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the opaque portion of the sidewalls comprises metal.
New Patent Claim #11: "An electronic device, comprising: an enclosure having front and rear walls coupled by a sidewall; a touch sensor layer having first and second planar portions and a bent portion between the first and second planar portions, wherein the first planar portion gathers touch input on the front wall, the second planar portion gathers touch input on the rear wall, and the bent portion is at least partially covered by an opaque portion of the sidewall; and display structures that emit light through the front and rear walls."
New Patent Claim #16: "An electronic device, comprising: an enclosure having first and second opposing planar surfaces coupled by a side surface with an opaque portion; a touch sensor layer that gathers touch input on the first and second opposing planar surfaces and that is at least partially covered by the opaque portion of the side surface; and a display layer that emits light through the first and second opposing planar surfaces and that is at least partially covered by the opaque portion of the side surface."
To review the remaining 16 new patent claims, check out Apple's continuation patent here.
Considering that this is a continuation patent, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.