Don't think the new iPhone 5 was enough of a leap over the previous generation of Apple's smartphone in terms of design? Well, a new patent by the Cupertino, Calif. tech powerhouse should have you very excited. The company has patented a flexible screen technology that could not only allow for curved screens on future devices, but ones that transform to feature physical buttons and actually emit sound as well.
The new screen type can be bent into concave and convex configurations as seen in the patent drawings above, but their flexibility is about more than aesthetics. For example, specific areas of the screens can be made to vibrate differently, replicating the properties of speaker elements and producing sounds. The patent also notes that they can be used with lasers placed underneath to act as microphones, meaning that the entire display could effectively be used to pick up your voice.
Perhaps the most interesting use of the flexible technology, however, is placing tiny actuators underneath the screen that can rise up and bend the surface into physical buttons for activities such as composing emails and dialing phone numbers — or even playing games. This aspect of the technology could go a long way towards appealing to those who miss the physical keys of mobile phones past while keeping a totally flat — or in this case, bent — screen for applications such as gaming and movie watching.
Of course, being a patent this information is nothing more than Apple saying it might use the technology at some point in the future. There's no telling when or if it might happen, but what it might mean to the future of smartphones is nonetheless exciting — just not literally exciting like Nokia's phone-linked smart tattoo.
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