These are certainly not the first flexible display related patent applications that we’ve seen from Apple. A few different Apple patent applications have received attention in recent months, including one for a slap wrist-style bracelet with a flexible display, and others for curved and flexible displays in various iOS device-like form factors. Today we’ve come across a couple of recently published Apple patent applications filed as early as September of last year that further show Apple’s work with flexible displays (via UnwiredView).
The first patent application, titled “Flexible Electronic Devices” is pretty straight forward: Apple is interested in methods of providing not only flexible displays but also flexible components like batteries, circuit boards, and the housing of the device itself. Apple describes a device that could respond accordingly depending on how a user was manipulating the flexible display. The patent applications provides examples such as the device shutting off and entering standby mode when folded, or a user answering a call or changing volume:
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As an example, a flexible device may be foldable so that the device may be folded for storage (e.g., in a pocket) . User interface components may be configured to sense that a device has been folded and to cause the device to enter a standby or off mode. User interface components may be configured to sense inactive deformations of the device (e.g., a folded or open position of the device) or may be configured to detect active deformations of the device (e.g., active twisting, squeezing, bending or otherwise active deforming) of the device
User interface components may be configured to initiate a response from the device to the detected twist such as turning the device on or off, entering active or standby mode, answering a cellular telephone call, starting a software application, changing a volume associated with audio or video playback of media, starting or stopping audio playback of media, etc. For example, twisting a flexible electronic device may change the operating mode of the device, may be interpreted by the device as a command to an electronic gaming system, may turn the device on or off, etc.
The second patent application, titled “Electronic devices with sidewall displays”, shows similar functionality related to flexible displays that could bend to form “front side displays and edge displays” that reveal various controls or become a second display of sorts (pictured above, right):
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. 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.