Future iPhones May Have Better Bendable Displays after USPTO Publishes Apple’s Patent Application

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flexible iPhone concept image

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently published Apple?s patent application which describes a new technology to be integrated with bendable displays. It talks about a new method on how to use tiny metal components in a way that prevents them from breaking when the display is bent.

As flexible smartphones are becoming more and more popular, phone makers are faced with the problem ? they should come up with a material that provides conduction but will not break or crack once the display is bent or curved at an angle. Metal is a very conductive material, but given its physical characteristics, it?s not suitable to be used in a bendable device. A handful of companies have tried to bypass that issue by using organic materials such as organic light emitting layers instead of metal in their hardware components. But the electrical conductivity of an organic material is significantly lower than what metals can deliver.

Apple?s new invention incorporates bands of metal traces to a flexible display that is able to adjust its shape without cracking or breaking. Patently Apple, an Apple-centric Intellectual Property blog site, reports that the company may use an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display in order to reach their goal of an efficient bendable phone or tablet. If implemented, that would be a radical move for the tech giant as they regularly use IPS liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels in their current and previous device models.

In the published patent application, this technology is said to work so well that the display may be bent or folded entirely without fracturing the metal traces inside. This is made possible by using ?serpentine? metal traces that are able to stretch even when pressure from different angles is applied. According to the patent, conventional metal signal traces are plain straight. Therefore, they are expected to crack or split when bent. But this new metal traces have portions that are circular or cylindrical, instead of the usual continuously straight shape. This property is what gives them the ability to be bent, rolled, or otherwise deformed.

Given the timing of this patent application, which was filed in the first quarter of 2013, this new technology won?t be applied to Apple?s devices anytime soon. The company is known to file patent applications all the time. In many instances, several of those inventions do not end up being used in their devices. Nevertheless, since flexible devices are gradually making it to mainstream markets, it won?t be a surprise if Apple eventually launches their own flexible gadget.


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