Bendable Glass IPhone in Apple’s Future? A Patent Says So

Samsung Flexible Displays


Rumors have circulated for months (and been confirmed by Korean manufacturer Samsung) that the company intends to produce flexible smartphones in the first half of 2013. Just a few days ago, word was published that Samsung would split into two companies, one of these being called “Samsung Display,” making televisions and other electronics (the other would produce chips and internal cards). Samsung Display has said in recent weeks that it will unveil a 5.5-inch flexible screen display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this coming January 8-11, 2013. Android fans all over the world anxiously await the new tech goodies that Samsung will present. A smartTV seems to be another surprise in the works. Time will tell.

At the moment, the bendable, flexible smartphones have been confirmed as the new invention that will make its way to consumer access by the summer of 2013. Surprisingly, Apple has decided to “consider” the idea. Yesterday, the company received a bendable glass patent that will be used to bend glass into more curvy shapes. The idea is that Apple may one day create its own “flexible” smartphone for iPhone users. This is an interesting action by Apple, considering that Cupertino never concedes to a company like Samsung in anything. Samsung has considered the idea of flexible phones, tablets, and displays since 2011. Although the Korean manufacturer will be the first to mass-produce the flexible line, it is not the first to consider it. The idea of flexible smartphones has existed since at least 2008-2009, when Sony was the first company to consider the idea (it could only create a prototype, and abandoned the idea). Hewlett-Packard (HP) was the next company, but it progressed no further than Sony. Nokia has its own prototypes but has never attempted to mass-produce them. Samsung Electronics would make history if the phone makes its way to carrier and retail stores by June or July 2013.

Apple is known for its constant patent filings, many of which never see the light of day. The Cupertino company filed for an augmented-reality glass patent some months ago, signifying its intention to one day compete with Google in the glasses arena. Now, Apple is following Samsung in the flexible display field, wondering how it would create a flexible product to stand out from Samsung’s. Apple has taken some other pages from the Android handbook, such as its “inductive charging field” patent (which is borrowed from the newly-incorporated wireless charging feature of Android handsets). Another recent idea copied from Samsung and the Android manufacturers consists of NFC. The patent was submitted a few weeks ago by Apple and shows Apple using NFC technology in its Passbook application—a major change from Apple’s response back in September. Here are the words of Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller:

“It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem. Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today” (All Things D).

Passbook may do the things that customers need, but Apple, apparently, needs Near Field Communication (NFC) if Cupertino hopes to compete in 2013. This patent may be one that the company never uses, but I think it is a part of Apple’s new strategy to regain lost ground. It may not adopt the technology tomorrow, but the company is at least considering it. We will have to wait and see if Apple’s “FlexiPhone” goes from patent to product.