Future iPhone to have transparent wraparound display – and no physical buttons?

New Apple patents hint at possible features for a future iPhone, but do we really want a button-free phone?

Apple has been granted a bunch of new patents and, as always, that has sparked speculation over how they could be incorporated into future gadget designs.

Of the 36 new patents Apple has won, the most intriguing are to do with a transparent wraparound screen that covers the front, back and sides of an iPhone (so only the top and bottom edges of the phone are not glass). This screen, for which Apple could use a flexible AMOLED display, would incorporate virtual buttons for volume controls.

The wraparound screen would give much more space on the front surface of the phone for icons, games, videos and the like, while you could add more virtual controls to the side panels depending on context. For example, when using the camera app, a virtual shutter button could appear along the top edge – much easier to use than a button on the front screen.

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Hot-button issue

And speaking of cameras, the wraparound screen would have to feature optically transparent glass, in order that the iPhone’s main camera could work “through” it. In fact, the design could contain several cameras and use them to track the user’s face, automatically displaying content on the side of the phone the user was looking at.

We do wonder if doing away with physical buttons is entirely a good thing. This design would likely feature at least one physical button (for hard resets etc.) but the home, volume and screen lock keys used on today’s iPhone would be replaced by virtual keys. One of the advantages lost in this arrangement is the ability to control functions without looking at the phone: because you can physically feel these controls, you can adjust the volume with the phone still in your pocket or in the dark. That’s not the case with touchscreen buttons.

In any case, don’t expect to see a wraparound screen on an iPhone for quite some time – this isn’t something that’ll be found on the iPhone 6, for instance.

[Via Patently Apple]

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