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iPhone 8 and beyond: The future of smartphones

David Price | June 24, 2016
Future smartphone developments, from graphene and lithium-air batteries to holograms, OLED and motion charging

3D display

An iPhone in the near future could come with a 3D display, according to Economic Daily News, which claims that Apple supply chain partner TPK is working on a project that relates to "naked eye 3D screen" - in other words, a 3D screen that doesn't require glasses to see. Having to pop on a pair of 3D specs every time you use the phone would be a buzzkill.

...or hologram cells

But 3D is very 2009, isn't it? We'd like to see Apple go a step beyond and really capture our imagination with a hologram display, able to project the screen image as a three-dimensional hologram you can view from different angles and even interact with. You might have to wait a while for this one.

Flexible or curved screen

Apple's Patent 9,146,590 refers to an "electronic device with wraparound display", and describes a curved screen that allows for more screen elements to be displayed without making the device significantly bigger. (Remember that the illustrations rarely represent what the designer has in mind. In theory the display could wrap entirely around the device, or at least extend over one edge like the Note Edge.)

iPhone 7 release date rumours: Wraparound screen

While the patent talks about a "flexible display assembly", it's important to note that this isn't a patent for a bendable screen: the flexible portion of the display is attached to the interior surface of the curved transparent housing, which "provides a rigid support structure that prevents deformation".

But true flexibility can't be ruled out in the medium to long term. There are rumours, indeed, that Samsung could be making the display for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and that these would be flexible OLED screens - ET News says that Samsung is investing billions in new factories and equipment to keep up with Apple's display orders for its next iPhones. And bendy display proofs of concept have been common for several years.

We think such a radical step is more likely to come to fruition closer to the end of the decade, particularly for a company as cautious as Apple when it comes to updating the designs of established and successful products.

Sidewall displays


Concept illustration by Michael Shanks.

In May 2014, Apple was granted a patent for "Electronic devices with sidewall displays," which could lead to future iPhones with displays around the sides and edges as well as on the front. The patent suggests that the sidewall displays could be an extension of the main touchscreen, and they could have interactive or touch-sensitive portions.

 

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