The new patent details a way to use heat while bending glass to achieve a particular shape — so who's to say that the iPhone and iPad might not one day sport a curvy glass screen?
The entirely straight iPhone 5.
Apple has patented a method that could help propel traditional glass screens into a flexible future.
The new patent, first discovered by Wired, was awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office. US patent 8,336,334 details a method of using heat while bending glass over a mould in order to encourage a particular shape — so who's to say Apple's iPhone and iPad might not one day sport the curved equivalent of a traditional, straight glass screen?
Apple's not alone in exploring the possibility of flexible screens for gadgets. Samsung, for instance, plans to show off a 5.5-inch flexible phone screen at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 next month. Nokia has also toyed with flexible phones in its research labs.
As part of the "slumping" process, the way glass is bent over a mould, Apple's new patent explains how the method can be used to dynamically change glass shapes to create a bend or curve without over stretching the glass or causing cracks created by air vacuums. In addition, Apple's patent focuses on the method, system and tools needed for this kind of high-temperature processing that can be applied to "small factor electronic devices", including mobile phones and user input devices — which may suggest a curved mouse or touchpad could also be a future prospect.
Apple is well-known for the vast amounts of patent filings it tends to submit. Recently, the company secured a patent that covers the design of flipping pages on a digital screen, as well as filing a patent application that could result in near-field communications technology becoming integrated with its Passbook app.
And, of course, there's no guarantee that a patent for a particular technology will ever lead to a commercial product using that technology.