Smartphones are getting big. They're getting lighter. Most are getting wider, too. Ultimately, the trend of larger smartphones is mimicking how the very first cell phones looked: enormous to the point of recklessness. But the trend of increased screen sizes is showing no signs of letting up. So, how much bigger can they get?

There are very few manufacturers who have not responded to the competition by adding some extra screen real estate to their flagship. But the size of the screen is only half the battle. It has taken me a while to find my "sweet spot" screen size. At just under 5 inches, a display is perfectly manageable and useful for what I need. There's only one problem, most new flagship devices are either exceeding 5 inches, or matching it, and I am just a bit hesitant to go out and grab a smartphone with a screen that size. The other part of the battle is making a screen that doesn't negate the experience of the software. We have seen countless manufacturers add their fair share of tweaks to Android in hopes of making their device more useful in practice. But the size of the screen is still primarily limited by its software if these tweaks aren't successfully implemented. After all, who wants to use a 5.5 inch screen running Apple's iOS.

By now, I'm probably starting to sound like Anna, a fellow PhoneDogger who just can't justify jumbo phone screens. Luckily, there could be a solution in the distant future for us.

A patent outlined by Patently Apple, a blog devoted to reporting Apple patents, describes a patent filed for a flexible, wraparound screen. The screen would wraparound the entire device and could potentially project different images on either side. The patent also describes the device as devoid of physical buttons; virtual buttons would substitute. The patent goes on to mention that the smartphone's chassis would be primarily aluminum or transparent glass with an oleophobic coating to reduce fingerprints.

With that said, there are countless patents filed by Apple weekly, so just because the idea is out there doesn't mean it will come around anytime soon. Likewise, it wouldn't be smart to write off the possibility of a wraparound display in future smartphones.

(Spoiler alert! The iPhone 20 could come with a wraparound display.)

My first reaction to reading through this patent was that it would make the most sense with a smart watch. There has been speculation surrounding Apple's iWatch and its display. Some have reported that previous Apple patents and Corning's flexible Willow Glass could mean the watch would have a curved display. A watch with a contoured display that fitted your wrist would make sense.

But in all honesty, to me, a wraparound smartphone screen sounds farfetched, especially if you consider Apple's current predicament: the state of iOS. As you may have noticed, the button placements on each iPhone has remained consistent, which is hardly an accident. Apple has built iOS as the operating system which prioritizes simplicity and ease of use. If you were to change any hardware feature of the device, the entire software would need to compliment it in order to function. For instance, the home button is a requirement for the iPhone due to it serving multiple purposes: it takes you to the home screen, it launches Siri, and it opens the multitasking pane. With a display that wraps around, the virtual buttons would need to be baked into the operating system's code in order to allow that fluid, iOS experience Apple prioritizes.

Now, smartphones running any open source operating system like Android, Firefox OS, and Tizen OS, could easily implement software features more rapidly than a closed ecosystem could. With the open source blueprint, manufacturers can run away with the OS and add their own software tweaks and user interfaces to add value in their own unique way. Collaboration is just one of many perks of an open source platform.

There's no doubt that we are a long way off from seeing this technology in a smartphone. But if it does come to fruition, it could be a game changer. As smartphone screens have grown to tablet proportions, a wraparound display could supplement our desire for more screen real estate in the traditional two-dimensional sense. Unless you have a Google Nexus S, or Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the screen of your smartphone is a flat affair. By allowing the display to be used on its entire axis (front and rear sides), the experience of a smartphone could finally come to a point where it represents alien-like innovation.

Regardless of the idea of a wraparound display, the fact that it's even a possibility is a testament to the mobile industry. To think this is even feasible is pretty remarkable.

All in all, a wraparound display could be something we see in a future smartphone, but not without a major overhaul on the software front. With a screen that flexes, or wraps, we might start to see the size of smartphones level off, providing people like me who prefer a balance between size, and functionality, with a trendy alternative.

Does the idea of a wraparound display make sense? Could it fulfill our desire for larger screens? Would a curved display negate the benefits of a large, flat screen?

Image via PatentlyApple.

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35 Reactions to this post

"A new patent filed by Apple describes a smartphone screen that is two-sided. Could a wraparound screen supplement your desire for a large, flat display?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Alan Lucas Blackberry concept handset had wrap-around screen, looking similar to a book cover with the controls on the flat side, and that was in 2011.
Simon Redman I can't figure out how it would work. Wouldn't the screen on the back be constantly mashed by your hand holding it? How would you put a case on it? If you don't have a case, what's going to happen when you drop it? That, and I hate software buttons :)
Curtis Owens it has to be their implimentation that they are pattenting not a whole load of them.
Curtis Owens Its already been done by other companies. Not new. and pointless because you cannot view both sides at the same time.
Kelvin Chew omg I flip the phone n the screen crack up when I haven't even drop it
Lawrence Lepes Maybe they are trying a last ditch effort to get their fans back. I'm surprised that Apple isn't suing another cell phone company again.
Aries Bautista They have seen it in samsungs press release so they patent it first..typical apple.
Jeff Griffith What a waste of money patenting a dumb idea.
Paul Keefe Dumbest thing I've ever heard of
Derrick Simmons Cool concept design but Apple IOS is and will always be a garage in my opinion. Android all the way!!!!
Tiger Panomthonichakul where is the practical products? easy to hold any patents from apple? the way apple make the trade barrier?
Samantha Brown u can already buy phones with 2 screens
Neil Leisenheimer Hey, you guys, I have a new idea. Make a phone with a small, one sided screen! BAM!
Teron Facey The last time I changed Samsung put this in the S4. Watch Apple sue again saying they copied that when Samsung already showed it during their press release.
Andrew Bissel Not really. You could have a 3.5 inch wraparound screen all the way around but it doesn't change the fact that you'll strain your eyes reading it. (News articles for example)
Luis A Gonzalez Sounds and looks like what you would be able to do with Samsung's screen
Samantha Brown u can already get a phone with 2 screens
Steven Lam . 1: this idea has already been introduced many times, recently by Samsung, and others have said a few years ago by Nokia. 2. wraparound screen serves a different purpose vs a 5in display that you're looking straight at. 3. @ Kyle Krause, Jobs ideas didn't go to the grave with him. These are all ideas that were in development when he was still alive. 3.1 Most of them weren't his ideas, he just put everyone to work demanding perfection and then put his own face on the product.
Jibril Stixx Saleem sooo now people don't have to look over you shoulder to see what you are doing
Ronnie Franklin Hold on I got a call (flips phone over) Hello...
Camar Green Lol is what they saw when the looked up the Definition of Innovation. They should have turned to "S" for stupidity...I'm am sure they would see a Big Apple
Steve Johns It sounds weird and dumb
Kyle Krause That just sounds stupid, wish steve jobs was still around, exactly why I stoped buying there products. They went too shiiit
Naveen Shan Apple, no. Please stop. Please.
Gil Capate Samsung panel. Lol
Shamus Edward Valentine Nazario Apple should "wrap" a plastic bag around their heads n take a few deep breaths before court!
Tim Miyashiro INNOVATION
K.j. Littlejohn Doesn't seen pratical..
CeeGii Borels and Apple's stupidity continues

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