Can you wrap your head around this wraparound display concept?Anna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
Flexible and curved displays are concepts that have been discussed for a while within the industry, yet it is only recently that manufacturers starting actually applying them to phones. We currently have two phones on the market in the world that use this type of display: The Samsung Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex. You may have already forgotten about the Samsung Galaxy Round, which features a curve along the length of the phone rather than the width, because it was never officially released in the United States. The LG G Flex, on the other hand, has aggressively targeted the U.S. market with this unique design. Although curved (and somewhat flexible) displays are new to the industry, it would seem that flexible displays are of interest to other manufacturers at this point as well.
The topic of this article is brought up with the news that Apple has won patents for a "wraparound display", which may not exactly be "flexible" in the same way as the G Flex is, but rather that the display itself is still curved - except for this time, it's curved around the sides.
Would the wraparound display be a practical design?
Most phones today are delicate creatures, and should be treated as such. Even if your phone is made out of some of the strongest materials, cracks, liquid damage and accidents still happen. One of the most perplexing designs I have seen on a smartphone was the iPhone 4 and 4S, simply because I could not understand why anybody would want the back of their phone to be made of glass. The front of the phone is vulnerable enough as it is if it were to be dropped on the ground - but now you have to worry about the back as well. It didn't stop me from buying the phone as cases could be used to solve that issue, but with a wraparound concept like this one I have to wonder if a solution like a case would even be an option if both sides of the phone serve a purpose.
Even Apple's famous "bumper case" solution wouldn't work here, as the patent also virtualizes buttons that are normally physical. The sides of the wraparound display would feature virtual volume rockers. You could probably relate it a little bit to how Samsung's designated camera button, or "Side Touch", on the Galaxy S5 is sensor-based, not physical. When it comes to this interesting design concept, we're probably going to have to think outside the box a little bit when it comes to actually protecting the device.
It might not even happen
Just because Apple has the patents doesn't mean they'll ever actually use it - or even if they do, it doesn't mean it will be used any time soon. An iPhone with a wraparound display probably wouldn't feature glass that is used to make smartphones today. The phone would be entirely too fragile without a real way to protect both sides (which would presumably have two sides with functional screens).
If anything, this concept is developed with the future in mind. We've heard about the brute strength of the material graphene and how useful it can be to several components in a smartphone, yet as of right now the material is still undergoing a lot of testing and development. Perhaps a wraparound display would be an ideal design for a smartphone when put to use with material like graphene, or something similar. But with glass today? The concept would be dead in the water.
Could the design even attract attention?
Looking at this initial design in the figure above might have you raising an eyebrow on whether you would even want to carry a phone that looks like that. It looks weird, the concept seems weird, and do you really have a need for a wraparound display? But as odd as it might look, there is still room yet to grow in this industry, and the only way to find out if a design works or not is to give it a go.
I have my theories about manufacturers and smartphones, one of them being that every manufactuer has made their good phones and their mistakes. With most companies it isn't hard to look back in their history and find one or two phones that completely flopped; Apple, however, is a different story. Although some iterations of the iPhone have been less successful than the others, I don't think I could sit here and truly say that any one of them has "flopped" - yet. But who knows? As they say, there is a first time for everything. I could see this design being crazy successful or just plain crazy.
What are your thoughts on this now possible design concept, readers? Are you on board with the concept, or is it a bit too strange for your taste? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!