A future iPhone could have displays on its sides if this patent is any indication

Apple's iPhones already have great displays but a new patent appears to suggest a future model might have some on the device's sides as well.

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The current lineup of iPhones has some of the best displays we've ever seen on a smartphone, but Apple still refuses to offer a foldable iPhone in a market where other companies are leaning into such handsets with increasing regularity. That doesn't mean that Apple isn't working on something new or trying to innovate however, and a new display patent appears to drive that point home well.

Spotted by AppleInsider, the patent appears to show a phone-like device that has displays on the outer edges - where you would normally find the volume buttons, power button, and on the iPhone 15 Pro, the Action button.

A future iPhone could have displays on its sides if this patent is any indication 01

Putting displays on the side of phones isn't entirely new, however. Motorola and Samsung have both tried the idea of a display that wraps around the side of the display to offer a new way to interact with buttons and controls. But they've largely been moved away from because those buttons are easily accidentally pressed yet oddly difficult to interact with when you want to. However, Apple's implementation seems to be slightly different than what Samsung and Motorola have tried so far.

The images shared with the patent appear to show the sides of the iPhone remaining flat as they are today, rather than curved as has been the case with other devices from the two Android phone companies mentioned earlier. The patent also shows buttons and other information appearing on the display in a manner that appears to be similar to the MacBook Pro's ill-fated Touch Bar. We can imagine that some sort of haptic feedback would also be offered, making these buttons appear to be real rather than virtual.

It's also important to note that this patent appears to predate modern iPhones - the images show a Home button, for example. There also appears to be the potential for this technology to be used in a future iPad as well.

However, it's always vital to remember that Apple patents just about everything its engineers design, and employees are incentivized to gain as many patents as possible. With that in mind, we should always note that patents don't necessarily mean products are features that will ship to the public. It remains to be seen if that will be the case here, but as phones continue to become ever more impossibly thin, it's difficult to imagine there's much space on the side for anything - let alone to display information ont he track that's currently playing as described in this patent.

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Based in the UK, Oliver has been writing about technology, entertainment, and games for more than a decade. If there's something with a battery or a plug, he's interested. After spending too much money building gaming PCs, Oliver switched to Apple and the Mac - and now spends too much on those instead.

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