Apple’s Latest Patent Hints at an iPhone With a Touch Bar-Like Edge Panel

Apple could introduce an iPhone model in the future with a dedicated touch panel on one edge, according to details from the company’s latest patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While several smartphones have previously been launched by other companies with displays that curve towards the edges in an uninterrupted fashion, the iPhone maker’s patent suggests the company could introduce a small, discrete display with virtual buttons, similar to the Touch Bar technology that was briefly included on its MacBook Pro lineup.

The patent, granted to Apple on March 12, is titled ‘Electronic Devices with Sidewall Displays’. It describes smartphones with “flexible displays” that are bent to “form front side displays and edge displays” while visually separating the two with masks or enabling and disabling relevant pixels on the screen. The document, published on the USPTO website, also contains diagrams that show the purported device equipped with edge panels.

apple patent 11928301 uspto apple patent

Apple’s latest patent describes the use of the secondary display panel
Photo Credit: USPTO/ Apple


The first image in the patent document envisions a device that resembles an iPhone along with a slim display located on the left edge, underneath two physical buttons. Fig. 8 shows the secondary screen being used to show the media that is currently being played on the smartphone, while Fig. 18, Fig. 19, and Fig. 20 show how song titles and artists names could be displayed on the edge panel, along with what appears to be support for vertical scrolling.

In addition to showing music and media playback information and controls, the secondary display could also be used to show contextual controls when using specific apps. Fig. 16 includes virtual buttons for flash controls, switching between photo and video models, and a shutter button — these will presumably appear when the camera app is open. Meanwhile, Fig. 15 shows app icons for Messages, Calendar, and Camera apps, suggesting that these could be offered as quick launch options.

The patent also proposes the inclusion of haptic feedback, as well as a transparent button with a lens — the latter could be used to navigate the user interface while using the phone. Meanwhile, Fig. 14 shows the use of the virtual sidewall buttons to form a virtual controller while using the device in landscape mode.

Apple has been granted the patent that enables the use of these sidewall displays resembling its Touch Bar technology, but it is not a guarantee that these panels will make their way to an iPhone in the coming years. The company has been granted several patents for technologies that are yet to make its way to its smartphones, and it remains to be seen whether a future iPhone model will sport these displays.

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