Following Samsung and LG’s footsteps, a new report from Bloomberg suggests Apple is the latest smartphone vendor to play with curved displays. But does that mean iPhones are about to get a lot more curvy?
“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Apple is investigating curved displays and any other component coming on to the scenes,” said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis. “That’s what Apple does. Apple tests things out internally to see if they make sense.”
While it may be likely that Apple is experimenting with rounded displays, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the technology will come to market. Bloomberg is reporting that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is developing two new iPhone models with larger curved displays and enhanced pressure sensors that could be released next year. However, it’s likely that Apple is just testing the technology to see if there’s a way to commercialize it for consumers.
“That doesn’t mean, however, that just because Apple looked at something that they’re going to release it,” Greengart said. “They probably have watches, glasses, hoverboards, and who knows what else just to see what it’s like.”
Just a Gimmick?
Curved and flexible displays have been in development for quite some time, but Samsung’s Galaxy Round is the first consumer-ready device to feature a curved touch screen. LG soon followed suit with its G Flex handset, which sports a display that’s rounded vertically rather than Samsung’s horizontally curved smartphone. While the technology is impressive from an engineering standpoint, the advantages for everyday users remain unclear.
“The curved products I’ve seen so far don’t seem to have any appreciative benefit other than the fact that it’s cool,”Greengart said. “It definitely appears to be engineering for the sake of engineering.”
That doesn’t mean that curved displays don’t serve a purpose, however. Greengart speculates that these technologies could eventually evolve into more useful form factors, such as handsets with wrap-around displays or wearable gadgets.
“It is possible that by continuing to invest in these types of curved displays, we’ll get more flexible displays,” he said. “Or something that enables neat types of devices because it has flexibility.”
Although its unclear whether or not your next iPhone’s display will sport some curves, there’s a chance it’ll be bigger than the device in your pocket today. Bloomberg’s report also mentioned that Apple is testing 4.7 and 5.5-inch prototype displays– an idea that doesn’t seem outlandish to Greengart.
“There probably will be a larger screen iPhone at some point,” he said.
The iPhone’s 4-inch display could be considered small when compared against its competition. Samsung’s line of hot-selling Galaxy devices feature displays ranging from 5 to 6.3-inches in size. The HTC One features a 4.7-inch display, and Nokia just launched the world’s first Windows Phone phablet known as the Lumia 1520.
“The speculation is really simple,” said Greengart. ”We’ve seen that there is concerted consumer demand for larger displays.”
It’s unclear exactly what’s in store for the future of Apple’s iPhone line. Apple broke its own mold by launching the more budget-friendly iPhone 5c alongside the flagship iPhone 5s– taking some cues from its rivals by offering more choices for consumers. It’s possible that we’ll see the benefits of curved display technology in the future, but for now it seems like just a gimmick.
“To an extent there’s value in that as a component vendor,” Greengart said. “Sometimes you do something today that enables you to do something more valuable tomorrow.”