When Apple announced iPhone 5, there was a collective sigh from tech blogosphere . “Boooriiing…” – complained geeks around the world. “It’s the same design from 3 years ago” – added pundits.
And they were right. It was basically the same old design that started with iPhone 4. And no amount of hardware craftsmanship that went into iPhone 5 can change that fact. But fear not – Apple did not fall asleep and kept the old design out of laziness. iPhone looks are already pretty good, plus Apple isn’t a company to changes things without a good reason. And there simply was no new technology available that would warrant big design updates.
In it’s R&D labs, however, Apple has some wicked things cooking. They should blow you mind when the tech engineers in Cupertino are experimenting with, becomes available widely enough to be used in the next iPhone.
Some of these things are flexible displays with tactile keyboard, laser mics and speakers built into them. Here’re a couple of drawings of iPhone with convex and concave displays from a patent application published today.
But the shape of displays or devices themselves is not the most interesting or important part of this. It’s what else flexible surface of the display would allow Apple to do – like replacing and improving all traditional input/output elements of the phone.
E.g. – by placing an array of piezoelectric actuators below the display and activating them on demand for tactile feedback. This way you have a perfectly smooth surface when you browse the net or read your e-mail. Call up a keyboard, actuators pop up and now you can feel the letters as you type.
Since your display is flexible – it could be able react to the sound vibrations as you speak. So why not put a laser microphone behind the display to capture those vibrations, and get rid of traditional mic holes?
And if you can capture sound vibrations via flexible display, how about generating sound waves? No problem. Just put a transducer behind it to transform electric current into vibrations, add some support structure/barrier around it and that part of your flex display becomes a speaker membrane.
Put an array of transducers behind the screen and you got yourself a bunch of display based speakers. Get each transducer to vibrate differently, and now your iPhone can have subwoofers, woofers, mid-range speakers, tweeters, supertweeters, etc; – all of them built into a display.