Patent report: iPhones with transparent wraparound displays, waterproof iOS devices

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights: 

A transparent iPhones with a wraparound, anyone? Apple has been granted two patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for mobile devices with a wraparound AR (augmented reality) display.

Patent number 9,367,093 is for a “transparent electronic device.” It’s for a consumer product that includes “at least” a transparent housing and a flexible display assembly enclosed within the transparent housing. The flexible display assembly is configured to present visual content at any portion of the transparent housing.

In the patent filing, Apple noted that most portable electronic devices have settled into a standard form factor: namely a flat planar form factor with a display on one side and an opaque housing which contains the electrical components covering the rear surface of the device. Unfortunately, this popular form factor, leaves the sides and rear surfaces of the device unused or at best configured with buttons and switches with fixed location and functionality. 

Since many of these buttons and switches have fixed functionality they can’t always be incorporated into third party applications. Apple says there’s a need for an improved form factor that allows functionality to extend to more than one surface of the device. 

Patent number 9,367,095 is for an “electronic device with a wraparound display.” It involves a device with a flexible AMOLED screen and all-glass construction. The device could present visual content at any portion of the transparent housing.

The device could include two screens. The second flexible display would “present visual content in cooperation with the flexible display assembly.”

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,367,100) for “electronic devices with submersion detection circuitry” that hints at waterproof iPhones and Apple Watches — or at least more water-resistant devices. Per the patent, a portable electronic device may include submersion detection circuitry for detecting when the gadget is submerged in water or other liquids. 

The submersion detection circuitry may include a barometric pressure sensor that gathers air pressure information. Control circuitry in the electronic device may monitor the air pressure sensor for sharp changes in air pressure indicating that the electronic device has been dropped or submerged in water. 

Various actions may be taken in response to determining that the electronic device is in water. If the electronic device is not intended to operate underwater, a power management unit may automatically power down electrical components in the electronic device in response to determining that the electronic device is in water. If the electronic device is intended to operate underwater, control circuitry may determine and track a water depth level at which the electronic device is submerged based on the air pressure information.