Apple patent filing hints at iPhones with flexible displays

There have rumors that the “iPhone 8” will have a flexible display. I’m a little dubious, but the company has filed for a patent (number 9614168) for a “flexible display panel with bent substrate.”

In the patent filing, Apple says it may be desirable to bend an edge of a display to hide inactive display components along the edge of the display from view. However, the process of bending a display can create stresses within the structures of the display. For example, bent metal traces may become stressed. Stress-induced damage such as cracks may adversely affect display reliability. Apple says it would “be desirable to be able to provide improved displays with bent portions.”

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “A display may have an array of organic light-emitting diodes that form an active area on a flexible substrate. Metal traces may extend between the active area and an inactive area of the flexible substrate. Display driver circuitry such as a display driver integrated circuit may be coupled to the inactive area. 

“The metal traces may extend across a bend region in the flexible substrate. The flexible substrate may be bent in the bend region. The flexible substrate may be made of a thin flexible material to reduce metal trace bending stress. A coating layer in the bend region may be provided with an enhanced elasticity to allow its thickness to be reduced. The flexible substrate may be bent on itself and secured within an electronic device without using a mandrel.

Of course, 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.