Apple patent hints at an Apple Watch with a circular display

Apple has been granted a patent that hints at an upcoming Apple Watch with a circular, rather than rectangular design. Patent number 9,940,866 for an “electronic device having a display with curved edges.”

Display driver circuitry in smartwatch screens is used to apply control signals to an array of pixels in a display. The array of pixels is used to display images for a user. 

Pixel arrays generally have rectangular shapes and include rows and columns of pixels controlled by vertical and horizontal signal lines. Data lines that extend vertically through an array distribute data signals to the pixels. Gate lines that extend horizontally through the array are used to provide control signals to the pixels of each row. 

Pixel arrays often have rectangular shapes. However, in the patent filing, Apple notes that rectangular pixel arrays won’t efficiently within a device having a circular shape. Circular displays can have bottleneck regions in which signal lines become crowded, leading to inefficient use of display area. Apple says it would “be desirable to be able to provide improved displays such as circular displays or other displays with curved edges.”

Apple Watch patent.jpeg

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “A display may have an array of pixels. The array of pixels may have a shape such as a circular shape or other shape with a curved edge. Display driver circuitry may supply data signals to the pixels using folded vertical data lines and bisected horizontal gate lines. 

“Each folded vertical lines may have a first segment in a left half of the array and a second segment in a right half of the display. Curved coupling segments in an inactive area of the display may be used in joining the first and second segments. Display driver circuits may be provided in top and bottom portions of the inactive area to supply data to respective top and bottom portions of the array. Gate driver output buffers may have different strengths in different rows of the array.”

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.