When it comes to smartphones, 2020 has already been pretty crazy. We've had folding phone drama, the Samsung Galaxy S20 series with incredible camera setups, and the world's biggest mobile conference has been cancelled. And it's only February.
But all that is nothing compared to what Apple has planned, if these leaked designs are to be believed. A recently-unearthed patent shows Apple is contemplating an all-glass iPhone with at least two screens – one at the front as normal, and one at the back. Yes, one of the best phones might become all-screen.
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Discovered by PatentlyApple (opens in new tab), the designs showcase a wraparound glass enclosure that effectively acts as an all-around screen, in that you could swipe an image away on the front, only to have it materialise on the back.
What possible use can this have, if you can only look at one screen at a time? Well, PatentlyApple also discovered the use of a "force-sensing system configured to detect a deformation of the first region and, in response to detecting the deformation of the first region, change an operation of the electronic device" in the patent's wording.
Essentially, if your screen cracks or becomes inoperable, you can turn the phone around and use the back of the device as a separate screen. However, what's not clear is how the rear camera array comes into play, but we expect this is merely proof of concept at this very early stage, and practical concerns aren't needed just yet.
In fact, the designs define up to six display regions, creating displays on the top, bottom and sides of the screen in addition to front and back. Perhaps these would be used to display touch-sensitive icons in lieu of buttons, as other smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung has mulled over using. It's also, like other premium phones with curved "waterfall" displays, a natural extension of the screen, adding depth to your smartphone experience.
It's worth noting these are early concept designs, and elements of the above could make it (or not) into future iPhones without realising the phone verbatim. Apple has also filed patents for wraparound glass enclosures for iMac desktop computers and its Apple Watch, with icons showing around the sides of the Watch in addition to its face.
If Apple's designs do materialise, it would certainly be a novel trick, and one people prone to cracking phone screens will absolutely love. Simply turn the phone around in your case, and you'll have a good-as-new screen ready to go. Just don't break the other side.