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Forget iPhone 13 — new patent teases dual-screen design

iPad with second screen patent
(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Apple could be shaking up the iPhone and iPad designs in a big way.

Among the Apple patents published this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one that could see Apple install a second display on the back of devices “configured to show text, colors, line drawings, photographs, animations, video and the like.”

An Apple patent showing a second screen

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Why would this be important? As spotted by Patently Apple, the main purpose seems to be to improve photography of people, as the rear display could provide “stimulus features” to make subjects respond with a laugh or smile just as the shutter closes.

Below, Patently Apple imagines an example where an iPad shows a subject an Animoji panda as their photo is taken — a handy way of grabbing a child’s limited attention at the key moment.  

An Apple patent showing a second screen

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

While the report mentions that the second screen could feature Apple staples like multi-touch, its main appeal could be something far simpler: selfie quality. The front-facing cameras on phones tend to be inferior to the rear shooters. With a screen on the back, iPhone and iPad users could massively improve the quality of their selfies while still being able to see themselves.

This could be taken a step further: if the rear camera is suddenly good for selfies, then the front-facing camera could be removed altogether, ditching the need for a notch and opening up the door to a true full-screen display. That’s likely a step too far, though. Apple’s Face ID relies on the clever series of sensors in the front of the screen, so it's unlikely that the TrueDepth camera is going away anytime soon. 

Plenty of patents never see the light of day, and if they do, they don't necessarily arrive in the form originally imagined. But we could see something like this for the eventual iPhone Flip or iPhone 14. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.