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Apple Working on Huge iPhone Homescreen Changes

A pair of patents held by Apple have been published, revealing its ideas for a curved glass screen and new homescreen functions that could be coming to iOS 13.

An unofficial concept render of the iPhone 11. Credit: Concepts iPhone

(Image credit: An unofficial concept render of the iPhone 11. Credit: Concepts iPhone)

The two applications, filed in September 2018 and published on Jan. 24, were spotted by Digital Trends here and here.

A New Kind of Home Screen: Coming to iOS 13?

On the operating system front, Apple’s been looking at what other things it can do with the home screen. Its second patent shows the ability to add an icon for an individual contact to the home screen, which would be a direct link to their contact card and your communications across texts, emails, calendar events and phone calls.

An illustration of an iPhone homescreen. The 'Mike J' and 'Rocket Java' icons represent individual contacts using the patented function. Credit: USPTO

(Image credit: An illustration of an iPhone homescreen. The 'Mike J' and 'Rocket Java' icons represent individual contacts using the patented function. Credit: USPTO)

It could also display badges like any other app, so you could stay up to date with this exact contact rather than have your social apps bother you with notifications for everything.

MORE: iPhone 11 Rumors: Release Date, Leaks, Specs and More

This one has been worked on since 2008, according to the original patent cited in the document. Android users might be surprised to find that iPhones haven’t even fully developed this feature, let alone implemented it, as these kinds of icons have been present on Android phones for years.

Where this application goes further though is its use of location services. It proposes having these contact icons appear and disappear depending on your proximity to that contact. That could be useful if you’re looking for work contacts while in the office, for example, or for your favorite coffee shop to pop up and tell you about what’s on offer as you queue inside.

Experimenting with Curved Displays

The screen patent is an exercise in trying to improve smartphone construction. Having additional metal and plastic in smartphones to secure components limits the potential designs of devices, and increases their size and weight significantly. Apple’s patent shows a potential alternative, with the glass screen taking some of the strain of keeping the phone together.

One of Apple's design illustrations, featuring glass sidewalls. Credit: USPTO

(Image credit: One of Apple's design illustrations, featuring glass sidewalls. Credit: USPTO)

Apple’s design shows a few different variations, including flat, and convex displays, along with one shape similar to Edge screens, that forms the device’s sidewalls. The document shows how these would fit together with other parts of the phone’s casing, and discusses how these ideas could be transferable to other Apple’s other devices with screens, not just smartphones.

There’s a lot of potential and interesting applications for both of these pieces of technology patented by Apple. However, the usual patent proviso applies: these ideas will be years away from reaching devices you can actually buy, and may not even make it to shelves at all.