iPhone 8 May Boast Wild Wrap-Around Display

Apple in recent years has put some effort into making your phone's touchscreen more responsive. Take its efforts with 3D Touch, which can summon up various actions depending on hard you press on the iPhone's display. But why restrict that to the front of the phone?

A new patent filing by Apple suggests it sees the sides of mobile devices as prime real estate for a touch-sensitive wrap-around display.

Credit: ConceptsiPhone/YouTube

(Image credit: ConceptsiPhone/YouTube)

The patent application, spotted by AppleInsider, covers "electronic devices with display and touch sensor structures." In the filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple describes a device, either with flat or curved walls, that would include touch sensors.

MORE: iPhone 8 Rumors: What to Expect from the 10th Anniversary iPhone

As Apple explains, front-facing touch screens aren't always efficient ways to use a device, because our big, fat fingers keep getting in the way of whatever's being displayed on the screen. "It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide electronic devices with enhanced touch sensor and display structures," Apple goes on to say in its patent filing.

That means insert sensors on the side of a handheld device — let's just drop the mystery and call it an iPhone — where you could register inputs with a press while keeping your view of the front-facing display unobstructed.

Credit: US Patent & Trademark Office

(Image credit: US Patent & Trademark Office)

If you're wondering what happens to volume sliders or other buttons in this scenario, Apple has you covered. They could turn into touch-sensitive sensors on the side of the phone, too. Apple even describes using touch input to control the phone's camera by way of a virtual shutter button on the side of the phone.

And should you really want to speculate about what Apple's planning, the patent includes drawings of devices with curved walls that are also foldable. This squares with a recent patent awarded to Apple for a foldable iPhone-like mobile device.

Credit: US Patent & Trademark Office

(Image credit: US Patent & Trademark Office)

So does this mean we can expect next year's iPhone to feature the kind of touch-sensitive sides described in Apple's patent filing? It seems a bit premature to declare this a locked-on certainty for the iPhone 8 — especially when Apple might decide to call next year's device the iPhone 7s instead. (That's not a rumor we believe, though.)

A curved iPhone is certainly rumored to be on Apple's wish list, and adding touch functionality to the side would distinguish an iPhone from, say, the Galaxy Edge, which has offered curved screens for a couple years. A patent filing is a long way from a product announcement, though, so this looks like a feature to keep in the back of your mind as the iPhone 8 rumors continue to circulate. 

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.