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The best way to find out what Apple is doing is to check the patent filings at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Apple has a new patent filing for an iPhone that shows a wraparound-style, thin-filmed display AMOLED screen.  The patent details the design as a continuous-type screen, where the iPhone would be in a conical shape that could entirely be made up of screen, similar to the fourth generation iPod nano.

The filing said that the new seamless design is an effort to maximize the screen and sides of the portable electronics device, which currently aren’t utilized on a typical smartphone.  The new patent looks to use the sides and rear surfaces through a new wraparound display.

Apple offers a couple of options as to how the display would be designed including one where the device could include transparent housing and a flexible display enclosed within it.  In the picture below, the design shows a view of a the device where the wrap around display increases the available display area that “can be used for display of icons, data, images, video and such.”Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.55.05 AM

Apple also suggests a number of different geometric shapes that could be used with an all-encompassing external glass display.  One even mentions removable end caps which could allow more than one device to be joined together.

The patent also mentions built-in facial recognition as well as a method of layering flexible, see-through displays on top of one another in order to produce different visual effects, including the appearance of 3D.  It also talks a bout how physical buttons, such as volume and hold buttons, could be replaced by visual settings within the screen.

One cool feature the patent talks about is how intuitive the touch screen would be.  Through image capturing and facial recognition, the device would be able to determine what the user is trying to accomplish.  The patent describes the process as “one or more of cameras can be used to track the movement the end user’s face in the space around it, and as such be able to determine a general direction of the end-user and the field of vision of the end user and adjust the presentation of visual content by display accordingly.

It’s unknown when this technology, if ever, will be available, and battery life is likely to be a challenge.  However, with the AMOLED technology, which allows pixels to be lit up individually, as opposed to conventional LCD technology, where the entire screen is on or off, conservative power levels are now more attainable.

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