Apple Patent Could Lay Roadmap for Next-Gen iPhone
Patent filings are not an uncommon occurrence in the consumer tech industry. They come and go like utility bills. You see them. You may open them to take a look and see what’s up. Then they go in the junk pile. (That’s not just me, right?) But every once in a while, one comes along that makes you stop and dig a little deeper. And that’s exactly the case with a recent Apple patent filing that was spotted by Digital Trends.
In it, the site found more than just a few breadcrumbs of information. The headline note here is that Apple appears to be working on a technology that would allow the iPhone’s screen to act as a speaker. The goal, according to the patent, is to build a speaker in a way such that its pistonic motion (the up and down vibrations that enable sound to pass through) is improved. It’d be easy to disregard the iPhone connection as Apple is also in the midst of expanding its audio portfolio, but there’s one diagram in particular that stands out.
The peculiar shape seems to resemble the company’s flagship device—though it’s not the only bit of info dropped in the patent that suggests this is a technology that would be for the iPhone. Additionally, the filing references a “hermetically sealed barrier” around the edge of the speaker, which is something that almost certainly refers to maintaining the housing device’s integrity as a water-resistant product.
The reasons for wanting to attempt something like this make perfect sense. There’s a constant internal battle happening with smartphone makers and their smartphones—literally. They’re fighting for every millimeter of space within those devices so they can fit all of the required components, chips, antennas, and radios while also packing in as much battery life as possible, and ensuring these devices can remain waterproof. Apple bouncing the speaker mechanics from the bottom and top of the device to a construct that allows the screen to perform that function is just the next salvo in that battle that also could help to improve sound performance of future iPhones.
But while the screen-as-a-speaker thing, in and of itself, would be an engineering marvel, it’s not unheard of. As the Digital Trends report points out, Sony and LG both make TVs that use the screen as an active speaker component. The major difference there, though, is that those displays are OLEDs whereas Apple relies on In-Plane Switching LCD displays for a majority of the iPhones it produces. However, this patent could help to confirm recent reports that Apple is working to make a more serious switch to OLED screens for its iPhones.
So, while Apple is likely also working on a folding phone of its own, we know all too well that that product won’t see the light of day until it can be made in a way that lives up to the company’s standards for new product launches. In the interim then, they’re certainly doing their best to continue improving their current crop of old fashioned smartphones.