Corning has announced “title="corning gorilla glass 3d announcement">Manufacturing Readiness for 3D-Shaped Gorilla Glass” in advance of CES next week in Las Vegas. Immediately, speculation has turned to how Apple might make use of this new material in its upcoming products. Daisuke Wakabiashi writes in The Wall Street Journal Digits blog that, “An iWatch and a curved iPhone with a bigger display are among the most-mentioned possible products for Apple’s pipeline this year. Both are expected to require a curved display, a feature currently missing from Apple’s existing line-up.”
Both products are possible without the ability to engineer curves, but the user experience of both would likely be improved by such a capability. Corning’s statement asserts that, “More than half of the top 10 smartphone manufacturers already market devices that incorporate cover glass with subtle curves, and the demand for even more-dramatic form factors is increasing.” LG’s G Flex is the first curved and flexible smartphone but it is only available in South Korea and a few additional Asian markets for now. And Samsung just published a patent for a curved display that could find its way into this years Galaxy 5S and Note 4.
Fortunately, the Apple Fantasy Prototyping League (AFPL) keeps adding new members and keeping pace with all of these rumors. Just a few days ago, Dutch designer Lewi Hussey posted the concept above for a curved and large screen iPhone 6 (see video below as well.) How useful would this be? Certainly the ability to have the part of the phone you listen to and the part you talk into not just be a slab (like the design of, you know, a phone!) would be an advantage. I don’t know how common it is, but I seem to inadvertently put my iPhone on speaker frequently with my cheek. A curved design would also increase the pocket options for stowage, but it is the flexibility more than the curvature that will really help that scenario.
Many of the more plausible iWatch concepts, as well, feature curved screens. The tradeoff between screen size, battery life and comfort can be finessed with a screen that can wrap around the wrist. Another Dutch designer, charter AFPL member Martin Hajek, has been busy working on iWatch concepts for the past year that sport curved screens (see image below.) Hajek’s watch designs are fairly conservative (they look like, you know, a watch!) while some others aspire to bangle-like abstraction. Either way, the curvature cuts down on the Samsung Galaxy Gear clunk-factor.
How to explain all of these curves coming out of the Netherlands? A revolt against Mondrian? Lax marijuana laws? The effect of growing up wearing clogs? I don’t know. But Hajek has been working on a cool, curved Apple TV concept as well (see below.)
The advantage for Apple of going with Gorilla Glass would be to avoid getting entangled with Samsung or LG’s patents. It’s clear that between the iPhone, the iWatch and the AppleTV, curved glass could have a big future for Apple.
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