Apple Explores Curved iPhone Designs

Nov 11, 2013 (05:11 AM EST)

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The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c have barely been available for two months and already reports of the next-generation iPhone are hitting the Internet. The latest suggests that Apple is looking to bring two large-screened devices to market during the third quarter of 2014, each of which will feature a curved display.

The two iPhones in question, according to Bloomberg, will follow the path set by Samsung and LG. Both companies announced devices with curved displays in the past month. Samsung introduced the Galaxy Round, and LG showed off the G Flex. Both of these devices are variations of earlier models. The Galaxy Round is similar to the Galaxy S4 and the G Flex is similar to the G2. Each uses slightly different technology to create the curved shape.

Apple's curved devices will come with screens measuring 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, reports Bloomberg. If the report is accurate, this means Apple will be branching out into vastly new territory for its smartphones.

[ Learn more about Apple's latest tablet. Read iPad Air: First Impressions. ]

First, the size. Apple's iPhones have kept to relatively small screen measurements. The iPhone 5s and 5c, for example, have displays that measure four inches across the diagonal. The 5s and 5c are much smaller than competing devices, such as the HTC One, which has a 4.8-inch screen; the Galaxy S4, which has a 5.0-inch screen; and the G2, which has a 5.2-inch screen. Further, Apple's iPhone displays, while fairly pixel rich, don't match the 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution that the three competing devices all share.

Second, the shape. Apple's mobile devices have to-date been compact, with the small size and weight prioritized over fancy features. Moving to larger devices that switch from flat screens to curved screens would be pushing all sorts of boundaries for Apple.

This is particularly curious given that phones with curved displays are anything but popular. Samsung has openly admitted that the Galaxy Round is a prototype. It retails for about $1,000 in Samsung's home market of Korea. There's no word if it will ever be sold in the US. Same for LG's device. These are the first two mass market devices to ship with curved screens. They are so new, neither has had a chance to succeed or fail yet. They could both fall flat on their faces, leaving Apple's move to curved displays a dangerous gambit. Samsung and LG say that the curved phones are more comfortable to hold and fit human faces better, but these are specious claims for the moment.

Bloomberg also reports that Apple is exploring screens that are more sensitive to pressure. Such displays could be more useful when interacting with certain types of applications, such as handwriting recognition. Bloomberg says the new sensors aren't far enough along to be included in next year's iPhones, though.

There's no doubt that Apple can no longer stick with small-screened devices. Whatever features are included in the 2014-era iPhones, they need to include bigger screens in order to compete with Android smartphones and Windows Phones, each of which offer devices with screens reaching six inches or more. Do the next iPhones really need to be curved? Not necessarily.