About a decade ago, it might have been cause for a legitimate double-take if someone were to tell you in casual conversation that Apple was developing a new technology that would essentially make components of a mobile phone invisible when they’re not being used. Of course, it would also be equally as unbelievable to hear that Google (just a simple search engine ten years ago) was developing transparent glasses that would allow for a computer-interfaced augmented reality experience, or had already successfully created a driverless car. These things, however, are all a reality today, and what’s fascinating is how relatively unsurprising these ridiculously advanced technologies are to those of us who have grown up with the more recent technological advancements.
Since the introduction of the iPhone in June of 2007, Apple has successfully maintained its status as a developer of some of the most advanced and intuitive developments made to the smartphone and mobile computing in the history of either product. The innovative iOS operating system and its application to the iPhone and iPad products have made Apple a titan of consumer product design, development, and marketing — and the trend it set to continue, if the company’s most recent patent application is any indication of what’s to come.
The company has recently applied for a patent for a new development that will essentially render components of the phone invisible when they’re not being used. Having developed a technique that uses what’s known as polymer-dispersed liquid crystal display, Apple has designed a way to create screens that are essentially “curtains” whose opacity can be adjusted based on whatever the user needs at a given moment.
This is an important technological development for a few different reasons. Other than the fact that it yields obviously cool implications in terms of functionality and usability, it also means that phones using this technology can remain relatively small without sacrificing hardware like front- and back-facing cameras, or reducing screen size. Apple, with this patent application, appears to have noticed the fact that many of its competitors have developed phones whose screens and sizes are getting larger and larger. The problem with this arises when it comes time to fit comfortably in a user’s pocket — Apple’s new patent application takes square aim at this problem by creating a situation where hardware and screen space can be in the same place on a phone.
iPhone photography is no joke, and the increasingly heightened capabilities of iPhone’s cameras are one of the phone’s biggest selling points. The user experience and screen size are drawing points as well, however, and with this new patent application Apple hopes to have found a way to offer users both without needing to make an oversized phone that’s cumbersome or awkward to use. This new “invisible component” patent could seriously change the way mobile phones are made, and once again Apple finds itself leading the charge in this new and important development in the way smart phones are made.