Apple has just been awarded a patent for a curved touch screen manufacturing process, stoking rumors about what the company could be planning for its next generation of tablets and handsets.
The US patent, No. 8,603,574, awarded on Tuesday, is for a manufacturing process that would enable a screen to remain responsive to touch despite the effects of curving or shaping.
As part of the initial filing made in 2010, Apple specifically provides examples of its use in displays, touch pads and even mice. It also explains that current methods for curving a display result in a less sensitive and responsive screen; the process creates ‘dead' areas.
Apple's approach uses a film that is applied to a screen or surface before it is shaped, which would ensure that its whole surface remains touch-sensitive once curved.
The filing also gives examples of more complex shapes, like waves as well as simple curves, that would be possible thanks to the process that Apple is patenting.
Whether or not the patent is a clear signal of Apple's future intent remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that curved and flexible displays are set to play a huge role in the future of mobile device design.
Samsung and LG, two of Apple's biggest competitors in the smartphone and tablet space, have already launched smartphones with curved, flexible displays as showcases for their own display capabilities.
Meanwhile, the latest reports from trusted sources suggest that Apple's next phones and tablets will both benefit from bigger screens and from higher resolutions.