Apple Patents Illuminated Bezel “Secondary Display”
There are plenty of rumors about Apple’s design plans for the iPhone 5, with many focusing on its screen. Will it be larger? Go right up to the phone’s edge? A new possibility we hadn’t heard before has been revealed through an Apple patent filing, using illuminated bezel controls as a sort of “secondary display”.
The idea outlined in the application calls for a ring of electroluminescent segments surrounding the iPhone’s screen. Portions could then be selectively illuminated to draw your attention to certain on-screen areas, or to provide feedback on device status. These types of displays aren’t likely to have pixel-level fidelity, but instead to consist of pre-printed icons: arrows, battery meters, and the like.
Apple discusses both using this auxiliary display just as a series of indicators, and also the possibility of reading them with touch sensors, letting them act as extra input buttons. The fewer inputs that have to live on-screen, the less display real estate is wasted on static buttons.
Now we’re running into some mutually-exclusive possibilities for future iPhone displays here; Apple can’t very well surround the screen with light-up indicators and also have it extend all the way to the smartphone’s edge. While the system described in this patent sounds really useful, the iPhone is largely about image, and a borderless display will look a whole lot more attractive than this option. Just, please at least keep it in mind for something down the road, Apple.