Apple’s 2017 iPhone – likely to be called iPhone 8 – is widely rumored to sport an OLED screen that will remove bezels around the display. Now a new patent granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) indicates that the iPhone 8 may have virtual buttons and switches on the curved glass sidewall. It’s quite similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Edge devices.

iphone 8 curved wraparound display
Image Source: Screenshot / YouTube

There will be an artificial break between the front and side screens

However, Apple is not copying Samsung’s idea of a curved display. The Cupertino company had applied for the patent in May 2014, well before its Korean rival released its first Edge phone. Unlike the Galaxy Edge devices that have a continuous display from front to the side, Apple’s patent filing suggests that it would include an artificial break between the front and side screens, even though the iPhone will have a single display.

iPhone 8 patent

The Cupertino company said in its patent filing that the “edge displays may be separated from front side displays or from other edge displays using patterned housing members, printed or painted masks, or by selectively activating and inactivating display pixels associated with the flexible display.” The edge screens will function as virtual switches, virtual buttons or informational displays that will supplement the “front side displays.”

Will Apple include this technology in iPhone 8?

Apple added that the virtual buttons could include haptic feedback components, transparent button members and/or audio feedback components to provide feedback to users when the virtual buttons are activated. The patent filing also describes that gestures could be used to bring up different control options on the edge of the screen.

It is too early to say whether the new patent will be incorporated in the iPhone 8, though the device is expected to feature a curved screen. According to Patently Apple, the tech giant has revised the patent three times in the last 15 months. It indicates that Apple is actively working on the technology. In the revised patents, it has clarified that the electronic device is a cellular telephone and the transparent cover layer comprises glass.

The iPhone 8 is also expected to feature dual-SIM and TSMC-made A11 processor.