The patent, titled "Flexible Electronic Devices", covers products that would include flexible housings and internal components, including a flexible version of an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display, reports Patently Apple.
The patent also describes the use of flex-sensing components that register deformations of the device and could be used as a form of user input. Bending the device could change its operating mode, for instance. Other possibilities given include assigning deformations to game control systems and using flex sensors to power a device on/off.
Flexible devices are also cited as more resistant to damage due to enhanced shock absorption on impact. Apple notes that the technology in the patent could be used in future versions of its iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and other wearable devices.
Multiple reports claim Apple will launch iPhones with OLED displays in 2018. Samsung is reportedly close to reaching a deal with Apple to supply flexible OLED displays for future iPhones and is said to be investing up to $7.47 billion in OLED manufacturing equipment to fulfill orders.
In addition to Samsung Display, the OLED panel orders may be spread out over a number of suppliers, possibly including AU Optronics, LG and Japan Display. All three display makers have supplied Apple with LCD panels for existing iPhones.
Apple is reportedly operating a Taiwanese factory where a team of engineers are developing thinner, lighter and brighter displays for future Apple devices. The secretive lab may be specifically focused on flexible OLED and Micro-LED display technologies for use in future-generation iPhones.