Last week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Samsung that puts a new twist to flexible displays. Up until now Samsung's Patents relating to flexible displays have been primarily in context with future bendable, foldable and/or scrollable smartphones and tablets. On Thursday a Samsung patent came to light that revealed a secondary display being added to Samsung's Gear smartwatch around the rotary dial area first introduced in Gear 2. However, the watch could be a new edition rather than a replacement. In this current design, Samsung notes that the rotation of the display is limited to 90 degrees.
Samsung's main patent figure below illustrates a future smartwatch with a side display to provide users with "simple information, such as a current date, a current weather, a current playing song, etc."
Today Samsung's rotary dial around the watch is used to allow the user to easily change apps they wish to use. Now the rotary dial will also be an illuminated display so users can receive simple information at a quick glance with the side display.
Samsung's patent filing is 99% technical about the chips and circuitry to accomplish the concept of a fully rounded secondary display with verbiage such as this:
"A smart watch comprising: a body portion having an upper surface and a side surface adjacent to the upper surface; a front display panel disposed over the upper surface of the body portion and comprising a round edge when viewed from a front direction; a side display panel disposed over the side surface of the body portion and curved to surround the edge when viewed from the front direction; a driver circuit board disposed over the side surface of the body portion, wherein the driver circuit board comprises a first pad area adjacent to the front display panel and a second pad area facing an end of the side display panel; a first conductive film configured to connect the first pad area and the front display panel; and a second conductive film configured to connect the second pad area and an end of the side display panel."
Samsung notes in their filing that the rotary display is limited to 90 degrees rotation. In patent FIG. 5B noted above, Samsung points out that the rotary display actually has two parts, as in an upper (A1) and lower (A2) display. Samsung never explains the purpose of the split in displays. That could be an interesting twist being able to display more information or different information at one time.
While the idea is simple, adding a flexible secondary display would represent another unique design advancement over traditional watches.
Earlier this month Patently Apple posted a report titled "IDC sees the Smartwatch eventually dominating the Wearables Market due to an Explosion of new Form Factors & Niches." The report pointed to concepts by Apple and Samsung that involved a large flexible display in the form of a digital bracelet as noted below that could easily be a replacement or alternative smartwatch design in the future.
Before Samsung could make the leap to a much larger and wider flexible display for a future smartwatch as noted above, their current patent regarding the addition of a flexible display around their rotary dial is where the concept can safely debut.
On that note the smartwatch concept looks very promising over the next few years as flexible display technology advances to the point of allowing displays to take on a stable rotary or circular form factor.
I think that such designs are what IDC is expecting to debut in the market over the next five years; the kind of new form factors that have the power to stimulate consumers to enthusiastically embrace smartwatches en masse. Today smartwatches remain a popular niche but little else.
Samsung filed their patent application back in March 2016. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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