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Industry sources believe curved glass displays could be "the next big thing" in handheld devices, DigiTimes reported on Monday. They said that both Apple and non-Apple device makers are "gearing up" to release products with curved touchscreens in the first half of 2012.
Apple's competitors reportedly view curved glass displays as a way they can gain a competitive advantage over the iPhone maker. But Apple is believed to also be showing interest in curved displays.
"Apple reportedly has bought glass polishing equipment for its suppliers in preparation for the production of devices fitted with curved cover glass," the report said.
"Lens Technology, Fuji Crystal, G-Tech are said to be major cover glass suppliers of Apple. While Lens and Fuji focus on iPhones, G-Tech supplies mainly for iPad."
In May, the same publication claimed that Apple had bought between 200 and 300 glass cutting machines to produce curved displays. Apple reportedly made the purchase, and not its cover glass suppliers, because glass makers were said to be "reluctant" to invest in such equipment.
That report suggested that Apple's fifth-generation iPhone could sport a curved glass screen. However, since the report was issued in May, there has been no further indication that Apple intends to release a device with a curved display this year.
Apple has, however, announced one high-profile project that will prominently feature curved glass: the company's plans for a new "spaceship" campus in Cupertino, Calif., will feature curved glass around the outside, creating the giant circular shape.
"There's not a straight piece of glass in this building," Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said in a presentation unveiling the plans in June. "We've used our experience in building retail buildings all over the world. We know how to make the biggest pieces of glass for architectural use."
Curved glass is also expected to play a part in Apple's new Santa Monica store, with a large curved glass ceiling allowing in the California sun. But while curved glass has been a feature of Apple's architectural projects, it has not yet found its way into the company's portable devices.
A unique curved screen is one of the defining characteristics of the Nexus S smartphone released by Google last December. The search giant's second flagship Android device sports a "contour display" for its 4-inch, 480-by-800-pixel AMOLED screen.