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Apple experimenting with touchless controls & curved screens for future iPhones

Though the technologies are some ways out, upcoming iPhones could make use of touchless gestures and curved screens as distinguishing features, a report claimed on Wednesday.

The approach reportedly differs from concepts like Samsung's Air Gestures or Google's Project Soli, relying on technology built into the display rather than any cameras or motion sensors. The feature won't be ready for at least two years — assuming Apple chooses to bring it to production. The company regularly experiments with concepts without necessarily taking them to fruition.

Touchless gestures could be particularly useful on an iPhone however, given the limited space for physical or virtual buttons. One conceivable use might be previews when hovering a finger over a photo, video, Web link, or editing timeline.

The report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg is the latest to reiterate older rumors, and Apple's patent filings from years past. The supply chain was expecting the development as early as 2016, with patent filings on the topic going back five years.

Another source indicated that Apple is working on OLED displays that would gradually curve inward from top to bottom. The approach would differ not only from devices like the iPhone X but the Samsung Galaxy S9, which is primarily flat but does wrap its display over the edges.

Any curved iPhone is liable to be two to three years away, the source said, and could be abandoned before then.

In recent years Apple has sometimes struggled to differentiate the iPhone. In terms of interface, 3D Touch — launched on the iPhone 6s — has largely failed to catch on in the way Apple originally envisioned. It remains to be seen how developers will adapt to the 3D-sensing TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X, which is mainly intended for Face ID and animoji.

This year's iPhones will likely focus more on size and spreading the use of OLED. Apple is expected to launch two OLED products, sized at 5.8 and 6.5 inches, and a less expensive 6.1-inch LCD model that would nevertheless have an edge-to-edge screen and TrueDepth.