Patent Watch: The Display-Integrated Antenna

Patent Watch: The Display-Integrated Antenna


Following the media spin that was “antennagate”(an issue Apple flatly denied had anything to do with the iPhone 4‘s integrated band-based antenna system, instead noting that the issue could be seen industry-wide)PatentlyApple this week highlights a patent originally filed by the Californian company earlier this year, in which Apple describes its invention of cellular antennas that may be able to be integrated directly into either a multitouch trackpad or multitouch display.

They report:

Apple’s patent generally relates to electronic device antennas, and, more particularly, to antennas for electronic device display and touch panels. Electronic devices such as handheld electronic devices and other portable electronic devices may be provided with planar dielectric members. The planar dielectric members may be sheets of glass or plastic and may be used in forming structures such as touch pads and displays. The planar dielectric members may be provided with one or more antenna traces.

The antenna traces on the planar dielectric members may form antennas such as monopole antennas, dipole antennas, slot antennas, loop antennas, etc. An electronic device containing a planar dielectric member on which the antenna traces have been formed may contain radio-frequency transceiver circuitry. A radio-frequency signal path may be provided that couples the transceiver circuitry to the antenna traces. The radio-frequency signal path may include a coaxial cable transmission line, a flex circuit transmission line, and electrical connectors such as spring-loaded pins and springs.

A display or a touch panel may have a planar dielectric member with an active central area that is occupied with light-emitting structures and/or touch sensors. The planar dielectric member may also have an inactive region that is free of touch sensor electrodes and display structures (e.g., an inactive region without light-emitting structures such as backlit liquid crystal diode structures or light-emitting diode cells). The antenna traces may be formed in these inactive regions or may be formed within the active regions. For example, a loop antenna may be formed in the active portion of a touch panel by surrounding indium tin oxide sensor electrodes with an antenna trace.

The unearthing of this patent is specifically interesting in relation to its relevance regarding the next iteration of the iPhone, with more recent reports suggesting the device could arrive with a completely metal back.

It’s a known fact that some types of metal commonly used in the manufacture of today’s smartphones and tablets do disrupt the ability for cellular antennas to perform to their full capacity – and Apple integrating these cellular antennas into the front side of the iPhone underneath the device’s own display could theoretically solve these issues.

Of course, Apple may also have plans to extend the coverage of these method to its line of portables, too. As an example, PatentlyApple cites that Apple’s recent ‘Telephonic MacBook’ patent could mark the start of this kind of future antenna implementation.