Apple has just been granted a second patent for a display that looks like it will be used for a folding iPhone. The tech giant won its first patent for a foldable iPhone back in November 2016 and on 16 October 2018, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted its second.
Apple has long been working on various designs for potentially foldable or bendable displays. While it hasn’t yet come up with a model that includes a properly ‘curved’ display, recent iPhone iterations do use a flexible display. For example, the iPhone X, XS and XS Max use a display that is somewhat flexible in that it can bend back inside the casing. This allows the user to enjoy an edge-to-edge screen. However, a visibly curved screen has not yet materialised.
Rumours have been around for years that Apple is working on a foldable display. This is partly due to information shown on various patents, and partly as it’s considered the next logical iteration for the iconic smartphone.
For example, the reported collaboration between LG Display and Apple shows that the company is working on some kind of foldable OLED panel. It’s likely that it would allow the iPhone to fold out to the size of a tablet. The report suggests that Apple chose to work with LG on a folding iPhone rather than risk a leak by collaborating with Samsung, as the latter company is planning its own foldable smartphones.
Covering all bases
An application for a patent was published towards the end of last year. It described a display designed to open and close like a book. The patent granted on 16 October covers different ways to manage the hinge of the opening mechanism.
The patent’s description includes the following: “The housing portions may be coupled together using hinges. The hinges may include hinges based on a three-bar linkage, hinges based on a four-bar linkage, hinges with slotted members, hinges formed from flexible support structures, and hinges based on flexible housing structures… The hinge may be configured to allow the flexible display to be placed in a front-to-back configuration in which an active side of the display faces itself or a back-to- back configuration.”
This is just a snippet from the densely structured description for the patent. As is always the way with tech patents, Apple has attempted to cover all possible permutations. The patent illustrations show a design for a folding iPhone with the screen inside it like a book. It also shows different designs with the display wrapping around the device on the outside like the cover of a book. And, just to make sure it’s all covered, there is a double-hinged design too, which does both.
Foldable Android phones
Foldable Android phones have already been announced by various developers. However, these use two distinctly separate displays instead of a folding screen. It looks as though Apple is developing a folding iPhone using a single foldable display.
Samsung also announced a foldable smartphone earlier on in the year. And it seems as though the Korean developer will be unveiling it at its conference in November. The tech giant’s announcement in September was most likely an attempt to derail the media speculation surrounding Apple’s 2018 iPhone announcements. Although we can expect Samsung to show the device to attendees at its conference, there is no information on when it will go on sale. Given that it was originally announced in this concept video four years ago, there’s no guarantee that we will see a real-life version hitting the shelves any time soon.
All this activity from major phone manufacturers point towards a foldable smartphone selling in the near future. When it comes to Apple’s flexible friend, it’s simply a matter of time.
At Dawn Ellmore Employment, we’ve been following the ups and downs of the battle for the first foldable smartphone design. Uncovering the contents of patents shows where the development lies and gives clues as to the future timeline of the product. We’ll be watching out for more Apple patent applications over the next year or so to find out more.
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