The way smartphones seem to be constantly evolving for the better, it was only a matter of time someone would come up with an innovative foldable screen smartphone. Apple first took the initiative when it was granted its first foldable iPhone patent in 2016.
However Apple is still working on the design as of yet and may come in second to Samsung who is on the brink of announcing their foldable Galaxy phone any day now. Apple’s foldable iPhone patent published on Monday by the USPTO is evidence of that.
Apple Foldable iPhone Patent
According to Patently Apple, the ever evolving smartphones keep churning out bigger and better devices so naturally the next step would be a revolutionary innovation in the form of a foldable phone if they are to stay in the game.
The Apple patent states:
Patent Claim 1
An electronic device, comprising: a housing having first and second housing portions; a flexible hinge coupled between the first and second housing portions, wherein the flexible hinge flexes to allow the first housing portion to rotate relative to the second housing portion; a flexible display mounted to the housing, wherein the flexible display has a first display portion mounted to the first housing portion and a second display portion mounted to the second housing portion, wherein the flexible display is movable between a planar position in which the first and second display portions are coplanar and a folded position in which the first display portion is parallel to the second display portion, and wherein when the flexible display is in the folded position, the first and second display portions face away from each other in opposite directions; and a support structure interposed between the flexible display and the housing, wherein the support structure comprises a material selected from the group consisting of: metal, polymer, and shape memory alloy.
Patent Claim 2
An electronic device comprising: a foldable housing having a flexible portion, wherein the flexible portion flexes to allow the foldable housing to move between open and closed positions; and a foldable display mounted to the foldable housing, wherein the foldable display has first and second display portions separated by a third display portion, wherein the third display portion overlaps the flexible portion of the housing, wherein the first and second display portions face toward each other when the foldable housing is in the closed position, wherein the first and second display portions face away from each other when the foldable housing is in the open position, and wherein the flexible portion of the housing comprises fabric.
Patently Apple compiled an illustration of the patent figures taken from Apple’s IP documentation, to break down the basic concepts.
FIG. 10: Illustrates an open side-view of the foldable device. Shows a flexible display and a hinge based on a “four-bar linkage configuration.”
FIG. 11: It Illustrates a side-view of the foldable device where the housing has been accommodated (folded), placing the display halves in a closed formation.
FIG. 22: Illustrates a back-to-back configuration where, instead of a hinge mechanism, Apple employs an engagement mechanism reliant on “magnetic structures, hook-and-loop fasteners, hook and notch structures and/or other mating structures.”
FIG. 24: Illustrates the device in a bizarre tri-fold design with double hinge construction.
We can expect the foldable iPhone handset by 2020 if speculations turn out to be true. However Samsung’s alternate would already be old news by then so it’ll be interesting to see how Apple will one up its rival.