The patent is the latest in a list of filings awarded to the tech giant concerning flexible tech, suggesting a folding iPhone is imminent
Following the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, it was only a matter of time before we saw even more evidence that its main rival Apple was planning to get in on the act.
In a patent, filed in January last year and awarded this week, Apple engineers detail plans for a “foldable cover and display for an electronic device,” suggesting a folding iPhone is in the works.
The patent goes on to explain that until now, electronic devices “have had a single form factor that may be driven by the size and shape of the display.”
Due to these traditional displays being rigid, Apple’s patent continues that previous folding phones have used mechanical hinges and pivot joints which makes them “inherently limited” and it is proposing a design in which a display can fold and unfold along a “foldable region.”
Put in more simple terms, previous folding phones – such as the Motorola Razr range – were bound by size and style. Apple wants to build devices with displays that fold in a multitude of ways, depending on how they’ll be used and stored.
This is not the first time Apple has been awarded a patent for folding technology. In March and then October last year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted patents for both a flexible battery as well as a magnetic latch to keep a device closed respectively.
On the same day Apple’s most recent patent was filed, Samsung was awarded a similar ruling for a “foldable electronic device including flexible display.” This describes technology that is a little more complex than Apple’s proposition, combining four panels controlled via hinges alongside a “folding” portion of the display.
It was inevitable Apple would want a slice of the folding patent pie, even if it’s just to keep up with its running mate, but, of course a patent filing doesn’t guarantee the technology will ever come to fruition.
Apple may simply want to prevent its rivals from monopolising the folding technology patents, or it may be holding off to see how successful Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, and Huawei’s similarly folding Mate X perform.
If it is the latter, it’s unlikely the company will be in any rush. Huawei was recently hit with a trade ban in the US which has had a ripple effect on the availability of its various models, while Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has had its release date delayed over issues with faulty units.
After a number of review units were sent to journalists, some technology reviewers reported major faults with the folding screen ranging from the appearance of mysterious bulges to dead pixels.