A recent Apple patent that was published on 22nd November revealed that Apple might be going in for a foldable or flexible phone.
The latest patent shows that Apple has been actively interested in a hinged format for its iPhones. The company seems to be planning a design that needs a flexible OLED display that is backed by metal and can be folded to half the size. It can also be clipped onto clothing of the user.
The US patent office has granted the company its patent No. 9504,170 in case of flexible display device. The patent describes the device as consisting of a full screen display that can be folded. The proposed patented design will allow the user to fold the phone into two when not using it, so that it can be stored away easily. It is similar to the clamshell mobile phone that was made popular by Motorola during the 1990s.
In order to get this foldable display, the invention depends on several flexible parts. The major part is the OLED display along with the structure having metal support. In case of the metal structure, the document states the use of nitinol, which is an alloy made from nickel with titanium. The combination alloy offers more elasticity and has unique abilities for shape memory. An alternative embodiment will need flexible polymers.
There are other examples of a foldable phone design, incorporating a chassis that is divided into two sections, upper one and lower one. Both contain a processor and sensor as well as other circuitry typical of smartphones. The upper housing can contain cameras and display controller, with a light sensor and speaker module. The bottom part has the microphone, the CPU and the GPU along with the vibrator and several other parts.
The document details several other designs, such as a two hinge one, cover glass, viewing angles and other possible embodiments.
Expected Release Date
Going by the design progress during the past ten years, it can be presumed that Apple is not likely to release the foldable version of smartphones in the near future. The technology that has been described in this patent could also be used in other Apple devices, such as the iPad or the MacBook. It is expected that Apple will release the new iPhone model using the flexible display in the coming year. However, the form factor will remain the same as usual, with a monolithic design
The foldable patent for the iPhone was initially filed in July 2014 and the investors have been named as Fletcher R.Rothkopf and Andrew J.M. Janis along with TeodorDabov.
Apple is following Samsung in the OLED technology for its display. However, by the year 2019, the company is likely to come up with two foldable phones that can be converted into the iPad, according to reports from Nikkei. However, the report emphasizes that Apple will keep lagging behind Samsung in the OLED technology, which is important for a curved display and also for its future foldable phones and devices.