A foldable iPhone Flip is still likely a ways out, but one of the phone's most unique features may have just been revealed.
We know about this because of Patently Apple's discovery of an Apple patent for a new kind of fabric hinge. The document mentions smartphones, hence the conclusion that this could relate to a foldable iPhone, but the patent also hints that this could be used on iPad or MacBook models, too, as well as accessories like a revamped version of the iPad's Smart Cover.
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The trickiest part of any folding device is the hinge, which often ends up bulky and ugly because of the engineering required to make it do its job. While plastic can be an alternative, it's less sturdy and not as easy to use. This is where the idea of using fabric comes in.
The design discussed in the patent is a fabric hinge, made up of several interlocking layers that ensure both sides are well connected. The hinges can also contain 'electrical paths', which would allow the two sides of the devices to be connected together and work more easily in tandem.
Jon Prosser, a frequent leaker of Apple info, responded to Patently Apple's story in a tweet that indicated he agrees with the idea that the iPhone Flip might have a hinge rather than a foldable display. However, fellow leaker OnLeaks wasn't convinced that this patent is reflective of any upcoming product.
👀 https://t.co/OFs46VEENg pic.twitter.com/VHP19v0UGIJune 16, 2020
We heard recently that Apple's foldable iPhone would use a two-screen design, taking after the LG G8X ThinQ or Microsoft's upcoming Surface Duo with, rather than Samsung Galaxy Fold's 'folding tablet' style. This patent looks to back that up.
The Galaxy Fold 2 is thought to be getting a reveal in the next few weeks, which will use a similar mechanical hinge to the original according to the rumors. The troubles the original model faced with the hinge gathering debris that then damaged the display are well known, but the company says that it addressed those issues. This is exactly the kind of thing that a fabric hinge could hopefully eliminate entirely, although it'll be some time before we see it, if at all.
In the meantime, we can enjoy the upcoming iPhone 12, which while not as dramatic a change to the iPhone formula will still bring plenty of upgrades. The latest rumors point to four models with OLED displays, a more powerful A14 Bionic chipset and better cameras, with the 'Pro' models also getting a 120Hz refresh rate for their screens and a LiDAR depth sensor as part of the rear camera array.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.