While we still don’t have a release date for a possible iPhone Flip — or even confirmation that a foldable Apple phone even is in the works — we do at least have further proof that Apple is very interested in joining the growing market for foldable devices. The company just won some patents related to foldables.
That's the word from Patently Apple (opens in new tab), which reported earlier this week that Apple had just been granted two patents focused on foldable devices, noting that both could apply to folding iPhones and iPads.
The first patent (opens in new tab) is for an electronic device with a durable folding display, which could include sensors for fingerprint recognition and air gestures. The second patent is similar, but focuses on an electronic device with a foldable display that has textured flexible areas. This second patent (opens in new tab) seems to be focused more on the quality of the display as it allows for the combination of glass and a polymer to reduce reflections.
Patents don't necessarily mean that product launches are imminent or even likely. But these patents do give us a better look into what Apple's thinking about for future products, which could one day include something with a foldable screen.
iPhone Flip: What these patents could indicate
It's worth noting that neither patent indicates that these displays are specifically for a phone. So these patents could be covering an iPad Duo just as easily as an iPhone Flip. That said, there's already been some indications that Apple is focusing on larger folding displays, including a potential 9-inch foldable iPhone.
Apart from patent filings, there have been plenty of rumors that Apple is eyeing the possibility of larger devices with foldable displays. MacRumors (opens in new tab) reported that Display Supply Chain Consultants analyst Ross Young thinks Apple is working on a potential 20-inch foldable notebook. In that same article, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has suggested Apple is working on larger-screened iPads, which could indicate that this foldable notebook is actually a foldable iPad.
The inclusion of sensors ranging from fingerprint recognition to health sensors indicates that these latest patents were definitely created with smartphones in mind. While tablets like the iPad can certainly have these sensors as well, these are features that we now look for in the latest smartphones. Most likely, these patents will be involved in the creation of any foldable device that Apple produces.
iPhone Flip: When should we expect it
If an iPhone Flip is in the works, it might not arrive any time soon. While Young has said that a folding iPhone could come as early as next year, the general consensus is that an iPhone Flip would appear in 2024. Some analysts, like Ming-Chi Kuo, forecast an even later 2025 launch.
The bottom line? Even with Apple racking up foldable device patents, don't expect the company to compete with the best foldable phones. That category remains dominated by Samsung, which is expect to roll out two new foldables — the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 as soon as next month.