Foldable iPhone just teased in latest Apple patent — what we know

iPhone Flip foldable iPhone
(Image credit: #iOS Beta News/YouTube)

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, 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.

An image of a patent for a foldable Apple device

(Image credit: USPTO)

The first patent 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 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 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. 

iPhone Air is an iPhone Flip concept phone

(Image credit: Antonio De Rosa)

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 

iPhone Flip Concept

(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

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.

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.