Foldable iPhone looks closer than ever as Apple granted new patent

iPhone Flip render
(Image credit: 4RMD)

Apple has been granted patent approval for a mobile device that looks a lot like a foldable version of an iPhone. The patent, titled "Electronic Devices With Display and Touch Sensor Structures" details the possible design of Apple’s first foray into the foldable market.

Featuring a clamshell design like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, the patent describes how “display layers and touch sensor layers may be overlapped by enclosure walls in a folding device “ and also how “a touch sensor layer and display layer may extend under the glass layer with curved sidewalls. A touch sensor layer may also extend under the rear wall.” In real terms, this hints that we could see the entire outside of the phone's body having touchscreen or touch capacitive capabilities. 

The patent also suggests that the sides of this potential iPhone Flip could differ from Samsung’s effort. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has physical volume and camera buttons, whereas Apple’s patent details the walls of the device as harboring “touch-sensitive” layers that could control the likes of the camera and volume with gestures instead. This could be controlled from any side of the phone, convenient for folding devices that can be oriented in many different ways.

The patent does not provide any possible dimensions for the device or the display, which some like tipster Ming-Chi Kuo have suggested could be as big as 9 inches, while others believe it could be a 7.5 inch LG OLED panel. Interestingly, the patent describes itself as a continuation of a 2016 patent application so it's clear this move into foldables is likely no snap decision from Apple.

Fig 18 of the patent "Electronic Devices With Display and Touch Sensor Structures"

(Image credit: USPTO)

When could we see a foldable iPhone

There have been conflicting reports about the release of a foldable iPhone. Ming-Chi Kuo believes we won’t such an iPhone until 2025, while display analyst Ross Young suggested a 2023 release could be possible but that 2024 seems more likely. 

We could in fact even see a foldable iPad arrive before a phone,albeit at an eye-watering $2,500 price. The reality is that with Apple waiting a long time to get into the folding market, it will need to get its first device on the money if it wants to disrupt Samsung’s dominance in the sector.  

Andy Sansom
Trainee Writer

Andy is Tom’s Guide’s Trainee Writer, which means that he currently writes about pretty much everything we cover. He has previously worked in copywriting and content writing both freelance and for a leading business magazine. His interests include gaming, music and sports- particularly Formula One, football and badminton. Andy’s degree is in Creative Writing and he enjoys writing his own screenplays and submitting them to competitions in an attempt to justify three years of studying.