Forget iPhone Flip — this foldable phone could have it beat

Oppo flip phone concept
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

The future iPhone Flip and current Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G could have competition if Oppo turns its newest foldable idea into a reality.

These designs are from a patent filed by the Chinese company, and spotted by LetsGoDigital. Oppo has yet to make a foldable phone, so it's interesting to see how it plans to get involved in this emerging segment of the phone market.

While LGD's artists have helped bring the patent to life in the renders, the Dutch outlet has taken some liberties with the design due to a lack of detail in the patent, however.

Oppo flip phone concept design

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Titled "Foldable terminal," the patent shows a smartphone with a clamshell design like the iPhone Flip and Galaxy Z Flip, rather than the book-fold we've seen on larger foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 2. The patent contextualizes the design by saying that foldable mechanisms can often be bulky, and therefore the more compact design it proposes is superior.

Oppo's hinge design is the central concern of the patent. The design uses gears to open smoothly and cover plates beneath the screen to prevent the portion of display over the hinge from excessive wear and tear and protect it from intrusion by water and dust. 

LGD suggests that the width of the hinge, which exceeds that of the phone's body, could offer similar multi-angle functionality to the Galaxy Z Flip's Flex Mode. It continues to propose there could be additional lock points in Oppo's design, allowing for more versatility in screen angle when setting the phone up on a flat surface.

There is no mention of a cover display in the patent, a common addition to clamshell foldables to easily display notifications when folded. The renders reflect this, although it does look kind of odd now that we're used to the Z Flip and Razr way of doing things.

As for cameras, there's again nothing specified in the patent, but the renders given the phone a triple camera array, like Oppo's other flagship phones. The Galaxy Z Flip has two 12MP exterior cameras, which are acceptable but not outstanding in terms of quality. Adding more cameras or improving photo quality in some other way would be a good direction for Oppo to go.

Oppo flip phone concept design

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Since Oppo is currently using punch-hole notches, LGD gave one to this render, again making it similar to the Z Flip. Oppo does have eyes on using under-display cameras, and showed off a prototype last year. Adding this to a foldable could be a big ask though, so a punch hole is a much more reasonable way to mount a selfie camera.

The iPhone Flip won't be launching any time soon, but Apple is definitely working on a clamshell foldable phone. Alternate designs also show a rollable display is being considered, with the display pulling out like a scroll from the main body of the phone. There's even a patent about how the display could repair scratches by itself.

Current prototypes sound more like the Microsoft Surface Duo, however, with two normal-sized displays attached by a hinge. Either way, expect a foldable iPhone to appear in a year or two, and with an eye-watering price tag.

While not visible from renders, it's easy to assume that Oppo would bring over its trademark technologies to a foldable, such as the Ultra Steady Video mode and 65W SuperVOOC fast charging, the same kind that we'll be seeing in the OnePlus 8T later this month. By the time this patent becomes a real phone, and if it happens at all, there could be an even faster standard in use, like Oppo's 125W charging concept.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

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.