Forget the iPhone 15 — a rollable iPhone could be on the way

iPhone Flip Concept
(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

While the iPhone 15 rumors point to a very iterative upgrade — USB-C, Dynamic Island, larger batteries! — Apple appears to be developing a rollable iPhone according to fresh patents that have been published this week.

The patents that were filed in October last year are for "electronic devices with rollable displays," suggesting that Apple is testing ways in which to combine its dominance in the tablet market with its smartphone business.

Patent drawings of a rollable phone

(Image credit: Apple)

Within the document the patent says the display can be moved from an unrolled state where the larger screen is flat, to a rolled state where some of the display is rolled within the device.

The patent credits Que Anh S Nguyen and Christopher D Jones who are responsible for strengthening iPhone screens, and developing systems to automatically detect display cracks and damage respectively. In order to make the screen work, Apple are proposing to have a thinner layer of glass throughout the rollable portion of the device. 

Patent drawings of a rollable phone

(Image credit: Apple)

If true, Apple will join a list of manufacturers who have explored a rollable device. Most notably, Samsung filed documentation to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for rollable devices where the screen extended through the top of the device, as well as the side of the device. 

TCL rollable phone

(Image credit: TCL)

We have also seen prototypes for rollable devices from TCL, Motorola, and LG with the latter canning those plans when LG decided to cease making phones

What about the foldable iPhone?

iPhone Flip foldable iPhone

(Image credit: #iOS Beta News/YouTube)

The rollable patent would suggest that Apple are putting plans for a folding iPhone on the back burner for now. However, it is widely believed that Apple will eventually bring a foldable iPhone or iPhone flip to market. 

When that happens is hard to tell. As we have seen with features like larger displays, facial recognition, wireless charging, dual camera set ups, and even home screen widgets, Apple will rarely rush into major changes to their devices.

samsung rollable concept

(Image credit: Credit: Ts Designer/YouTube)

Certainly Apple will have lots of data to pull from when studying the foldable phone market. Last year Samsung announced that they had sold 10 million foldable phones in 2021 alone, also revealing an interesting split between the Fold and Flip devices. 

On top of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, this year we've seen the new Google Pixel Fold and Motorola Razr+. And OnePlus is not far behind either with its OnePlus Open foldable tipped for this August. 

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Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne
Phones Writer

Elliot MulleyGoodbarne is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide covering news, reviews, buying guides with wit and charm. He has had a keen interest in mobile, tablets, laptops, and everything in between since his first phone, the Samsung U600. Starting at Mobile News, Elliot has been writing about mobile and the business of technology since 2016, and has edited four trade magazines in that time, attending award shows for three of them. He has attended a range of industry events including 5G launches, device announcements, and trade events, where he developed a nose for picking up on trends, interviewing executives, and networking with the tech community. In his spare time, Elliot can usually be found watching, playing, or attending sporting events. With season tickets to West Ham United and Surrey County Cricket Club he often spends weekends in winter in a foul mood and evenings in the summer with a smile on his face. Outside of sport Elliot enjoys cooking, pubs next to rivers, and chilling out with a G&T, Whiskey, or Port after a solid week of excellence.