iPhone Fold could beat Galaxy Z Flip with this unique feature

(Image credit: USPTO)

Apple's working on a foldable phone — at least that's what all the rumors tell us. And if a new patent filing is anything to go by, the company's figured out a way to make its future foldable stand out from the likes of the Galaxy Flip Z and Motorola Razr.

An Apple foldable phone patent spotted by 9to5Mac describes a phone that folds on a hinge like a lot of the current available devices do. But unlike devices where the screen folds in half, this Apple patent describes a phone where the fold is offset to keep some of the main screen exposed when the device is closed.

That exposed screen would service as a notification center — think of it as a Touch Bar, but on a smartphone — that could alert you to incoming messages, upcoming appointments, alarms and other contextual information. Apple's patent also suggests that screen could still be interactive even when the phone is shut.

Current smartphones rely on a separate external screen for those kinds of notifications. In the case of a device like Samsung's Galaxy Fold, it's a 4.6 inch display, while the Galaxy Z Flip makes do with a 1.1-inch strip. In both cases, there's no part of the interior display that's exposed like the Apple foldable phone patent describes.

(Image credit: USPTO)

Of course, there's a lot of difference between a patent that theorizes how something could work and a production device that actually functions that way. Apple has a lot of patents that cover various foldable phone approaches, from using movable flaps to cover the hinge to a double-folding design. In other words, a patent is no guarantee that Apple's foldable phone will look as depicted — or that it will even ship.

Still, plenty of people believe that a foldable iPhone is inevitable, with some predicting that such a device could appear in the next 12 months. It's unlikely to be this fall, when it seems Apple will concentrate entirely on the iPhone 12 launch, and none of the rumors surrounding those phones suggest that there's a foldable device in the bunch.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.