Apple just filed a crucial patent for the iPhone Flip — what we know

iPhone Flip render
(Image credit: 4RMD)

Apple's patented what would be the iPhone Flip's key part — its hinge, according to findings from Patently Apple.

Filed with the USPTO in October 2023 and published in May 2024, the plainly-named "hinges for folding devices" patent contains, as you might imagine, various demonstrations of how a phone could implement a hinge to allow it to bend in half. Its claims and illustrations show an iPhone-shaped device folding vertically like a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 or other small foldable, with a hinge mechanism and flexible screen. 

Illustrations from Apple's May 2024 hinge patent

(Image credit: USPTO)

The patent mentions that the hinge could bend outwards or inwards. Most foldables fold inwards to protect the display when it's closed, and that's what we'd expect Apple to go for as well. However, some manufacturers are continuing with the display-out style, such as Honor's V Purse.

In terms of the hinge's construction, it could use components described as "synchronization plates" and "friction clips" to make the folding action as fluid and unified as possible. It's also shown as using multiple links to provide a gently curved well for the display to sit in, which is important for minimizing a foldable's trademark display groove.

During its most recent search for Apple patents, Patently Apple also came across a continuation patent (one that updates a pre-existing application) for a "folded display device with curved sidewalls that could contain touch surfaces," first made in 2016. In essence, it's a larger folding device with possible extra touchscreens on its outer edges.

We're waiting, Apple

Apple's first foldable may be a cross between a MacBook and an iPad rather than an iPhone, but the signs are all there that the company plans to enter the foldables arena in the next few years. Rival companies already have their foldable products well-established, but Apple's unique take on consumer tech, plus its huge base of loyal fans, means the first foldable iPhone, iPad or Mac will still see success.

The next Apple event is May 7th's "Let Loose", but that's expected to be all about a new OLED iPad Pro rather than any foldable tech. There are more Apple presentations expected this summer at WWDC 2024, and likely one in September too, but chances are we're still in for quite a wait for the iPhone Flip or other folding Apple gear, even as the company secures some all-important patents.

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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.