New Apple Patent Points to Inevitable Foldable iPhone

Credit: Robby Fester

(Image credit: Robby Fester)

Apple’s foldable phone patents keep piling up like broken MacBook keyboards at a Genius Bar. At this point we can easily assume that Apple will release a foldable phone — just like everyone else despite Samsung’s Galaxy Fold problems.

The new patent describes a device that can be folded not once but two times. The patent describes the mixed use of flexible material covering for the flexible part on the hinge and hard glass-like parts for the flat sides of the display. The patent doesn’t discuss if this is for a phone, a tablet, or both.

Credit: Apple/USPTO/Patently Apple

(Image credit: Apple/USPTO/Patently Apple)

The Cupertino company got awarded a patent for a flexible battery in March 2018. In October of the same year, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent for a magnetic latch that would keep the phone closed without any physical mechanism.

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Last February, Apple patented a Motorola Razr-like vertical foldable phone. In March, it got yet another one, and today we have learned about one more, one that proposes a form factor similar to the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Why a foldable iPhone?

The candybar phone has turned into a commodity. The market sales numbers are pretty clear. There’s no way around that and all the manufacturers know it. Thus the need for something new, a form factor that starts another gold rush — perhaps the last phone gold rush before we get the Next Big Thing That Is Not Going To Be a Phone.

That’s why all the big and small players — which includes Apple — are developing foldable machines. So far there is the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Huawei Mate X, the Motorola Razr, the Xiaomi Mi Fold, the Oppo foldable, the ZTE foldable, the LG Foldable, and even a rumored Sony Xperia F.

The new generation consume media and play video games on mobile devices, which is why people like Sony’s CEO Kenichiro Yoshida says the company must stay in this market and succeed. Foldable phones can deliver a better watch and play experience without compromising portability. Like Sony, Samsung, Huawei, and Apple all know this — hence their foldable research and product development.

So perhaps the question now is not if Apple will release such device but when. That or maybe just leapfrogging the category entirely and go straight to the Next Big Thing: Augmented reality glasses with enough field of view that your brain wouldn’t be able to distinguish virtual from real.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.