The US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded a new foldable phone patent to Apple.
The text and graphics detail how the actual folding mechanism would work, including a rather interesting mechanism that uses one of Apple’s favorite tricks: magnetism.
The patent — which is the second patent related to a potential foldable iPhone after the flexible battery patent awarded on March — details the many potential ways in which this flexible iPhone would fold.
In addition to two three different types of mechanical hinges — detailed in figures 10, 11, and 24 — there’s a hinge-less design that uses magnets at the top and bottom ends of the phone to secure it in place when folded.
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The patent also claims that magnets could be substituted for snaps or interlocking shapes but, knowing Jony Ive, the most elegant and Apple-like way to do this would be the magnetic locking mechanism.
The patent also shows a model in which there are not two but three sections to the flexible panel, making the flexible phone a triptych, which could result in a more compact size when folded while maintaining a large surface when unfurled.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Wamsi Mohan, a foldable iPhone will come in 2020, allegedly a year after Samsung and Huawei will launch their respective foldable phones — according to their respective CEOs.
With this second Apple foldable phone patent — and Huawei and Samsung racing to be first — a foldable iPhone seems like a mere matter of time. With the current insane phone size arm race, that time is not coming fast enough.