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Foldable iPhone? Here's How It Could Work

Rumors of a flexible iPhone have been swirling for months, with supply chain tipsters telling analysts that Apple has a bendy phone in the works for 2020. But now we have an idea of how a foldable iPhone could work, thanks to an Apple patent application published this month.

Credit: Apple

(Image credit: Apple)

Thanks to increases in size and capacity, batteries have grown large enough to last an entire day with constant use. Apple’s patent application, published by Patently Apple, shows a flexible battery cell rolled up, so it looks like a flattened out cylinder. A second figure shows the battery unrolled. The battery may be integrated with the display so the two fold and unfold together.

Credit: USPTO

(Image credit: USPTO)

According to Patently Apple, the display could be padded with graphite to address the problem of heat generated by a display-battery combination.

Credit: USPTO

(Image credit: USPTO)

Apple isn't the only phone maker with a foldable device reportedly on the drawing board. Samsung has already confirmed it's working on a flexible phone, with some reports claiming that it would be out this year. (A leading parts supplier suggests that's unrealistic, however.)

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Ship date aside, it's unclear how Samsung’s foldable Galaxy would work. Some have speculated that the device will fold in half, like a flip phone, or that it could unroll to become a larger 7.3-inch phone. Don’t expect it to be anything like ZTE’s Axon M, which technically folds in half but has a mechanical hinge with two screens on either side. Neither Samsung’s device nor Apple’s flexible iPhone are expected to take that approach.

The US Patent & Trademark Office filing spotted by Patently Apple is just an application, so the time frame on when Apple might roll out a product featuring this technology is up in the air.

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.