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A new patent about a folding iPhone has surfaced, but is it a good idea?

Apple's recent patent suggests it is working on a flip-style foldable device.

Published onMay 5, 2024

Apple iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max
Aamir Siddiqui / Android Authority
  • A recently surfaced Apple patent reveals the company is exploring a foldable device with an innovative hinge mechanism.
  • Details in the patent suggest a flip-style clamshell foldable with a hinge that could potentially fold both inwards and outwards.
  • While an Apple foldable would generate massive interest, the company’s reputation for seamless user experiences raises the stakes and makes a flawless debut crucial.

While rivals like Samsung, Motorola, and others have embraced foldable phones, Apple remains a notable holdout. Despite waves of rumors and leaks suggesting a foldable iPhone is in development, nothing concrete has materialized. However, a recently published patent application discovered by Patently Apple gives us fresh insights into Apple’s explorations of folding devices. (h/t: PhoneArena)

Apple’s patent, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last October, describes a novel hinge design for folding display devices. The images used align with a flip-style clamshell foldable. However, Apple’s patent implies a greater range of motion. The hinge could potentially allow the device to fold both inwards and outwards, which could be a first for a mass-market product.

Notably, the patent keeps its wording deliberately broad. The hinge described could apply to phones, tablets, laptops, or other portable electronics. However, if a foldable iPhone does become a reality, Apple might prioritize a clamshell format before experimenting with a book-style design.

Alternatively, we might even see a foldable tablet/laptop hybrid emerge, which would make sense considering how close the latest iPads and MacBooks are in terms of their internal specs and pricing.

Why an Apple foldable seems risky yet exciting

Unlike Android foldables, which initially targeted a niche enthusiast market and gradually evolved, an Apple foldable would be instantly thrust into the global spotlight. Apple products attract attention from both tech enthusiasts and everyday consumers alike. This means even minor first-generation issues, whether it’s hinge imperfections or screen quirks, would likely be amplified and scrutinized on a massive scale.

Furthermore, Apple’s reputation for intuitive, user-friendly devices sets a high bar for its foldable. The technology introduces inherent complexities, and Apple would be expected to deliver a seamless experience even for those unfamiliar with the form factor. This pressure likely contributes to Apple’s cautious approach.

Of course, a patent doesn’t guarantee a product release — Apple files many patents each year, with only a fraction seeing the light of day. However, one thing is certain: if and when an Apple foldable hits the market, it will have significant ripple effects across the entire foldable industry, likely raising the bar for competitors and ultimately benefiting consumers.

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