Why it matters: For several years now, we’ve seen evidence that suggest Apple is working on a foldable phone. Now, the company has been granted another patent for such a device, but this one comes with an innovative hinge that should prevent it from experiencing issues found in similar handsets.
Reports that Apple has been working on a foldable go back to 2016, and we’ve seen several patent applications hinting at what the final design might look like—including one that resembles the Motorola Razr.
Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted an Apple patent—discovered by MacRumors—that describes a foldable device with a hinge that "ensure adequate separation between the first and second portions when the housing is bent." When unfolded, the movable flaps extend to cover the gap, and the flaps retract when the phone is folded.
The hinge has been an issue for several foldable devices, with many handsets, including the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, displaying screen creases when unfolded. Motorola’s Razr uses a design that avoids this thanks to its different design (below) but there have been complaints that it creaks when folded. Should Apple implement its patent’s design in a future iPhone or iPad, it could prevent screen creasing, though as with all patents, there's no guarantee this will ever become an actual product.
While Samsung experienced a slew of problems with the Galaxy Fold, leading to many people questioning whether the devices had a future, a redesigned version was eventually released. It has only sold 400,000 units since September, lower than the company’s 500,000 target.
Several companies, including Xiaomi, Oppo, LG, and Lenovo either have or are developing foldable devices, while Apple has been slow to join the bandwagon. Company co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks this is a mistake on Cupertino’s part.
"Apple has been a leader for quite a long time in a few areas such as touch ID, facial ID, and easy payment with the phone. They're not the leader in areas like the folding phone, and that worries me because I really want a folding phone," said the Woz. “It’s one of those new technologies that catch my attention.”