Apple could be preparing to outdo its rivals by making its own folding phone.
A patent submitted by the company shows a double folding screen that can either be bent back on itself or folded inward from either end.
The design means the device could also be used as a tablet when unfurled.
iPhone submitted a prototype last year which folds in the middle and since then Huawei, Samsung and Lenovo have all launched foldable devices.
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Apple is one-upping its competitors with an innovative phone design that not only fold once but twice. The image shows a possible design
In a US patent spotted by Apple Patently, the company filed to protect both single and multifold devices.
The document includes 37 drawings covering different technical features and folding configurations.
A patent submitted by the company shows a double folding screen that can either bend back on itself (pictured, top) like a fan or fold inward from either end
The diagrams detail how the folding mechanism will work and states it is a hinge which rotates to allow the screen to fold together.
It will be able to go from a 180 degree angle to 90 degree angle, it claims.
Another diagram shows that the screen can be folded backwards so that it wraps around the ‘back’ of the device.
In this form, the screen forms a triangle, and two people seated on either side of the folded display could view the same content when it is balanced on two edges.
Last year, a prototype of an iPhone that folds in the middle like a book was submitted by Apple although no folding devices have been officially announced by the firm. A possible design of this is shown above
On its website, Patently Apple described what these multi-folding phones could look like: ‘The flexible cover layer may be formed from a ceramic material (e.g., glass, strengthened glass, sapphire, zirconia) to provide some measure of protection for the flexible display from impact or other potential damaging contact.
‘The flexible cover layer may also provide structural support for the display along both the folded and non-folded regions of the device. As used herein, a cover layer may also be referred to as a cover sheet or simply as a cover.’
‘In general, a foldable electronic device can be folded to accommodate a variety of form factors. For example, a foldable electronic device may be used in an unfolded configuration to allow use of an entire display area.’
The new designs from Apple are unlikely to be restricted to just an iPhone and could also be applied to an iPad, MacBook or even an Apple Watch.
In a US patent spotted by Apple Patently , the company has has applied for both single and multifold devices in its latest of patent submissions. The image shows the hinge that would allow the device to fold
The document shows the rotating hinges (pictured) that would be used to convert the devices between a flat screen tablet and smaller phone.
Beyond the sketches, the patent provides few details around how the device would actually work.
The designs have been made into real looking images such as that by Dutch industrial designer Roy Gilsing, a product developer who has worked for clients such as Rabobank, Colgate-Palmolive and Fresh ‘n Rebel, according to the site foldable.news.
‘At our request, he designed the imaginary ‘iPhone X Fold’, a sleek handset with two displays. The outer display features a 1:3 aspect ratio and the inner, foldable display has a 2:3 aspect ratio’, the website wrote.
A previous patent by Apple titled ‘Flexible Display Devices’ was filed on October 12th, 2018.
Apple previously filed a patent for a phone with a bendable screen. LetsGoDigital used the patent sketches to create 3D concept images of what Apple’s folding phone could possibly look like
As many pointed out, these designs are unlikely to be restricted to just an iPhone. They could also be applied to an iPad, MacBook or even an Apple Watch. Pictured are 3D renders of former designs
WHAT FOLDING PHONES ARE THERE AND WHAT ARE THEIR ISSUES?
Samsung Galaxy Fold
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is considered a market leader but has suffered some issues with reliability.
Reviewers found it was bubbling and breaking around the hinge.
Huawei Mate X
It stole the show at MWC 2019 and was regarded by many to be superior to the Samsung.
It has been curtailed by the recent Huawei exile from Google which has seen the Chinese firm’s android license get revoked.
It hasn’t formally been released yet but the Oppo foldable phoneclosely resembles the Huawei device.
A prototype was also unveiled at MWC.
A different take on the foldable dynamic comes from the Motorola Razr.
It folds vertically in a new version of the iconic flip phone.
It was formally announced in April and a release date has not yet been set.
As with any patent, it’s unclear whether Apple actually plans to develop these devices.
It emerged as just about every major device maker has detailed plans to manufacture a folding phone of some kind.
Samsung released its own folding phone, called the Galaxy Fold, tomorrow.
The Korean tech giant first teased the device last year, showing off a secretive phone that folds open to become a tablet and, when folded closed, is compact.
Chinese tech firms TCL, ZTE and Xiaomi have either debuted or have detailed plans to release a folding phone.