Is Apple developing a folding phone? Reports surface after Apple has a patent approved for a special hinge mechanism for a folding screen
Apple has been granted a patent for a foldable device with a unique hinge mechanism, that has triggered speculation the iPad maker could be developing a folding iPhone handset.
According to a report on Macrumors.com, Apple’s “unique hinge mechanism that utilises movable flaps to help prevent the display from being creased or damaged when folded.”
The idea of folding phones has been explored by a number of handset makers including Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei for a while now. In October Microsoft also previewed a folding phone device called the Surface Duo, and a dual-screen tablet called the Surface Neo.
It should be noted that early foldable smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X have noticeable creases along the bending portion of the display.
Motorola’s new foldable Razr handset however avoids this issue thanks to a unique hinge design, but early reviewers have heard that handset making creaking sounds when opened or closed.
On February 2020 the US Patent and Trademark Office granted and published Apple’s take on the folding smartphone.
Like the Motorola, it utilises a hinge that rather a folding screen per say.
The patent explains that Apple’s hinge mechanism would ensure adequate separation between the first and second portions of the display.
Essentially, when the device is unfolded, movable flaps would extend to cover the gap, and then retract when the device is folded back up.
“An electronic device [with a] flexible display that overlaps an axis,” says the Apple patent. “The display may be supported by a housing. The housing may have first and second portions that rotate relative to each other about the axis. [Device] housing may be placed in an unfolded configuration to support the display in a planar state.”
“The housing may also be placed in a folded configuration by rotating the first and second portions relative to each other,” the patent reads. “A hinge mechanism may be used to ensure adequate separation between the first and second portions when the housing is bent. Movable flaps may be retracted when the housing is bent to create room for a bent portion of the display.”
Samsung Galaxy Fold
This could eliminate the problem of folding phones of screen’s becoming creased or damaged, but concerns remain about how robust folding handsets will be in the long term.
Samsung for example had a terrible time when it launched its Galaxy Fold smartphone in 2019.
Samsung had initially scheduled the arrival of its groundbreaking folding smartphone in US shops on 26 April 2019 and in the UK on 3 May.
But those dates soon slipped after Samsung was forced to postpone the launch after early reviewers reported faults with the folding display, which halted media events for the device in the Far East.
The boss of Samsung, co-CEO DJ Koh admitted in July 2019 that the delayed launch of its folding smartphone, was ‘embarrassing.’
He reportedly said he had pushed the Galaxy Fold to market “before it was ready.” A Samsung executive in June had confirmed that the faults had been fixed with the device.
Samsung relaunched the Fold in early September 2019, but the price was still a hefty $2,000 (£1,800).
Apple meanwhile had filed its special hinge folding patent in late 2016, so it has thought about offering some type of folding device.
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