Apple investigates dual-screen iPhone as folding display alternative

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An Apple patent shows the advantages of a dual-screen iPhone or iPad.
A dual-screen iPhone or iPad might be more rugged and flexible than one with a foldable display.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple engineers are exploring the feasibility of a dual-screen iPhone or iPad. Two displays that touch with no bezels between them would simulate one large display. And this wouldn’t have some of the drawbacks of folding screens.

Dual-screen iPhone combines into a small iPad

Apple today received a generically-named patent “System with multiple electronic devices” from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

This describes two displays that “use sensor measurements and other information” to tell when they are touching. When they are, they go into a “a joint operating mode.”

The patent explores various shapes for the two screens so that they meet up with a minimal gap between them. Some designs envision creating a large flat screen, while others see the two displays meeting at an angle to create a laptop-like shape.

Two screens are better than one?

The displays in traditional “slab” handsets have grown to almost the point where they’re impractical to carry around. Apple and its rivals are looking for alternatives.

One option is building phones around folding screens, like the Galaxy Z Flip. But there are questions about the long-term durability of their hinges, and whether the display will develop a crease in the middle.

Two-screen devices, like the one Apple just patented, are still foldable but with much simpler hinges. But there’ll always be a dividing line between the two screens. Still, this is the design chosen for the upcoming Surface Neo.

Another potential advantage of a dual-screen iPhone is the ability to leave one screen behind when it’s not needed. The user could choose to sometimes carry a very portable device, and other times have one that’s bulkier but with double the display area.

Apple has been investigating multi-screen computers for some time, with the patents to show for it. But it’s also tinkering with a folding iPhone, and has patents related to that as well. At this point, there’s no way to know which option Apple will eventually pick.