Apple explores flexible batteries for folding iPhones and iPads

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This is an early concept drawing from Apple for a folding iPhone.
This is an early concept drawing from Apple for a folding iPhone.
Photo: Apple

It would be easier to make a foldable iPhone or iPad if it could include a flexible battery. Apple is investigating these as a power source, and was granted a patent on the technology on Tuesday.

In recent years, the company received many patents related to computers built around folding displays. They’re proof that Apple is actively exploring using these in future products.

Apple awarded flexible battery patent

In its “Flexible battery structure“ patent awarded today, Apple starts out by defining the problem. “In addition to taking up space, the batteries are also often quite rigid, often making placement of the batteries in portions of a device designed to bend impractical,” notes the documentation. “For this reason, it would be desirable to have a flexible or semi-flexible battery for use with a portable electronic device.”

There’s no doubt the engineers envision a foldable computer. The patent covers “a display assembly, comprising: a flexible display; and flexible battery cells arranged in a stack.”

Apple’s patent describes a number of methods for making a bendable battery. One proposed design includes “flexible battery cells arranged in a stack and having a serpentine geometry that accommodates bending of the flexible battery cells about three orthogonal axes.” And a slightly different version also described in the patent filing includes “flexible battery cells arranged in a stack and defining stress-relieving gaps that accommodate bending of the flexible battery cells about multiple axes of rotation.”

Apple seriously considering a foldable iPhone

While Samsung fumbled its first foldable phones, Apple has continued to research designs. It received a patent for an innovative hinge mechanism designed to prevent flexible displays from creasing earlier this year. And it’s been looking into hinges for foldable iPhones and iPads for years. For example, it received a patent for a simpler design in 2018.

Way back in 2015, it received a patent for a flexible casing for future iOS devices.

Whether Apple’s patents for a flexible battery, advanced hinges and related technologies will become a shipping product is anyone’s guess. It regularly patents ideas that never again see the light of day.