Bendable MacBook could kill traditional hinges | Cult of Mac

Bendable MacBook could kill traditional hinges

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A bendable MacBook stared in an Apple patent filing.
Instead of standard hinges, consider a bendable MacBook.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

A proposed MacBook design change is radical while at the same time preserving the traditional clamshell design. Apple received a patent today for a notebook computer without standard hinges. Instead, it’s flexible enough to bend in the middle.

Apple’s filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a “Planar hinge assembly” was submitted March 15, 2019. This government agency awarded the requested patent on Tuesday.

Bendable MacBook is a new twist on an old design

The description and images that make up the patent filing don’t describe a revolutionary shift in MacBook design — the screen and keyboard are unchanged. As Apple engineers said, their proposal is for “a portable electronic device, comprising: a first part that carries a display, a second part that carries an input device; and a solid-state hinge assembly coupled to the first part and the second part in a manner that allows relative angular movement.”

It’s only in the hinge where the innovation comes in. “The solid-state hinge assembly includes: a bending medium capable of (i) bending in response to an applied force, and (ii) providing a resistance to movement in accordance with an amount of the bending,” reads the patent filing.

Apple notes that this move would create “a seamless overall appearance” with the bendable portion “capable of having a smoothly curved shape.”

Better or worse?

Aside from aesthetics, there’s a question of durability. Traditional MacBook hinges break. It’s possible this proposed solid-state hinge would be more durable. Or it could be less.  The patent filing doesn’t go into durability, or the effects of long-term wear on hinges of any type.

How well a bendable MacBook stands up to real-world use is likely to determine whether Apple ever makes one. This patent only shows the company is exploring the idea, not that it definitely plans to incorporate it into a future macOS laptop.

If this feature goes from concept to reality, it could fit in well with Apple’s proposed flexible batteries.