Apple’s first foldable phone could feature 2 displays joined by hinges

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Microsoft Surface Neo
Apple's foldable iPhone could take a similar approach to Microsoft's Surface Neo.
Screenshot: Microsoft

Apple’s “foldable” iPhone will use dual displays to get around the foldable screen problem that plagues other folding phones like Samsung’s beleaguered Galaxy Fold, claims Apple leaker Jon Prosser.

“The current prototype has two separate display panels on a hinge,” Prosser wrote in a tweet Monday. He claims the foldable iPhone prototype boasts “round, stainless steel edges like current iPhone 11 design” and features no notch. Instead, there is a “tiny forehead” on the outer display that houses the Face ID sensors.

If Prosser is correct (and there’s a growing amount of evidence to suggest he’s not making things up), what he’s describing sounds a bit like the LG G8X. This 2019 phone adds a wallet-style flip case that tacks on an extra full-size OLED display alongside the regular screen.

In the case of the LG GBX, these screens operate more or less independently of one another. It’s basically like having two phones lying side by side. This means you can do different things on each screen, but with minimal communication between the two. Other companies have tried similar concepts (see, for example, Microsoft’s Surface Neo).

However, Front Page Tech’s Prosser says the screens on Apple’s version are a lot more closely connected than that. “It doesn’t look like they just stuck two phones together,” he tweeted. “Even though they’re two separate panels, when the displays are extended, it looks fairly continuous and seamless.”

Solving one of the big foldable problems

Using two displays instead of a single, giant folding screen certainly solves one of the biggest problems with folding phones: how you fold them without having to make big sacrifices like eschewing glass screens for something bendier. However, you also risk losing the central hook of having one large, tablet-style screen you can unfold from a smaller form factor.

Analysts are excited by the prospect of foldables. A 2020 report from Strategy Analytics claims that, within a few years, shipments of foldables will pass the 100 million mark.

Apple earlier this year was granted a patent for a very similar concept to the one Prosser describes. The “System with multiple electronic devices” patent describes two screens adjoining each other with a small gap between them.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a product like this will ship any time soon. Apple frequently mocks up creations to see if they are worth exploring further. These concepts are then patented by Apple’s on-site legal team. This is often for protective reasons rather than because Apple necessarily plans to build them right away. Potential Apple products must clear multiple hurdles before they come close to hitting the market. And Apple CEO Tim Cook, just like his predecessor, is a big fan of saying “no” to ideas that don’t measure up.