Apple keeps tinkering with the best design for folding iPhone

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A folding iPhone might leave a portion of the screen always exposed.
Apple patented a folding iPhone with a section of the screen ialways available for notifications or other functions.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple has undoubtedly been investigating a folding iPhone for years because it keeps patenting designs. Including one awarded on Tuesday for an iPhone that folds closed while leaving a portion of the screen exposed to display status updates.

A new take on the folding iPhone

Apple’s latest patent for an innovative handset design is for a “Foldable electronic device with exposed display region.” It was created by Paul S. Drzaic and Hoon Sik Kim.

As the two engineers point out, a foldable handset can be less convenient than a flat one if important device functions are inaccessible when the screen is folded closed.

Their solution is a device that folds, but not across the center. Therefore, much of the screen is covered but a small section is always left exposed. As Drzaic’s and Kim’s patent filing states, “When the housing is in the folded configuration and the first portion of the display is hidden from view, display notifications, icons, and other content may be displayed on the exposed second portion.”

It’s a compromise between a rigid, always-open screen and a folding one that closes completely.

Other design possibilities

Drzaic and Kim seemingly did some brainstorming on folding iPhone ideas and included some other possibilities in their patent filing.

They thought about making the handset fold completely closed, but stay flexible enough that the user could move the bottom and top portions in opposite directions, exposing a section of the display.

The Apple engineers even considered using a screen so flexible most of it could roll up in a tube, again leaving just a portion always exposed.

Just the latest

While there’s no guarantee Apple plans a folding iPhone, it keeps looking into it. The company received a patent for an innovative hinge mechanism designed to prevent flexible displays from creasing earlier in 2020. And it’s been exploring 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 device.