It appears that Apple is still interested in producing their own foldable phone based on their new patent for hinge technology where the display retains its shape even when it is folded. Discovered by MacRumors, it seems that the patent has been granted already by the Patent and Trademark Office in the US. Based on the description of the patent, this latest hinge mechanism makes use of movable flaps to hide the gap while guaranteeing that the flexible screen remains in place and without any fold or crease even. Basically, once the device is closed, the flaps will automatically retract which lets the screen fold from the inside at the appropriate angle to keep the display hidden while preventing it from getting damaged too.
Earlier versions of foldable phones often encountered a problem with the hinge function. One example here is Samsung’s Galaxy Fold where a crease remained behind when it is unfolded while a gap is quite prominent when the device is folded. As a matter of fact, when the Fold was first released, it had several issues to deal with. Aside from broken screens when folded, there were problems with the protective layer too. This led to many grumblings from their customers which is not surprising. This was a major embarrassment for the company and has since seen a decline in their sales. The same goes true with Royole’s Flexpai and Huwai’s Mate X just to name a few.
So far, it’s only Razor developed by Motorola who has done a decent job with its foldable phone, but it remains to be seen if it can work longer when used regularly. Although Motorola was able to avoid the crease effect on their foldable display, customers commented that there was a creaking sound coming from their device whenever it was bent. The revamped hinge that is used in Samsung Galaxy’s Z Flip may do well here, but there is not enough data whether it can withstand constant use.
Microsoft seems to be doing well with regards to foldable phone with their dual-display design that can be seen with the brands Surface Duo as well as Surface Neo. These two phones appear to have gotten the hinge design down pat.
That said, it does make sense that Cook and his team are putting a lot of effort in researching on hinge technology for their Apple foldable iPhone which may come true in the long run. It all boils down on how effective the hinge design is.
Apple’s History of Foldable Technology
The recent patent for new hinge technology isn’t the first from Apple. As a matter of fact, in March of 2019, Apple has actually filed for patent for a method where the folded area of their device will be protected during cold conditions.
Aside from that, there are several foldable tech worth mentioning. You have probably heard of Apple’s flexible battery, which was patented in March of 2018. This technology is said to be incorporated into the display and comes with a padding that is made from graphite to disperse the heat which is important when these two components are combined.
The Patent and Trademark Office has also awarded a patent for magnetic latch to Apple in October. This technology will help keep the device closed without the use of any mechanism. This is definitely one type of technology we can expect Apple to add to their new foldable iPhone just to improve user’s experience.
And just a year ago, Apple was able to secure another patent, which showed that their foldable device will become more compact just like the Moto Razr.
Although there is a possibility that all these patents will not be used, it is likely that Apple will find a way to utilize them. After all, Razr’s foldable display has generated plenty of buzz, and even Samsung is putting a lot of effort into releasing their own foldable phones. For sure, Cupertino company won’t miss out on this industry as long as they managed to perfect the hinge technology to surpass others.
According to Ben Wood, Apple is known to assess current technology first before getting in on the market. They prefer to wait until a specific tech has matured enough to be utilized in a way that it will have a meaningful impact to the products that they are offering. There is no doubt that the tech giant has been studying how flexible displays work over the years, and out of the public eye too, that it doesn’t come as a surprise that they will be creating something unusual for their customers.
There is no doubt that displays that fold prove to be challenging, but it seems that Apple, during its course in creating an iPhone that folds, is also looking into hinge technology that will not lead to broken screens and other issues.