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Back in November of last year, a patent that Apple was granted covering a “foldable, clamshell-style iPhone” concept began circulating the web like wildfire. Yet in our own,, we noted that according to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple had been working on this so called “foldable iPhone” concept for several years prior.
Now, it appears that some of the world’s most influential tech-companies, including Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and possibly Apple, are engaged in somewhat of a race to fine-tune and deliver their respective smartphones and tablets boasting foldable displays. Bothand , respectively, appear to be particularly stoked on the idea of releasing a foldable smartphone, and we can almost guarantee we will be seeing something from them to that effect, soon enough.
However, while we’ve yet to hear anything about a working, functional ‘foldable iPhone’ prototype making the rounds up in Cupertino, it appears from yet another patent recently granted Apple that the company is also getting more serious in its intent to perfect the foldable smartphone concept.
As noted by PatentlyApple, one of the more popular clamshell-style designs that appears to be catching on with manufacturers is what’s called a ‘Fold-Out’ style, which, as illustrated in the photograph below, resembles a smartphone than can open — ‘fold-out’ — much akin to a book. However, as far as Apple’s most recent foldable smartphone patent is pertinent, the company appears to be shaking things up a bit, describing a device that can “Fold-Out’ and ‘Fold-In’ — a feat which would be made possible in part thanks to what Cupertino is describing as “a device display with flexible encapsulation.”
“The flexible display may bend about a bend axis when portions of a housing for the electronic device rotate with respect to each other,” according to areport. “The flexible display may have a flexible substrate layer, a thin-film transistor layer on the flexible substrate layer, and an array of pixels having organic light-emitting diodes on the thin-film transistor layer.”
Apple’s vision of a foldable display, in other words, embodies as many as three different ‘flexible film layers’, which would be framed around a sub-layer of Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) pixels, and would be able to rotate in both an inward and outward orientation depending on individual usage needs and preferences. Furthermore, Apple’s patent describes what’s called an “inorganic conformal coating layer,” which could also be employed beneath all the other layers, and would be able to consistently morph and disperse the underlying atomic particles so that they heal with every fold.
Last but not least, in order to reduce the inevitable ‘bending stress’ that would be exerted on such a display over time, Apple’s patent calls for “a polymer protective layer,” which would not only cover the outermost, moisture-dispersing film layers, but would create a protective shell of sorts — bolstered by its exceptionally resilient, self-healing properties.
Of course, while all of this sounds fine and dandy to some, it surely sounds like the quirkiest concept ever contrived to others. But, it’s worth noting, above all else, is that this would be the third of such “foldable smartphone” patents — and by far the most well thought out among them to date. So, make of that what you will, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility of something like this becoming an actual product one day.
Could you ever see yourself buying an iPhone or iPad that folds in half down the middle?
Let us know in the comments!