The idea of foldable phones probably brings to mind ’90s and ’00s nostalgia more than anything else. But there is mounting evidence that the smartphone industry’s top dogs — Apple included — are seriously considering it for future devices.
In November of last year, Apple was granted a patent for a technology that would allow the internal components of a phone to bend without disrupting or damaging them.
Specifically, the technology described within relies on carbon or multi-walled nanotubes that would act as flexible conductive paths for these internal components. In essence, this would allow for a foldable or clamshell-style flip phone that could open and close akin to a notebook computer.
Most interestingly, perhaps, is that this patent was filed under the engineer’s name, rather than Apple’s company name — perhaps to keep it a secret until it was granted.
Another November 2016 patent application reveals that Apple is at least exploring “an iPhone with a foldable full-screen display.” Additionally, Apple was granted a patent in the same vein in January 2017. That patent describes a device display that could both “Fold-Out” and “Fold-In” by way of flexible film layers that could heal with every fold. To counter the inevitability of “bending stress,” the patent suggests a protective polymer layer to further strengthen the individual layers.
Taken together, it seems that Apple is — at the very least — seriously exploring the idea of a foldable or bendable smartphone. And Cupertino isn’t the only one, as both Samsung and Microsoft have also been delving into the tech. In December, a report out of Korea suggested that the three smartphone giants would partner with LG to produce “flexible, bendable OLED panels.” And a leak from Kolon Industries also hinted that smartphone manufacturers would be delving into the technology in the coming years.
It’s important to note that, beyond these patents and supply chain reports, we haven’t heard anything specific about an actual bendable iPhone — so we’re not sure exactly what form such a device would take. Having said that, we’ve compiled the best reports, rumors and ideas to create a device concept so you can get an idea of what a foldable iPhone might look like. See our full concept gallery below.